Entries in Hacking (14)


Equifax Confirms Hackers Stole Financial Data, Launches Investigation

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Credit reporting agency Equifax confirmed "fraudulent and unauthorized access" to the financial files of four high-profile people, but the company declined to identify the individuals.

Equifax confirmed the security breach on Tuesday, one day after a website posted what hackers claim to be Social Security numbers, credit reports, former addresses and personal banking information of celebrities and other top Washington, D.C., officials, including first lady Michelle Obama.

"We are aware of recent media reports pertaining to unauthorized access to files belonging to high-profile individuals. Equifax can confirm that fraudulent and unauthorized access to four consumer credit reports has occurred," Tim Klein, a spokesman for Equifax, wrote in a statement Tuesday.

The U.S. Secret Service has launched an investigation into potential hacking of personal information of Mrs. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sources tell ABC News.

The hackers claim to have what appears to be the first lady's credit report, Social Security number, previous addresses and phone numbers.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News on Tuesday, President Obama confirmed authorities were investigating whether hackers had indeed obtained and posted online financial information belonging to his wife, but he would not say whether the information was authentic.

"We should not be surprised that if we've got hackers that want to dig in and have a lot of resources, that they can access this information," the president said.  "Again, not sure how accurate but ... you've got web sites out there that tell people's credit card info.  That's how sophisticated they are."

ABC News is not disclosing the website's name, which appears to originate in Russia because the Internet suffix of the site's web address was originally assigned to the Soviet Union.

The first lady is not the only potential victim.  The ominous website claims it also has personal information on FBI director Robert Mueller, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The site's so-called "secret files" claim to reveal everything from how much Kim Kardashian pays for her car lease to Ashton Kutcher's American Express bill and even Paris Hilton's credit score.

Beyonce, Jay Z, Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump were some of the other celebrities who were allegedly hacked.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Gamer Charged with Hacking into Gaming Company Servers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) – The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a federal grand jury has charged a Dutch citizen with illegally hacking into the servers of an American video game company.

Anil Kheda, a 24-year-old Netherlands native, is facing one count of conspiring to commit computer intrusion and one count of making extortionate interstate threats against Rampid Interactive, a video game manufacturer based in New Hampshire.

The charges allege that between November 2007 and August 2008, Kheda and several of his colleagues accessed Rampid’s servers without proper authorization. As a result, one of Rampid’s multi-player Role-Playing games, Outwar, was made unplayable for several days.

In addition, Kheda and his co-conspirators are accused of illegally obtaining copies of Outwar’s source code, in order to develop a game of their own, called Outcraft. The competing game garnered approximately 10,000 players worldwide, and Kheda is said to have made approximately $10,000 in profits.

There is even the possibility of blackmail involved, as the indictment includes charges that Kheda and his colleagues sent interstate communications to Rampid, threatening to continue to hack into their servers unless they gave the hackers money or other benefits.

If convicted, Kheda faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and two years in prison on the interstate threats charge.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mom Arrested for Hacking School Computers, Changing Kids' Grades

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW TRIPOLI, Pa.) -- A Pennsylvania mom faces six felony charges for allegedly hacking into her children's school computer to change their grades and read school officials' emails.

Catherine Venusto, 45, of New Tripoli, worked for the Northwestern Lehigh School District from 2008 through April 2011 and has at least two children in the district, according to the District Attorney's office.

She has been accused of changing her daughter's failing grade from an F to an M for "medical" in June 2010, and then changing her son's 98 to a 99 in February 2012, nearly a year after she quit her job as an administrative office secretary to work at another school district.

Venusto was arraigned Wednesday in Lehigh County Magisterial Court on three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six charges are third degree felonies.

When ABC News attempted to contact Venusto at her current job as an event coordinator at Lehigh University, a school employee said her employment ended Wednesday.

Venusto's lawyer, Thomas Carroll, declined to comment.

State police discovered Venusto used Superintendent Mary Ann Wright's username and password 110 times to access the district's online grading system, according to the District Attorney's office. Venusto also allegedly accessed nine other faculty members' email accounts without permission, and accessed the human resources "H-drive" to view, "thousands of files associated with district policy, contract information, employee reports and personnel issues."

Wright released a statement on Wednesday in anticipation of Venusto's arraignment.

"We deeply regret this incident and that this unauthorized access occurred, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause," Wright wrote. "We are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again, and new security procedures are in place to better assure that our systems are protected from such attempts."

Holman said the district's news release and email purposefully left Venusto's name out to protect her children, but the District Attorney's press release revealed the name.

"It's not their fault," Holman said of Venusto's children. "If the students continue to go to school here, which I assume they will, we need to do our best to support them in whatever way they need."

The court set bail at $30,000, but Venusto will not have to pay it unless she does not appear in court for her preliminary hearing on July 26, according a District Attorney's office spokeswoman. If convicted, Venusto could face fines, jail time and restitution payments.

Venusto could face a maximum of 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine, according to District Attorney's office spokeswoman Debbie Garlicki, who said the maximum penalty on each count is seven years or a $15,000 fine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


LulzSec 'Leader' Turns on Fellow Hacktivists, Feds

JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Six members of the suspected computer hacking groups affiliated with Anonymous were charged -- including the suspected ring leader, who directed the entire operation from a Manhattan apartment complex -- after it was revealed one of the group's most high profile members has been working with federal authorities for months. Hector Monsegur, a 28-year-old American believed to use the name "Sabu" on the internet, was arrested by federal agents last year and has been cooperating with law enforcement ever since, officials said. He pleaded guilty last August.

At least four of the five other members of the group were arrested recently based on information provided by Monsegur -- one in Chicago and three overseas, officials said. Each was charged with conspiracy and at least two were to appear in federal court in Lower Manhattan. Federal officials said they expect the arrests to seriously damage LulzSec, an underground group also known as Lulz Security, which is also an offset of the hacking group Anonymous.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that the six people charged are allegedly among the most sophisticated hackers in the world. The FBI said motives for attacks varied -- for example an attack on credit card companies was based on the refusal by the firms to process contributions to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and another attack was simply a way of mocking internet security. The investigation began with a tip last June, officials said.

The group and Anonymous have taken credit for carrying out a number of high-profile hacking actions against companies and institutions including the CIA's website, Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency, Japan's Sony Corp and Mexican government websites.

Last month, Anonymous published a recording of a confidential call between FBI agents and London detectives in which the law-enforcement agents discuss action they are taking against hacking.

Anonymous also claimed to be behind the electronic theft of thousands of internal documents from the private intelligence analysis firm Stratfor. In charging documents released Tuesday, federal officials said that the charged co-conspirators had stolen credit card information from Stratfor employees and clients and made some $700,000 in unauthorized charges.

Earlier this week, a Twitter account connected to Sabu continued to rant against federal agents, supposedly while he was working with them.

"The federal government is run by a bunch of f*****g cowards. Don't give in to these people. Fight back. Stay strong," a tweet from Monday reads.

While Anonymous and LulzSec by nature have no official hierarchy, the user known as Sabu was one of the most vocal and prominent members in online communities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FBI Arrests ‘Anonymous’ Member for Attack Against

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The FBI arrested a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous Tuesday for allegedly launching a cyberattack on the website of heavy metal legend and KISS frontman Gene Simmons.

Simmons drew the ire of Anonymous members in October 2010, when he took part in an anti-piracy conference and called for a crackdown on file and music sharing on the Internet. Members of the group allegedly shut down his website,, with a distributed denial of service attack.

Distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) flood Internet sites and computer networks with requests for information and commands, making the networks and websites unavailable to computer users.

Anonymous member Kevin George Poe, allegedly one of the group who took part in the attack, was arrested Tuesday after being charged in an indictment with conspiracy and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Poe, who lives in Connecticut, turned himself in to federal agents at the U.S. District Courthouse in Hartford for an initial appearance and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Deirdre Murray, a lawyer with the federal defenders office who represented Poe, did not return a call for comment on the case Tuesday.

Poe is expected to appear at the federal court in Los Angeles at a later date.

Anonymous has been prolific in retaliating against individuals that they don’t agree with. In February, the group hit a U.S. computer security firm named HB Gary and targeted the CEO for allegedly claiming that the firm had infiltrated Anonymous and would disclose details about the group’s membership to the FBI.

Members of the group hacked the HBGary website, posting a message on the firm's website, allegedly downloaded thousands of emails and to top it off hijacked the CEO’s Twitter account where they posted obscene tweets along with his personal data including home address, Social Security number and telephone number.

Last month the group had pledged to name and expose members of the Zeta drug cartel in what they dubbed OpCartel.

Earlier this year, the FBI executed a series of search warrants around the country in relation to last year’s cyber attacks that targeted MasterCard, Visa and PayPal after the companies cut off financial donations to WikiLeaks following the website’s release of U.S. diplomatic cables.

The search warrants were executed in conjunction with arrests in the United Kingdom of five people who were accused of playing a role in what was dubbed “Operation Payback.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11 Families Meet with AG Eric Holder About Phone Hacking Scandal

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder met with a small group of 9/11 family members to discuss what he called "very disturbing" phone hacking allegations against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and its now-defunct newspaper, News of the World.

The United States' look at the alleged hacking of phones of 9/11 victims and their family members comes just weeks after it was revealed that News of the World journalists engaged in a systemic conspiracy to pay bribes to British police and private investigators to hack into people's phones in Britain.

"It is fair to say we are pleased with the meeting with the attorney general," said Norman Siegel, an attorney who is representing some of the 9/11 families, after the meeting. "The allegations with regard to potential hacking of the 9/11 victims and their families is a very serious and substantial allegation.

"Hopefully the allegations turn out to be not true," Siegel said. "The 9/11 families have had too many tragedies already."

Holder met with the 9/11 families for about 75 minutes at the Justice Department headquarters along with Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division and other officials.

The investigation is being run by Justice Department officials and FBI agents in New York and Washington, and assets from FBI headquarters.

"From everything we saw today it appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously," said Peter Gadiel, whose son James died in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

Siegel said that the 9/11 family members who attended the meeting made three recommendations to the FBI and Justice Department officials: that the FBI get the 9/11 victims and family members cellphone numbers to see if the numbers were accessed after 9/11, that they expand the focus and scope of the investigation to look not only at cellphones but at computer records and emails, and that they look at news stories to see if personal information could only have come from hacking into phones or emails.

Justice Department officials declined to discuss the scope of the investigation other than to say it was in its preliminary stages, but the Justice Department and the FBI have established a hotline for the 9/11 family members to report any tips or concerns to law enforcement.

The family members said Holder and the FBI officials did not disclose if a grand jury had been convened to review information in the investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


BART Police Officers' Personal Info Posted by Hackers

A demonstrator wears a mask during a protest inside the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Civic Center station on August 15, 2011 in San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The hacking group Anonymous claims to have struck again, finding and publishing the private information of 102 police officers who work for BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in the San Francisco area.

It was the hacking group's latest attempt to derail the transit system after a BART officer shot and killed a homeless man in early July. BART tried to quell subsequent customer protests by shutting down cellular service for underground San Francisco train stations.

"Leaked personal data, emails and passwords for 102 #BART police officers," said a post Wednesday on Twitter put up by "@YourAnonNews." The post included a link to a website listing home addresses and personal email accounts with their passwords.

BART management did not immediately respond to calls requesting confirmation that its employee database had been hacked.

BART has been mired in controversy since the July 3 shooting of Charles Blair Hill on a train platform. Officers said Hill came at them with a knife, but protesters said they were outraged after his death. Demonstrators stopped trains, organizing their efforts by smartphone and text messages, and said their First Amendment rights were violated when BART cut off cellular signals.

Anonymous, a shadowy and loosely organized group, says it has been an organizer of the protests. It claimed to have crashed a BART marketing website, and encouraged people to come to a downtown rally at BART stations late Monday. BART closed the stations in response, though it did not cut off cellphone transponders.

The Federal Communications Commission said it was investigating BART's right to cut off cellular service. The ACLU of Northern California held off on filing suit against BART but sent an angry letter to the FCC, calling BART the "first known government agency in the United States to block cell service in order to disrupt a political protest."  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Harvard Ethics Student Charged with Hacking MIT Computer -- A Harvard University student has been charged with hacking into Massachusetts Institute of Technology computers and stealing more than four million scholarly articles, book reviews and other content from an academic database.

The federal indictment alleges that Aaron Swartz, 24, of Cambridge, Mass., broke into a restricted computer wiring closet in an MIT basement to access the school's network without permission. He then allegedly downloaded the articles from JSTOR, a nonprofit database for scholarly journals.

Swartz has been charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer.

"Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement. "It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away."

When MIT and JSTOR noticed the unusual activity, they tried to block Swartz's computers, but he allegedly found other ways to access the database.

Swartz is well known in the technology community as an online activist and programmer. He is the founder of Demand Progress, a nonprofit political action group that works for policy change.

Swartz also co-founded Reddit, a social news site now owned by Conde Nast. He was most recently a fellow at Harvard's Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption.

"This makes no sense," Swartz's colleague, Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, said in a statement. "It's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."

Segal claims that JSTOR settled its issues with Swartz privately and asked the government not to prosecute. A letter of support for Swartz posted on the Demand Progress website garnered more than 15,000 supporters in less than three hours.

Swartz was arrested Tuesday after turning himself in. He appeared in court the same day with his parents and was released on a $100,000 bail.

If convicted, Swartz faces up to 35 years in jail and a $1 million fine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Anonymous' Hackers Arrested by FBI

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Several members of the hacker group Anonymous have been arrested by the FBI, and search warrants have been executed in New York and California, according to several Justice Department and FBI officials.

It is unknown if the arrests have also targeted members of Lulzsec group which claims to be affiliated with Anonymous and has been behind several high profile cyber-security incidents including attacks against the CIA’s public website and a massive breach of Sony’s gaming network.

Recently members of the group have been sought by the FBI and Scotland Yard in the UK as they investigated "Operation Payback," an effort apparently organized by Anonymous. “Operation Payback” consisted of a series of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) that were launched against MasterCard, Visa and PayPal when the companies broke their ties with WikiLeaks after it released classified U.S. State Department cables last year. Severing ties with the group impacted WikiLeaks’ ability to raise money, apparently incensing the Anonymous hackers.

The cyber attacks against the companies resulted in their websites becoming unavailable at times.

In recent weeks the FBI has conducted search warrants in Iowa and Ohio but Tuesday’s effort appears to be the most organized crackdown on the group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds Will Probe Whether News Corp. Hacked 9/11 Victims' Phones

PRNewsFoto/Verizon Wireless(NEW YORK) -- Under pressure from members of Congress and after numerous media inquiries as well as the vocal concerns of victims' relatives, the FBI in New York has opened a preliminary probe into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. tried to hack the phones of British citizens who died in the 9/11 attacks.

The inquiry is likely to review U.S. phone records of the British victims and could also examine telephone company records in the UK if British authorities cooperate.

The probe will be led by the FBI's New York field office along with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan.

There's no evidence such hacking occurred, but investigators came under pressure from members of Congress, who had requested they take a look. Other media companies and families of the 9/11 victims also inquired after reading an article that mentioned the possibility that News Corp. may have tried to hack the phones.

The article appeared in a newspaper that competes with a News Corp. paper in England. Murdoch's News Corp. owns the Fox News Channel, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, as well as numerous media properties in the UK.

The item cited an alleged attempt by an unnamed Murdoch employee to bribe or pay an unnamed former police officer to hack the phones and noted that the alleged attempt was unsuccessful.

Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y., said in a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller demanding an investigation that it would be "revolting" if members of the media had attempted to bribe an official in the service of "yellow journalism."

Department of Justice officials underscored that the investigation is a preliminary inquiry into any possible wrongdoing.

Earlier this month a rival UK newspaper reported that News Corp.'s News of the World had hacked into the phone of a teenage murder victim in 2002 and may have interfered with an investigation into her disappearance.

News Corp. has also been accused of attempting to hack the phones of the families of dead soldiers, former English Prime Minister Gordon Brown and terror victims.

In an interview published on The Wall Street Journal's website Thursday, Murdoch said that News Corp. would establish a committee to investigate "every charge of improper conduct."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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