Online victims who had their credit card numbers and other personal information stolen when security analysis firm Strategic Forecasting was hacked on December 24 by the online group Anonymous were violated a second time when their information was posted online. As reported by NPR:
The loose-knit hacking movement “Anonymous” claimed… 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…
A message posted online…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…The message also ridiculed someone who criticized the hacking on Facebook, saying “we went ahead and ran up your card a bit.”
While some individuals appear to be heralding Anonymous’ actions, perhaps in part due to the group’s use of stolen money to make donations to charities such as the Red Cross and Save the Children, others are not as forgiving. One commenter stated on Stratfor’s Facebook page, “Anon is just creating their own internet censorship. Stealing from people who pay for a service. ‘Speak out against anon and you might be targeted’. Lol but they are for freedom of speech. Not one anon support has said it was wrong in the first place to steal.”
(For those seeking more background information on the incident, VentureBeat published a handy overview guide 10 things you need to know about Anonymous’ Stratfor hack.)
Of course the situation involving Stratfor isn’t unique or an isolated incidence – similar ones are playing out online on a regular basis.
The real question to ask is therefore whether the ends (embarrassing and harming companies perceived to have committed wrongs) justify the means (illegally obtaining personal and financial information of innocent people and exposing them to great risk by posting it online)?