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Anonymous hacks FBI conference call on cyber pirates

The group posts a 16-minute recording of a call in which U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials discussed two alleged teenage members. U.S. officials call it a low-level cyber crime.

February 03, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times
  • A look at the Twitter page of Anonymous.
A look at the Twitter page of Anonymous.

Reporting from Washington — The computer hacking group Anonymous took gleeful pride Friday in announcing that it had sneaked onto a conference call between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and foreign law enforcement agencies concerning how to deal with the cyber-pirate organization.

To boost its claim, the group posted a 16-minute recording of the conference call in which intelligence was shared about two British teenagers allegedly tied to Anonymous. But at FBI headquarters in Washington, officials brushed off the incident, saying that while a "criminal investigation is underway" into how the conference call was compromised, the episode was not a major incident in the annals of cyber stealth. They insisted that nothing was jeopardized.

"In the big scheme of things, how do these people fit into cyber crime?" said one FBI official. "It's pretty low level. These guys are not that sophisticated."

In the past, Anonymous has claimed some big-name scores. It revealed email addresses and other personable tidbits about former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and numerous other U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and military officials.

In January, Anonymous said it briefly shut down parts of the Justice Department website and attacked sites of some entertainment companies because criminal charges had been brought against the founders of Megaupload for transferring music and movies onto the Internet.

But to get inside the FBI tent by eavesdropping on the conference call hit closer to home.

"The FBI might be curious how we're able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now," Anonymous taunted on Twitter.

The FBI said that it was no ingenious trick. A bureau official said "they got access into a system, not ours, because someone overseas in foreign law enforcement forwarded a working email into a private account. That's how the compromise was made.

"They got instructions, unfortunately, for the time and date of the call and listened and recorded it."

In London, Scotland Yard said it was carrying out its own "full assessment" of the incident, adding that "at this stage, no operational risks" were jeopardized.

The two British teenagers mentioned in the recording had been arrested in the United Kingdom and publicly identified by authorities as Ryan Cleary and Jake Davis. They were allowed to return home after being arrested, according to the FBI in Washington.

One of them, an FBI official said, was told "to stay close to Mom and stay away from computers."

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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