The FBI and Scotland Yard suffered an embarrassing security breach yesterday when hackers from Anonymous broke into one of their conference calls and published a 17-minute discussion about operations targeting the group and splinter organisations.
Officers and agents revealed sensitive details of international cyber-crime operations including planned arrests, tactics for court hearings and details of evidence against individual hackers.
Anonymous, a loose alliance of hackers which has claimed responsibility for attacks on corporations and governments around the world, posted the audio on YouTube along with an email, purportedly from the FBI, that included the email addresses of nearly 50 people from law-enforcement agencies and details of the pass code to listen in on the call. Names of some of the suspects were bleeped out from the conversation.
Anonymous said on its Twitter account that the "FBI might be curious how we're able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now".
Scotland Yard confirmed the meeting included a member of its cyber-crime unit but said that "no operational risks" had been identified. The FBI said the conference call – identified by the hackers as having taken place on 17 January – "was intended for law-enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained". It said that an investigation was under way to find those responsible.
The conference-call invitation included officers from countries such as France, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands, but only British officers and US agents were identified during the call.
The officers discussed the case of Briton Ryan Cleary, from Essex, who was arrested last year and has been accused of being part of a cyber attack by hacking group LulzSec.
The officers also talked about a 15-year-old – described as being part of a three-strong group called CSLSec (Can't Stop Laughing Security) – who was arrested just before Christmas, according to the conversation between agents and the officers. A British officer described him as a "wannabe" and a "pain in the bum" who allegedly claimed credit for hacking into targets, including a gaming site.
After the leaking of the conference call, a person using the same name on Twitter said in a post: "Lol [laugh out loud]... still I never got arrested lol."
In what is likely to make embarrassing listening for Scotland Yard, a member of the "London contingent" told the FBI his force was happy to help and admitted that things had been "cocked up" in the past.
Security breach: What they said
FBI "I just want to express our gratitude for being flexible on this. I know New York (FBI office) appreciates it, and the FBI as a whole."
Scotland Yard "We're here to help. We've cocked things up in the past, we know that... It's not that much of a hardship."
... on a retired senior officer
"He's a lovely man... one of the true old-school detectives and he's as mad as a box of frogs."
...on visiting Sheffield
"You've missed nothing... it's not exactly a jewel in England's crown."