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
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
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

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game