back to article Innocent passengers targeted to protest subway agency

Hacktivists protested recent controversial actions taken by a San Francisco regional subway authority by publishing sensitive information for more than 2,000 of passengers who had nothing to do with its agency's management. Anonymous, the loose-knit hacking collective, breached the security of and published the names …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy target

    The quote says it all - any 8 year old could do it. Like terrorists they aren't skilled or courageous enough to directly target anyone of significance to whom they're opposed so they strike at easy, vulnerable and popular targets in order to undermine confidence and spread panic.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      But unlike terrorists

      They didn't shoot anyone or blow anything up. Your pathetic hysterical hyperbole is part of the problem, not part of the solution. You can't just decide the word "terrorism" means anything that you don't like, you delusional freak.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: terrorism definition

        From the Terrorism Act 2000

        "(1)In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where—(a)the action falls within subsection (2),(b)the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and(c)the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

        "(2)Action falls within this subsection if it—


        "(e)is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system."

        So yes, what Anonymous did most certainly is "terrorism" according to the law of this country.

        1. Crofty616

          Re: terrorism definition

          It amazes me how you can get 4 down votes for taking the time to look into and quote the terrorism act...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The downvotes are probably for the act and its definition of terrorism...

            ... rather than for the looking it up and quoting it. Don't you think?

            1. Naughtyhorse

              'the use or threat is designed to influence the government'

              so waving a banner saying

              "change policy 'X' or i wont vote for you, and you'll be out of work"

              puts me in the same camp as bin laden.

              freedom fail

              1. jonathanb Silver badge


                It is only terrorism if you threaten violence, serious damage to property, to endanger someone's life other than your own, to create a serious elf n safety risk, or to attack or disrupt an electronic system.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          But the law is an ass.

          (AC Monday 15th August 2011 21:26 GMT here again.)

          This is the same terrorism act that was invoked to justify the illegal kidnap and false imprisonment of coach-loads of peaceful protestors on their way to protest against the Iraq war outside RAF Fairford, right?

          Hint: just because a government decides to call something "terrorism" doesn't mean it actually is. All round the world right now, repressive governments are calling any kind of opposition "terrorism" as an excuse to justify using military force against unarmed civilians.

          Us ordinary human beings, however, aren't obliged to believe the bogus new meanings assigned to the word for political purposes. Terrorism means shooting people and blowing things up, and it does not mean hacking into some computer, or assembling in a public square chanting slogans, or any of the other bullshit things that politicians say it means. The government could in theory have included parking offences in section 2 if they had wanted to; would you argue that that made parking offences terrorism, or would you finally admit that they had stretched the word beyond its legitimate meaning? I'm arguing that including hacking offences is a similar abuse of the term, designed to redefine peaceful non-violent civil disobedience as terrorism in order to be able to apply repressive measures against it.

          1. Tree & Tree = Dirty Tree

            Hacking can very well be seen as a terrorist act...

            ... if its purpose is to disrupt vital infrastructure.

            Blowing up a bridge is a terrorist act even if nobody get physically hurt, sabotaging power lines is a terrorist act, disrupting the water supply, or jamming purposefully a significant portion of the mobile network.

            I do agree that governments tend to abuse the term "terrorism" as well as the fear from it to support parts of their agenda that otherwise don't go down well with the public.

            I also agree that the most obvious abuse is to call any kind of anti government protest "terrorism", and that extend to aggressive or disruptive actions, although I do despise violent protest. Chaining yourself to a train to prevent it from departing is NOT a terrorist act, throwing stones at police officers, albeit not justifiable, neither.

            The line between "protest with violent tendencies" are blurry and defined by common sense at best- but one truth is undeniable: Violence is not equal to bloodshed!

            And BTW, hacking is as much a peaceful act as smashing a phone booth window, jacking a car or pouring poison into your neighbors fish pond...

            Unless it happens as preventive security measure with the consent of the attacked,

            its vandalism at best, usually simply a crime, and can be terrorism at worst.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re: terrorism definition

          That is arrogant presumption sir. Words are defined by their use of the majority of the population; This has been true throughout history. When governments try to define things, it is almost always as a way to manipulate people. And if that definition were true, then BART employess are the terrorist by disrupting communications which are paid for with tax dollars. and for murdering a man they had down on the ground under their control. He was no threat to them.

          My definition and I think one that is generally accepted by society goes like this:

          Terrorism - Any action which specifically targets a group of people that are no threat in return to the initiators of the act in question, and where the action results in a injury, loss of life or property of a magnitude where other laws do not justly and lawfully fit, and where the actions taken could not be intrepreted as just, lawful, or constitutional.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: But unlike terrorists

        Funny that I don't recall ever suggesting that they are terrorists. I suggested they had similar policy and reasons for selecting their targets. Try looking at what I wrote instead of desperately searching for something to get angry about and projecting your own prejudice into it. As for being a delusional freak, well I'm not the one reading words that aren't there.

  2. Tom Maddox Silver badge


    The cretins supporting the drunken homeless knife-wielding lunatic don't have the attention span to plan an actual protest, so they complain when BART shuts down Wifi and cell access. The Anonytards then punish a few random BART riders, not BART itself. Great job, guys, really. You are truly the hope of freedom.

    As a daily BART commuter myself, I'm on Team BART for this one and opposed to Team Drunken Asshat, in case that wasn't clear.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @ Tom Maddox

      Because some arrogant assholes commute is way more important than a human life, he was homeless after all.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      They are not "supporting the drunken homeless knife-wielding lunatic".

      They are supporting the people who were planning the protest. Even through your chopped logic, you should be able to see that supporting people's right to protest - even if you think their protest cause is wrong - is completely different from supporting the wielding of knives. And yet you pretend the two are the exact same thing in your post. You are utterly wrong in making that false conflation.

    3. Ed Vim

      You're distorting the truth

      Your rant is very misdirected. The protest was going to be a statement about police brutality, a serious and prevalent problem here in the U.S whether you're aware of it or not. Stating it was some kind of boost for drunks attacking people is either ignorant or intentionally misleading. BART's solution may or may not have been best idea, and resulting action by Anonymous is just as questionable. This is a complex problem that at the very least has gotten some public exposure, but your diversionary mis-truth linking BART's shutting off a means of communication to 'freedom' is so Tea Partyish it's disturbing.

      1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

        Distortion of truth

        These "protestors" are little more than a flash mob. If they want to protest, why not do so at BART HQ or at the BART police barracks? Why are they inconveniencing (or worse) people trying to get home, pick their kids up from school, get to work, go to the doctor, etc.? In case you're not aware, public transit is the transit system used by the working classes and other regular folks. If your goal is to change policy, protesting by shutting is going to turn public opinion AGAINST you.

        Furthermore, it's actually a public safety issue. Much has been made of the hypothetical concerns about someone having medical emergency while cell phone services are shut down, despite there being clearly-marked emergency phones on the trains and platforms. Suppose someone has an emergency while the train is stopped in the tunnel because the protestors have managed to keep another train from leaving the platform? Where is your moral righteousness when you've killed someone who really IS innocent?

        I won't deny that police brutality should be taken seriously or that people have the right to protest. On the flip side, the police have historically been very tolerant of protests in San Francisco. I marched in the anti-war protests before Gulf War II: Electric Boogaloo, and the only time the police interfered with us was when we tried to march onto the Bay Bridge, which would have created similar safety issues. I actually talked to a riot officer during one of the more recent protests, and he was remarkably calm about the whole issue. In my experience, the SFPD, at least, are not a bunch of truncheon-wielding thugs. BART police may be a separate matter, since they have less experience and training. As I mentioned originally, though, let us not forget that the person who got shot did so because he attacked another human being with a knife. Setting aside the knee-jerk issue of it being a cop, I think every human being has the right to self-defense and the use of lethal force where warranted. If someone is trying to end my life, I would feel completely justified in ending theirs.

        Finally, I live in a neighborhood with a large number of homeless people and a large number of police officers. I've had to call the police on three separate occasions in response to assault, mugging, and a drunken hit-and-run driver who ran down a small child, so I very much appreciate the contribution the police make to my neighborhood. While I oppose excessive use of force, I do respect that they have to deal with the least-pleasant members of society, and I don't think they should have to lay down their lives so that some yahoo can go flailing around with a deadly weapon.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes Anonymous (etc.) get it right.

    Sometimes they are just dicks. This would appear to be the latter.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lock up the perps

    Anonymous is nothing more than a bunch of egotistic morons who want attention. They may get a lot of attention, but not the kind they had in mind when they are in prison.

  5. R 16

    Truth comes out

    The truth is. They were either looking for a quick hack and just did that one because they dont care about anyone. OR, they couldnt hack anything else so they posted what they could.

    Either way. Losers

  6. Mike Moyle

    Oh... this could be entertaining...

    "(The victim) said he received a “creepy” phone call on Sunday night from someone claiming to be a member of Anonymous..."

    Please tell me that he received the call on his cellphone, or a landline that logs the originating number of calls received...

    I mean, yeah... It's probably another barely-pubescent, bad-ass-HaXoR-wannabe, but people this stupid need to have phones, computers, sharp objects and anything else that they can hurt themselves with taken away from them for their own good.

    1. Wize

      Probably not from Anonymous themselves...

      ...just some wannabe kid.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Without a name,

      how are we sure the alleged victim is not himself part of Anonymous, and just spreading more FUD?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    So publishing all these folks details is bad, but *re*publishing them is just fine huh?

    >"Database dumps *such as the one here* also included phone numbers for many users."

    Thanks for the handy link, you hypocrite.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Anonymous did what they should have done.

    Innocent people were not targeted, BART's lack of security was. If there's anyone to be mad at it is BART. At least Anonymous isn't using the information gathered for identity theft. They're just pointing out yet another reason how BART has failed the people.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If they did not intend to target the innocent, why publish the database without any attempt to remove personal details? Why phone at least one of the numbers with threats?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Incredidbly lame and self-important all at the same time

        Let's be clear here.

        They did NOT hack BART. BART is a government agency, whose site is BART.GOV. Note the ".GOV".

        They hacked a semi-independent site, run by a small company under an agreement with BART to provide marketing and other outreach services: myBART.ORG. "ORG", not "GOV".

        Had they managed to break into BART's website, that would be somewhat notable.

        Hacking into a small contractor's social networking site.... not quite so thrilling. Actually pretty pathetic when you think about it. You hack some mom-and-pop website and claim you've hacked another Big Government site.

        ... and likely using other people's scripts to pull off your big coup; terminally lame.

        All they've proved is that subcontracting non-operational web services to a small business is fraught with peril, so I guess their message really is that small internet application hosters should go crawl into a corner and die before they attack them for associating with the wrong crowd, as THEY define the wrong crowd, from moment to moment?

        I mean, the people behind really should have considered that someday some BART cop would shoot a homeless paranoid with a knife, right? Obviously those folk are short-sighted and needed to be taken down a peg.

        Anonymous had become WAY too full of themselves.

        1. Just Thinking

          @ AC

          " I guess their message really is that small internet application hosters should go crawl into a corner and die"

          Being small is no excuse for failing to take basic security precautions. There is no excuse for storing peoples' addresses and phone numbers in a DB which is vulnerable to SQL injection. If you can't fix that you shouldn't be running a website which gathers personal information. And BART should be more circumspect about which sites they endorse.

          "I mean, the people behind really should have considered that someday some BART cop would shoot a homeless paranoid with a knife, right?"

          Not specifically, but there is no security through obscurity. They should certainly have considered that if their site was hackable then eventually someone would hack it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          BART still have some level of responsibility,

          as does the .org site. BART itself should be aware that anarchists are targeting them and both they and their subcontractors need to take appropriate measures to defend against that. The monumental ease of the hack shows they've fallen on that precise point.

          That being said, I would assess blame for this particular incident as follows:

          Anonymous - 99% (because they put the gun to victims' heads)

          ORG website - .06% (because hashing and salting should be standard practice)

          BART - .04% (because requiring standard practices should be standard practice, as should

          monitoring for compliance.)

    3. Anonymous Coward


      So you publish a load of info and you play all innocent, fair enough. You may not have any nasty intentions but there are thousand more Ad agencies rubbing their hands raw at the thought of getting a few thousand more names and addresses into their nasty little databases and that's just one legal option, let's not even consider any other uses from more nefarious groups of people.

      The people on this list were not consulted before your heroes, Anonymous, decided this was a good idea, if they really were doing it in the interests of freedom of speech they should have called all these people first and asked them if the minded having their info splashed all over the shop!

      If you're so in favour of this kind of info being "liberated", could I respectfully ask that you post your full name, address, all contact phone numbers and a email address, right here on The Register? Then we can get it hoovered up by Google, Bing and Yahoo then diseminated across the internet. I'm sure after the 15 phone call from some twat shouting abuse down the phone you'll be crying to your phone company to have your number changed and the Post Office to have your email scanned for razor blades, chemicals and junk mail!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about emergency communications?

    I don't enjoy crazed protesters any more than the next guy but how can you justify cutting people's communications? If there is a heart attack and a passenger cannot get attention in time because communications are deliberately cut, BART is looking at the biggest personal injury lawsuit in the history of litigation.

    1. Owen Milton

      re: What about emergency communications?

      BART has emergency contact phones regularly spaced and well marked. They're pretty decent about such things actually.

      You also have to consider, they've only been adding support for cell phones in the underground tunnels/platforms for a few years now, they've had to deal with emergencies of every type for decades.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Emergency communications

        Your definition of "emergency" is extremely limited. If there is a disaster those phones might help you call out, but they don't help when someone is trying to call you. People trapped in Christchurch, New Zealand, were very happy to have their cellphones with them. Not so helpful though if the cell towers have been turned off because there might be a little civil protest.

        Cellphones are a key part of our daily communication, for them to be turned off, I would expect a major problem with the technology. I expect them to work through snow, fire, earthquake and riot. And beauracracy as well.

        1. Wize

          These days...

          ...some idiots think its an emergency if they cant get on facebook and would start using the phones.

          Ask the 999 operators with their endless calls about chipped fingernails.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What about them?

      Communication was not cut. There are actually only 4 underground stations in the entire BART system that have the Mobile and WiFi capabilities. In terms of Mobile, all BART does is relay the carrier's signal underground. It's not a signal BART provides.

      The WiFi is akin to a signla provided by Starbucks. It's provided as a courtesy to travelers, but in no means is it a right.

      The reception is quite poor at best. I never rely on it for anything, except maybe tossing an SMS to my boss if there is a delay.

      In every BART train, there are 2 intercoms on each car. These talk directly to the operator. Every station has courtesy phones that can talk to a station agent. There are pay phones.

      In the affected stations, BART also provided additional staff for the period of the shut-down, just in case there was an emergency.

      If people REALLy needed to make a call, all they had to do was leave the station and head up to street level.

      Why people attempt to make phone calls on BART is something I will never understand. It's hard enough to have a regular conversation with another passenger without yelling, much less undertsand what someone is saying on a phone.

      1. dssf

        Why we should not have our cell service blanked out...

        If we're in a train in the tube, and it's on fire, or the Tube cracks and is taking on water faster than the pumps can discharge, then we, as riders on an aged system, have a RIGHT to speak our last words to at least one personal contact in our mobiles.

        The antenna in the Tube and in the tunnel do not directly interfere with BART operations. The antennas that BART thoughfully/nicely/thankfull attached to each end (originally, in the trial, only designated cars, but then later it seems almost every operational car has them) help the signal get through better. Now, we are accustomed to it, and it seemingly poses no financial drain on BART.

        If there is a heinous enough cretin or a dangerous mob posing harm underground, anyone walking up to a pay phone is going to stick out like a sore thumb, probably imminently facing assault if the perp/s can intercept the person. Someone with a mobile can slink away in the crowd and call for help. There are NUMEROUS activities going on in the stations and while BART agents DO monitor and announce on well-known fare evaders, trouble-makers (they announce some by their first names since they have "contact records" on those individuals), they cannot get them all.

        Anyone blending in with the crowd can get away with a lot. Pickpockets and purse thieves are a LOT harder to spot, and they can ride the more crowed cars, rampaging with impunity if they KNOW the cell service will be cut. In a crowded car, anyone calling for help may be obscured in the middle and those who HEAR the pleas for help won't immediately know what to communicate via the car-end located intercoms. Plus, if mayhem is happening in MULTIPLE cars, how soon before the vehicle operator is overwhelmed?

        No, BART has no more business and very little right to interfere with the wireless relay because it NOW is a DE FACTO SAFETY AND SECURITY BACK UP. For some, it is a primary. This isn't Pelham 1-2-3 (old or new) and isn't South Korea's "The Tube", but anyone witnessing crime or danger may not want or may not be able to go to an intercom. If it's crime, walking to an intercom is like saying "SHOOT/STAB/CLOBBER ME!", when the safer alternative is to text an alert to police, the media, BART Operations, and co-workers who MIGHT not know their now-absend/possibly dead/hospitalized comrade was in a hijacked or burning or flooding or flash-mobbed car. If it's danger not related to violence, then it may be hard to climb/crawl/claw over people in disarry who obstruct prudent access to the intercoms.

        No, again, BART needs to keep its hands OFF the wireless relay. They need to update the ticketing system to do this:

        -- we specify which start and end stations we want to encode our tickets.(in case our boarding is later, not now-- ) ****

        **** Yes, there is a risk of surge if we have bad transfers from other agencies. But, with better inter-agency communications and even less fiefdom childishness between agencies, the buses, commuter vans, Google buses, and MUNI rail vehicles could semi-autonomously in mesh-fashion adapt in real-time the movements, delays, and other coordination so that people are MORE EFFICIENTLY transported. This isolation/fiefdom/territoriality/juvenile isolation of agencies has to be terminated like a mutilated horse about to be euthanized. It's time now to make the mass transit vehicles more connected so under-utilized by nearby buses on scheduled routes can be better used, or removed to save fuel. Riders would get feedback.

        (And, NO, Nextbus, you don't have patent rights on this: I'm making this Open Source IN THIS WRITING. It hereby is released into PRIOR ART status. In fact, I've mentioned it to numerous people in and around transit for maybe 3 years now. So, ANY AGENCY IN THE WORLD IS FREE TO NICK THESE IDEAS. JUST don't be dicktards and try to offensively patent. Just DEFENSIVELY patent if you seek a patent.)

        -- those pre-encoding riders get boarding priority on specially routed trains whether during normal

        operations or demonstration riot events

        -- prioritized trains and riders will shunt past randomly-selected stations while the waiting police then can escort for exit the end-station riders known by count and possibly name so there is LESS evacuation/discharge work effort to clear cars and stations.

        -- those who don't encode take the chance of being on a train that may discharge them at an unwanted station, but at least things will be more manageable and fewer people would be PISSED off at being discharge too far ahead of or beyond their stop.

        BART has a $HITLOAD of money and needs to upgrade its working but horridly antiquated system. Japanese and other mass transit visited BART and other US operations for or over the decades and now they by far have outstripped the ability of the US to emulate THEM. Granted, Japan and Korea and Singapore have less accessible, fast roadways, and granted, Big Oil didn't screw the public there since Nature already constrains POV movement options, but still. BART needs to get with the times, AUTOMATE more, get rid of cloth, create better anti-fare-evade entries, and work with MUNI to isolate BART protests from impinging on MUNI.

        Do note that thousands of MUNI riders were affected by BART's operational, adiministrative, political, and police decision. Yesterday's "mob" from what I saw was miniscule. A few people with placards. But, several stations were shut down randomly to "foil" the mob organizers and relayers. Because of safety concerns and risk of people getting onto MUNI tracks and acting up due to lack of access to BART tracks and trains, MUNI had to shut down, too, in the affected stations.

        Wait, a clarification is needed: BART owns the tunnels and the accesses. So, when BART closes, MUNI has to, too. Even if MUNI could afford or if the public demanded and funded separate accesses from street level at and BELOW BART stations (but, MUNI cars are ABOVE the BART tracks), BART can and probably would deny MUNI efforts to have separate accesses. Talk about fiefdom and territoriality. I get the safety aspect, but it was short-sighted to not provide Muni with separate accesses. I THOUGHT that MUNI and BART rights-of-way were separate.

    3. Mike Moyle

      Re: What about emergency communications?

      According to the National Public Radio report this morning, BART train crews, transit police and emergency services aren't on the public cell network and wouldn't have been affected.

    4. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      How do you justify cutting off someone's transportation? Suppose that person has a heart attack, and the train is stuck in the tunnel and can't get out because protestors are blocking the tracks ahead and behind? It hardly matters at that point if you have cell phone access because the person is physically trapped. Of course, there are physical emergency access corridors, but those take extra time to reach compared to the platform.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Or are they the people who ultimate buy the bullet?

  11. kain preacher


    Few things. these protesters goals was to disrupt BART service . Thats no exactly a peaceful protest . There are phones in the BART system for emergencies only and there are pay phones .

    @Norfolk 'n' Goode

    No cause some assholes right to see their Dr is more important. I've taken BART to go to Kaiser before . But you are right it's more important for these folks to shut BART down then it is for me to see my Dr.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not to mention the precious website was defaced

    Some people wrote that they could not take BART if they did not have access to the online schedules... God help them if they ever feel like taking the tube...

  13. Dave 120

    Innocent people weren't targetted?

    @AC 21:26

    So you'll have no objection if I steal your car and burn it out to target the manufacturer's failure to secure it better?

    Oh sorry, I mean give it to someone else to burn out, that'd be okay.

  14. tom dial Silver badge


    ... and the average 7 year old would know better than to do it.

  15. James Woods


    I don't see how the passengers having their data breached is a sign of who the target is. If BART or the organization hording the customer data followed general mundane security precautions "anonymous" never could of gotten anything.

    This is like saying innocent people die in war; yes they do.

    Some "innocent people" may become victims because they entrusted corporations for whoms basic interest is to sell their information to store it and they did not securely store it.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge


    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.

    I must not publish insecure websites.


  17. Sir Barry


    I'm getting seriously bored with the antics of 'anonymous'.

    This bunch of loose knit wankers publish the personal details of innocent members of the public?

    Seems to me that they are publicity seeking idiots.

    If the media stops reporting their antics and we ignore them will they just go away? In the beginning it seemed they were doing something for the greater good, now they are just causing harm to innocent people.

    As for BART shutting down cell phone comms... Their stations, their choice. If it means keeping commuters safe then so be it.

  18. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    I propose a new law...

    Whenever a database containing personally identifiable information (PII) is created, it should be a legal requirement that the programmers behind the database, and all the managers with responsibility over them (include the CEO and other members of the board) have their PII entered into the database, too.

  19. Otto von Humpenstumpf

    Why on God's green earth...

    ...did you post a link to the published hacked data?

    I would have expected much, MUCH, better from ElReg. This is a fail of such epic proportions, I can hardly believe it. Seriously.

  20. Stephen Gray

    Did this happen here?

    This happened in the US of A right? Phew, I almost gave a shite for a second. I would like to say I find it hilarious that people think they have a "right" to use mobile phones. Retards.

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