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Hackers target supporters of breached security firm

Victims of a data breach at security think tank Stratfor apparently are being targeted a second time after speaking out.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Victims of a data breach at the security analysis firm Stratfor apparently are being targeted a second time after speaking out about the hacking.

Stratfor said on its Facebook page that some individuals who offered public support for the company after it revealed it was hacked "may be being targeted for doing so."

The loose-knit hacking movement "Anonymous" claimed Sunday through Twitter that it had stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to the company's clients. Anonymous members posted links to some of the information Sunday and more on Monday.

Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas, said its affected clients and its supporters "are at risk of having sensitive information repeatedly published on other websites." The company has resorted to communicating through Facebook while its website remains down and its email suspended.

Here's more from Stratfor's Facebook-posted warning:

It's come to our attention that our members who are speaking out in support of us on Facebook may be being targeted for doing so and are at risk of having sensitive information repeatedly published on other websites. So, in order to protect yourselves, we recommend taking security precautions when speaking out on Facebook or abstaining from it altogether.

A message posted online Monday by a group asserting it spoke for Anonymous mocked victims who spoke to The Associated Press about the experience of learning that their credit card information was stolen and used to make unauthorized charitable donations. The message also ridiculed someone who criticized the hacking on Facebook, saying "we went ahead and ran up your card a bit."

A Stratfor spokesman would not say whether the information was encrypted in its database or what the company has learned since the incident began.

Anonymous has said the data was not encrypted. If true, that would be a major embarrassment for a security-related company.

The spokesman, Kyle Rhodes, said the company could not discuss any details because several law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident.

The data was posted in a series of releases in links embedded in online messages that, in turn, were linked to from Twitter.

Some of the files appear to be alphabetical listings of Stratfor clients with related credit card information. The amount posted suggests that information about more than 100,000 individuals and thousands of companies was exposed. The posts also contain files of emails within Stratfor's information technology department, and what appears to be a list of passwords for Stratfor IT staff.

The posted data identifies thousands of major financial, defense and technology firms, media companies, government agencies and multiple units of the United Nations as Stratfor clients. The hackers said this was evidence that they had breached Straftor's "private clients," a claim the company denied.

"Contrary to this assertion, the disclosure was merely a list of some of the members that have purchased our publications and does not comprise a list of individuals or entities that have a relationship with Stratfor beyond their purchase of our subscription-based publications," Stratfor said in an email and on Facebook.

Stratfor clients around the world were trying to assess whether they were impacted by the hacking.

In New Zealand, the lead government agency, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, is checking whether it has suffered any problems from the hacking. The department, New Zealand's police and fire services and national carrier Air New Zealand are among New Zealand agencies and companies using Stratfor for security purposes.

Department spokesman Ron Mackey said checks were under way to determine "whether its systems have been compromised," Radio New Zealand reported Tuesday.

Earlier, New Zealand technology commentator Colin Jackson said the hacking must be "really, really embarrassing for Stratfor."

"The government departments and (New Zealand) companies ... are going to have to go around and get those credit cards stopped, and decide whether to continue dealing with this outfit Stratfor," he said.

Stratfor "has made a press statement saying 'oh, this kind of thing happens to everybody and it's pretty hard to keep these guys out.' Yeah, right, well, you are supposed to be security experts," Jackson told Radio New Zealand.

The hackers initially claimed their goal was to use stolen the credit information to donate to charities at Christmas, and some victims confirmed unauthorized transactions were made from their credit accounts in recent days. The messages also said the hackers are targeting companies "that play fast and loose with their customers' private and sensitive information."

Stratfor provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce cyber security risks, according to a description on its YouTube page. It charges subscribers for its reports and analysis, delivered through the web, emails and videos.

The company's home page carried a banner Monday that said its "website is currently undergoing maintenance."

Anonymous warned it plans more attacks this week. The movement has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on credit card processors Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc., eBay Inc.'s PayPal, as well as banks, groups in the music industry and the Church of Scientology.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a watchdog that tracks data breaches, made the Stratfor hacking its 121st such incident of the year targeting credit cards.

Anonymous, reported to be a loose-knit group of hackers, became famous for attacking the companies and institutions that oppose anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. The message Monday said the attacks could be averted. "Have you given our comrade Bradley Manning his holiday feast yet, at a fancy restaurant of his choosing?" Manning is the Army private facing court martial for allegedly sending hundreds of thousands of diplomatic documents and Iraq and Afghanistan war zone field reports to WikiLeaks. A seven-day hearing into the biggest national security leak in U.S. history ended Thursday.