Brazil's authorities have launched an investigation after hackers stole, then published the personal details of 50,000 Rio de Janeiro military police. The hack may be more related to social protests in that country but illustrates the vulnerability of official databases.
Addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers and emails were published over the weekend on the Facebook page of a group called "Anoncyber and Cyb3rgh0sts," which had earlier published the logo of global hacktivist network Anonymous, reported CBN Foz.
Anonymous' Rio branch denied any connection. An apology was later published on the Anoncyber and Cyb3rgh0sts page, with administrators stating the leak had been carried out by one of its members without permission. Using this kind of information had the potential for "negative consequences," said the groups, "which is exactly what happened," reported Convergencia Digital.
Hackers also attacked Rio's state legislative assembly website, said Estadão newspaper, with the page on Saturday and Sunday showing an animated pirate dancing, accompanied by a message in English reading: "Do what you want [be]cause a pirate is free! You are a pirate!" El Jornal reported that Anonymous had claimed responsibility for that attack and labeled it a protest against a new law banning the use of masks during demonstrations in Brazil's capital.
InSight Crime Analysis
While there is some confusion over exactly who is responsible for these attacks and why, one thing is clear: cyber criminals have the potential to wreak havoc on Latin American institutions and put people in real danger in the process. The clear vulnerability of the state assembly's website leaves it open to much more serious attacks.
But the public dissemination of the addresses of Brazilian police officers, for whom there is serious public anger and distrust, and who are in deadly battles with street gangs, certainly could be dangerous. Rio police have a long history of severe corruption and violence, killing one person for every 23 arrested in 2008 -- compared to the US rate the same year of one in every 37,000.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cyber Crime
InSight Crime has reported on the growing use of the internet by organized criminals, activity which is costing the region billions of dollars a year and is getting increasingly imaginative. A report commissioned by the Organization of American Statesearlier this year highlighted how organized criminals were specifically targeting weaknesses in their home countries, and how law enforcement and governments were failing to keep up with advancing technology.