Associated Press—Members of the loose-knit movement "Anonymous" claimed on Sunday to have stolen a raft of emails and credit-card data from U.S.-based security think tank Stratfor, promising it was just the start of a weeklong, Christmas-inspired assault on a long list of targets.
Strategic Forecasting, Inc., more commonly known as STRATFOR, is a global intelligence company founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas by George Friedman who is the founder, chief intelligence officer, and CEO of the company. He wrote the Op-Ed piece Global Economic Downturn: A Crisis of Political Economy
Fred Burton is also STRATFOR's Vice President for Counter-terrorism and Corporate Security.
The company's publicity list includes Fortune 500 companies and international government
agencies. The hacker group Operation AntiSec
made it public on December 24, 2011.
One alleged Anonymous affiliate said the goal was to use the credit data to take a million dollars—including, apparently, from individuals' accounts—and give the money away as Christmas donations. Images posted online claimed to show the receipts.
A Twitter account tied to Anonymous posted a link to what they said was Stratfor's tightly guarded, confidential client list. Among those on the list: The U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force and the Miami Police Department.
The rest of the list, which the hacking movement said was a small slice of its 200 gigabytes of plunder, included banks, law-enforcement agencies, defense contractors and technology firms.
"Not so private and secret anymore?" the group taunted in a message on the microblogging site.
Austin, Texas-based Stratfor provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk, according to a description on its YouTube page. It charges subscribers for its reports and analysis, delivered through the web, emails and videos.
Stratfor said in an email to members that it had suspended its servers and email after learning that its website had been hacked.
"We have reason to believe that the names of our corporate subscribers have been posted on other websites," said the email, passed on to the Associated Press by subscribers. "We are diligently investigating the extent to which subscriber information may have been obtained."
The email, signed by Stratfor Chief Executive George Friedman, said the company is "working closely with law enforcement to identify who is behind the breach."
"Stratfor's relationship with its members and, in particular, the confidentiality of their subscriber information, are very important to Stratfor and me," Mr. Friedman wrote.
Calls to Stratfor went unanswered Sunday and an answering machine thanked callers for contacting the "No. 1 source for global intelligence."
Lt. Col. John Dorrian, public-affairs officer for the Air Force, said that "for obvious reasons" the Air Force doesn't discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats or responses to them. "The Air Force will continue to monitor the situation and, as always, take appropriate action as necessary to protect Air Force networks and information," he said in an email.
Miami Police Department spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz Jr. said that he couldn't confirm that the agency was a client of Stratfor, and he said he hadn't received any information about any security breach involving the police department.
Anonymous said it was able to get the credit details in part because Stratfor didn't encrypt them. Hours after publishing what it claimed was Stratfor's client list, Anonymous tweeted a link to encrypted files online. It said the files contained 4,000 credit cards, passwords and home addresses belonging to individuals on the think tank's private client list.
It also linked to images online that it suggested were receipts for charitable donations made by the group manipulating the credit-card data it stole.
"Thank you! Defense Intelligence Agency," read the text above one image that appeared to show a transaction summary indicating that an agency employee's information was used to donate $250 to a nonprofit group.
One receipt—to the American Red Cross—had Allen Barr's name on it. Mr. Barr, of Austin, recently retired from the Texas Department of Banking and said he discovered last Friday that a total of $700 had been spent from his account. Mr. Barr, who has spent more than a decade dealing with cyber-crime at banks, said five transactions were made in total.
"It was all charities, the Red Cross, CARE, Save the Children. So when the credit-card company called my wife she wasn't sure whether I was just donating," said Mr. Barr, who wasn't aware until an AP reporter called that his information had been compromised when Stratfor's computers were hacked.
Wishing everyone a "Merry LulzXMas"—a nod to its spinoff hacking group Lulz Security—Anonymous also posted a link on Twitter to a site containing the email, phone number and credit number of a U.S. Homeland Security employee.
The employee, Cody Sultenfuss, said he had no warning before his details were posted. "They took money I did not have," he told The Associated Press in a series of emails, which didn't specify the amount taken. "I think why me? I am not rich."
One member of the hacking group, who uses the handle AnonymousAbu on Twitter, claimed that more than 90,000 credit cards from law enforcement, the intelligence community and journalists—"corporate/exec accounts of people like Fox" news—had been hacked and used to "steal a million dollars" and make donations.
It wasn't possible to verify where credit card details were used. Fox News, which is owned by Wall Street Journal parent News Corp., wasn't on the excerpted list of Stratfor members posted online. But other media organizations including MSNBC and Al Jazeera English appeared in the file.
Anonymous warned it has "enough targets lined up to extend the fun fun fun of LulzXmas through the entire next week."
* Moderator: Unauthorized charges on a credit card can be disputed and taken off the account holder's bill, and the bank must take the loss. If Congress won't properly regulate, fine, or tax the banks, what better way to redistribute the banks ill-gotten gains?