It’s not just San Francisco and Oakland law enforcement that are interested in the nationwide spin-off protests of Occupy Wall Street. Since demonstrators fed up with financial mismanagement, perceived corporate greed and socioeconomic inequality set up camp in Lower Manhattan on September 17, similar encampments have been set up with varying degrees of success in over eleven hundred cities.
Reports unearthed by the open source website Public Intelligence reveal that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are carefully studying the role of the loose-knit hacktivist group Anonymous in the nationwide Occupation movement.
In a September 14th report, the FBI cites the hacktivists’ involvement in the series of protests against BART police shootings in August, the FBI believed Anonymous’ participation in Occupy Wall Street could bring additional media attention to the movement and increase the potential for denial of service attacks on financial institutions’ websites.
A separate intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, also dated September 14th, indicates Anonymous programmers have successfully developed new tools to disable websites and may implement them in solidarity with Occupation actions in the U.S. and United Kingdom this month and in November. Some potential targets listed in the report are major cellphone providers, Facebook, and defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin:
“Future attacks targeting both public and private sector entities, particularly in response to publicized events relating to civil liberties, cyber security, or allegations of censorship (online or otherwise) are likely to continue.”
Above all, law enforcement is genuinely concerned about the effects of a cyber attack on computerized industrial control systems by politically motivated hackers. Monitoring of websites used by Anonymous members and affiliates for information sharing, such as Pastebin, reveal that some hackers are making concerted efforts to learn how to take control over automated networks that control complex mechanisms such as robotic production lines and power infrastructure. While the feds find Anonymous’ current efforts demonstrate an incomplete understanding of such technology, analysts warn that the learning curve can flatten out very rapidly:
“The information available on Anonymous suggests they currently have a limited ability to conduct attacks targeting ICS. However, experienced and skilled members of Anonymous in hacking could be able to develop capabilities to gain access and trespass on control system networks very quickly. Free educational opportunities (conferences, classes), presentations at hacker conferences, and other high profile events/media coverage have raised awareness to ICS vulnerabilities, and likely shortened the time needed to develop sufficient tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to disrupt ICS.”