Hackers target security firm's clients – and give the money they stole to charity

'Anonymous' publishes thousands of names, addresses and credit card details online

Los Angeles

It has been an unhappy Christmas for Stratfor, a large and supposedly discreet private security company. The US firm is still clearing up the mess caused by computer hackers who broke into its website and published the names, addresses, and credit-card details of thousands of its clients online.

In an attack it said was inspired by the seasonal tradition of giving, members of the group known as Anonymous crashed the company's website, before using Twitter to circulate the financial information of roughly 4,000 people who subscribe to its services.

The victims were mostly employees of large firms such as Apple, or government agencies including the Air Force and Miami Police Department. The hackers appeared to be using their credit cards to donate money to a selection of charities, in what they described as an effort to "give away" a million dollars.

One Stratfor client, a former staffer at the Texas Department of Banking called Allen Barr, said his details were used to give $700 to such organisations as Save the Children and the Red Cross. "It made me feel terrible; it made my wife feel terrible," he told The Associated Press. "We had to close the account."

Another client, Cody Sultenfuss, who works at the Department for Homeland Security, had his email, telephone number, and card details published on a site linked to Anonymous's Twitter feed. "They took money I did not have," he complained. "Why me? I am not rich."

The ongoing attack shed an awkward light on Stratfor, which, according to its prospectus, provides political, economic and military analysis that helps customers discreetly to reduce their exposure to risk. It charges for access to reports and videos delivered via email, as well as through its password-protected website.

Although it kept a low profile before the weekend, the firm, which is based in Austin, Texas, has some hugely powerful clients. Companies such as Lockheed Martin and Bank of America, along with organisations including the US Air Force, Los Alamos nuclear laboratory, and the United Nations appear on its leaked client list.

Stratfor may deal in sensitive information, but Anonymous claims that it adopted a cavalier attitude towards the security of clients by failing to take the basic step of encrypting the personal details held in its online files. "Not so private and secret anymore!" the hackers declared, in a message on Twitter.

Fred Burton, the company's vice president of intelligence, said he is working with law-enforcement agencies to identify those responsible. He did not disclose whether Stratfor had encrypted its records, but said in the company's defence: "I think the hackers live in this kind of world where once they fixate on you or try to attack you it's extraordinarily difficult to defend against."

Although the affair has undoubtedly caused embarrassment to Stratfor, it remains unclear whether its clients will be damaged financially. In theory, fraudulent charges on a credit card can be swiftly disputed and reversed, meaning that the charities Anonymous set out to benefit may find that their sudden good fortune is short-lived.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road