For almost a year, hackers associated with Anonymous have allegedly accessed the computer systems of multiple U.S. government agencies, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An FBI memo that details the attacks claims hackers exploited Adobe ColdFusion to gain access to the various systems as early as December 2012. The memo, which was circulated on Nov. 17, was seen by the news agency Reuters.
According to the FBI document, Anonymous breached computers at the U.S. Army, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and possibly other agencies. The FBI instructed system administrators to look for specific signs their systems had been compromised. Authorities investigating the matter believe the attacks to be ongoing.
The FBI also speculated that the intrusions may be related to the Anonymous operation “Last Resort,” which first went public following the death of noted Internet freedom activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz.
In January 2013, Swartz took his own life following a two-year criminal investigation into crimes he allegedly committed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After Swartz’s death, Anonymous (in addition to Swartz’s parents, friends and colleagues) accused the U.S. government of tormenting the 26-year-old programmer.
The alleged data stolen included information on more than 100,000 employees of the Energy Department and information related to nearly 2,000 bank accounts, according to an internal email from Kevin Knobloch, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’ chief of staff.
Reuters reported that the FBI declined to comment on the matter. Adobe spokesperson Heather Edell told the news agency that the company wasn’t aware of the FBI’s memo. She also told Reuters that the majority of issues concerning their software were related to computer systems that had not been updated with the latest security patches.
The FBI memo appears to contradict public statements regarding Anonymous made by the agency three months ago. In August, Austin P. Berglas, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s cyber division in New York, told the press, “The movement is still there, and they’re still yacking on Twitter and posting things, but you don’t hear about these guys coming forward with those large breaches.”
According to the FBI’s previous statement, the agency anticipated that the arrests of Anonymous hackers—namely Jeremy Hammond, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this week—would have a deterring effect on Anonymous. If the recent FBI memo is accurate, those arrests would appear to have done little to discourage the hacktivists.
Illustration by Dell Cameron