Largely inactive in the public domain for a while, the hacker group Anonymous had shown signs of stirring in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests which erupted after the killing of George Floyd. The group has now leaked what is being called a “megatrove” of documents that exposes police excesses in the US and methods used to monitor protesters during the movement.
According to a report in Wired, Anonymous leaked close to 269 GB in about a million files containing emails, audio, video and intelligence documents to an activist group called Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDOSecrets). The latter published the database on June 19. The files are largely drawn from US law enforcement agencies and were reportedly sourced from a web development firm by the name of Netsential. The data belongs to what are called “fusion centres” across the US – hubs which collate data from federal, state and local agencies to enable the sharing of information between them.
“It’s the largest published hack of American law enforcement agencies,” Emma Best, the co-founder of DDOSecrets, told Wired in a series of text messages. She added that the data provided the “closest inside look” at the agencies which are supposed to protect the public, and the government response to COVID-19 and the #BlackLivesMatter protests.
The files have been published on the DDOSecrets website; the operation has been titled Blue Leaks.
The data reportedly showed that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracked social media accounts of protesters and informed local police about anti-police communication. Documents have also revealed that the FBI tracked bitcoin donations to the protesters and that internal memorandums showed that white supremacist groups posed as Antifa to trigger violence.
DDOSecrets reportedly said that while the documents may not reveal illegal practices, it shines a light on the “underlying attitudes of law enforcement”. The group said that more than 200 US agencies have been exposed to the leak and that it spent close to a week censoring sensitive data about victims of crime, children, unrelated businesses and veterans organisations. It said that close to 50 GB worth of data had been withheld.
What is interesting is that unlike journalistic organisations like Der Spiegel and The Guardian, which would have probably censored the names of police officers involved in the action or correspondence, DDOSecrets has provided names. It told the US magazine that the public has “an interest in the identities of public servants”.
Blue Leaks is said to be the “most significant” operation that the group has undertaken on the US in some time. Anonymous, which first surfaced on the imageboard website 4chan in 2003, is known in popular culture for their use of Guy Fawkes masks. Initially infamous for Project Chanology, an attack on the Church of Scientology, its sub-group called Antisec gained widespread attention for attacks on US law enforcement agencies in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.