Stratfor Global Intelligenceis a security “think tank” based in Austin, Texas that releases a daily newsletter concerning matters of private security and intelligence, with presence all over the World. According to reports, the stolen credit card information was used by Anonymous to purchase clothes and goods to be donated to charities, claiming that the money (which was stolen from of Stratfor`s wealthy subscribership) would otherwise “never see the hands of the needy”, according to an official Anonymous statement. There is no record of charity donation on the credit card statements of the stolen cards, according to the FBI`s investigation, only large-scale purchases.
Private emails from Stratfor executives were also stolen from the data, some of which were published on Wikileaks last month. The hack job done on Stratfor`s web servers should serve as a severe warning to those of us who subscribe to digital newsletters and are not sure to whom our credit card payment is going.
According to the investigation, the reason Stratfor was targeted by the group is due to the fact Bank of America, the Department of Defense, and a lion`s share of other Fortune 500 companies/international government agencies are on Stratfor`s email newsletter as paid subscribers. The emails and credit card information hacked by Anonymous were from Stratfor`s subscriber database, although their full client list was not secured by the Anonymous hacker group.
“Anonymous” has been an Internet phenomenon since 2003, which consists of large physical or cyber gatherings of people uniting towards an anarchic purpose, everything from forming targeted “flash mobs” for entertainment purposes, to performing acts of criminal “hacktivism” in protest of large corporations. Anonymous uses an iconic Guy Fawkes anarchist mask from the classic 2005 poli-sci film “V for Vendetta” as their public avatar. Anonymous has been active for almost a decade, and many believe the massive organizational success of Occupy Wall Street can be accredited to the Anonymous mindset. People with Guy Fawkes masks have been spotted at Occupy meetings across the country, a show of support from Anonymous organizers.
Other recent acts of Anonymous “hacktivism” have included a temporary shutdown of the White House and FBI websites (over federal orders to take down file sharing sites). Anonymous hackers shut down Egyptian and Tunisian government websites in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring revolutions, which resulted in regime changes in Egypt, Tunisia, & ultimately Libya. Anonymous` “Operation Empire State Rebellion” was a massive March 2011 hacking into the internal servers of Bank of America (a Stratfor client), that resulted in the online shaming of private emails from BOA executives which the hackers believed showed evidence of foreclosure fraud.
The next time you are asked to give your credit card information to read a daily email newsletter, remember the Internet is ripe with thieves and hackers with intelligence capabilities far superior to what we know. It is part of your responsibility as a consumer to always be mindful of the risks behind providing your credit card information to a transaction. Especially if you are a well-off individual people may commonly associate with the top 1% of America`s income range, you should be aware that there are dangerous and resourceful cyber-thieves who may be after your credit card information.