Hackers gain access to transit police union site

PAUL ELIAS - Associated Press
In this photo from Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officers block protesters from a train at the Civic Center station in San Francisco.   Rather than resort to another shutdown of subway cellular service to deter protesters, the San Francisco Bay Areaís transit agency closed down stations in the path of marchers, inconveniencing thousands of evening commuters. Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said they undertook the strategy to protect public safety on train platforms. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
View photos
In this photo from Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officers block protesters from a train at the Civic Center station in San Francisco. Rather than resort to another shutdown of subway cellular service to deter protesters, the San Francisco Bay Areaís transit agency closed down stations in the path of marchers, inconveniencing thousands of evening commuters. Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said they undertook the strategy to protect public safety on train platforms. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The website for the union that represents Bay Area Rapid Transit police remained disabled late Wednesday after hackers launched another online attack against the transit agency.

The latest attack came as BART found itself in the middle of a debate about free speech after it turned off cell phone service in its stations to thwart a potential protest.

This time, hackers gained access to the website operated by The Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officers' Association, posting personal information on more than 100 officers. The officers' home and email addresses were leaked along with passwords.

The attack Wednesday came as the transit agency found itself in the middle of a debate about free speech after it turned off cell phone service in its stations to thwart a potential protest.

This time, hackers gained access to the website of the union that represents Bay Area Rapid Transit police and posted personal information on more than 100 officers.

The officers' home and email addresses were leaked along with passwords.

BART Police Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig said his office was aware of the breach and referred inquiries to the BART Police Officers Association.

Union president Jesse Sekhon told San Francisco's KGO-TV that "I can't believe that this type of criminal act happened."

Sekhon did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking additional comment.

The hackers group Anonymous announced the most recent breach on Twitter and published the address of the website where the information could be found.

However, Anonymous had not claimed responsibility for the hack by late Wednesday, as it did when it broke into BART's marketing website last week and released the personal information of more than 2,000 customers.

"No one claimed responsibility for the hack," Anonymous said in a Twitter post earlier Wednesday. "Some random joe joined a channel and released the data to the press."

BART interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman condemned the latest "attack on the working men and women of BART."

"We are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our employees and their families," he said in a prepared statement.

The two hacks came in apparent retaliation for BART cutting wireless communication in its San Francisco stations Thursday night to quell a brewing protest over a police shooting.

The agency took that action after demonstration organizers said they would issue last-minute instructions in text messages and on social networks about where to gather and disrupt the evening commute. The demonstration was planned over the July 3 BART police shooting and killing of Charles Blair Hill, 45. The police allege the transient lunged at them with a knife.

A demonstration on July 11 over the shooting disrupted the evening commute, as one protester scrambled on top of a train, halting all BART transit in San Francisco for 30 minutes.

The decision to cut wireless communication to head off another protest Thursday put the transit agency in the middle of a worldwide debate over free speech, social networks and public safety.

The action was compared unfavorably to Hosni Mubarak's attempt to shut Internet access in Egypt before he was forced from office by mass demonstrations.

BART's action is widely believed to be the first time a U.S. governmental agency cut wireless communication to quell a protest.

BART chief spokesman Linton Johnson said Tuesday it was his idea to cut the power, and the tactic was vetted by police and approved by the agency's general manager, who previously served as BART's top attorney.

Johnson defended the tactic as legal and appropriate to ensure a safe commute.

The planned protest never materialized Thursday and all trains were on time that night.

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into BART's action while the FBI is investigating the hack of mybart.org last week.