Memo to the G-men on both sides of the pond: If you're hoping to catch the bad guys, it's generally a good idea to not let them listen in on your private conversations -- especially when the conversations are about them.
International law enforcers just learned this the hard way after members of Anonymous managed to record a phone conversation between the FBI and Scotland Yard about -- yes -- Anonymous.
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How did Anonymous pwn the feds? It was pretty easy.
They didn't have to plant a bug in the office or tap the phone switch or sit in an unmarked van 200 yards down the road holding a shotgun mike to capture the conversation; they just had to dial in and keep quiet. Because somebody in the group had compromised the email account of at least one of the investigators, they simply followed the instructions on the conference call invitation sent out to members of the FBI, Scotland Yard, the Garda, and so on.
Naturally, the Anons posted audio of the call to YouTube. The recording starts out with six minutes of friendly chatter between American and British investigators talking about an upcoming security conference:
Unidentified British voice with an extremely dry sense of humor: "... John G___ is speaking, don't know if you've ever met him... he's an old school detective and mad as a box of frogs."
American: "Are you speaking...?"
Brit: "I think my level of knowledge is too high for a lot of them. We'll just leave them in charge of the IT."
It then goes on to talk about teenagers Ryan Cleary and James Davis, two alleged members of Anonymous offshoot LulzSec who were arrested by U.K. authorities last year. Interestingly, the Anons bleeped out the names of their members who have not yet been arrested or named as suspects, proving that they are in fact able to redact information when motivated.
I've chatted with security wonks who work for the feds, and they're as sharp as anyone when it comes to hacking. It's the other cops who are the problem. All it takes is one weak link, and your entire op is compromised.
Anonymous knows this better than anyone. And now the whole world has been apprised.
In other hacking news: Somebody also pwned the home page of the Susan G. Komen Foundation last night. Earlier this week SGK stepped into an Internet hornets' nest when the news broke that it had rescinded nearly $700,000 worth of funding to Planned Parenthood because the group was under "investigation" by Congress.
I won't get into all the issues here (The Atlantic Wire has been doing a great job of following the story). But many people were displeased by what they saw as an attempted hijacking of the anticancer group by right-wing ideologues.
Among those people: The hackers who made a subtle change to the section of the site titled "Susan G. Komen Marathon for the Cure." Instead of saying "Help us get 26.2 or 13.1 miles closer to a world without breast cancer," for a few minutes the page read "Help us run over poor women on our way to the bank."
Bowing to pressure, Komen reversed itself this morning, saying it would continue to fund Planned Parenthood. The hack probably didn't have that much to do with that decision. But the Internet had everything to do with it.
Who else, if anyone, deserves to be hacked? Cast your predictions below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Tinker tailor coder spy? Anonymous strikes again," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.