Anonymous retaliates against San Francisco transit system for shutting down cell service

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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The “hacktivist” group Anonymous announced its plan this weekend to take down the website of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The online group’s press release makes clear that the move is a direct response to BART’s shutdown of cell phone service on Thursday, which was an attempt to squash an organized protest.

The protest had been planned using mobile devices, and was in response to a BART officer’s fatal shooting of a man in July. The man was reportedly homeless, and officers shot him after he threw a bottle at them and then charged them with a knife. (‘Anonymous’ claims to hack 70 U.S. law enforcement websites)

BART explained that it cut off mobile service to disrupt the protest, which it feared could “lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators.” A similar protest last month did in fact disrupt service.

Late Saturday, Anonymous officially announced its attack on BART. It began with overloading every email inbox and fax machine at the agency with “thousands of copies of our message that this outage was unacceptable.”

The announcement also said to expect BART’s website to go down for six hours starting at noon Pacific Time, “twice as long as [BART] shut off the cell phones for.”

Finally, Anonymous’ press release mentioned its plans — “Expect us!” — to attend a protest planned for Monday night at a BART station in the center of San Francisco. Anonymous is now encouraging attendees to wear red shirts to the protest, “in remembrance of those who have been battered by the BART police.”

BART’s spokesman, Jim Allison, told CNET the agency was aware of the planned cyberattacks, but hadn’t seen any evidence of the alleged overflowing of BART email inboxes and fax machines.

Regardless of Anonymous’ plans, BART will “continue trying to provide information to our customers [on the agency’s website.”