The threat of riots on the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, in response to the fatal shooting of a transit police officer, caused the agency to turn off its support for mobile phone signals. This incited hacking group Anonymous, who retaliated by defacing the official BART website.
An online post from the Anonymous Twitter account read, “BART made a conscious decision of ordering various cell phone companies to terminate services for the downtown area inhibiting those in the area from using cell phones — even in the case of an emergency. Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in the censorship what it feels like to be silenced.”
Twitter traffic spoke of Anonymous hacking into the Bart internal network and posting the “User Info Database of MyBart.gov.” This information included the email addresses and phone numbers of registered BART users.
The transit agency said that the shutdown of mobile phone communications was not authorised by upper management and that it was not their job to actively censor travellers on their system. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also publicly condemned the sudden shutdown, comparing it to heavy-handed tactics employed by other governments.
In an attempt to quell any possible user complaints, the transit agency said that its website “may be subject to an online attack today, Sunday August 14, between noon and 6:00 pm (1900 GMT to 0100 GMT Monday).”
BART was fearful of rioting acts escalating out of control, much like in the UK. “A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators,” said BART.
The demonstration was initially meant to be peaceful, with all attending asked to wear a red shirt and the traditional Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask.
Image: AnonPlus Development Blog