BART Website Hacked Again
Written by Faith Anderson on August 19, 2011
BART Under Fire for Police Shootings
San Francisco’s Bay Area Transit is a heavy-rail public transit system that connects San Francisco with cities in the East Bay and suburbs in northern San Mateo County. BART has been the subject of scrutiny recently, due to controversy surrounding shootings by its officers, the latest of which took place on July 3 and resulted in the death of forty-five-year-old Charles Hill. BART has also come under fire for disabling cellphone and wireless service towers in several of its underground downtown San Francisco stations last Thursday, in an attempt to thwart a potential protest over the police shooting. Officials called the interference “one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.” BART officials have denounced Wednesday’s hack and are “deeply troubled by these actions.”
BART Combats Potential Protestors by Cutting Cell Service
BART’s decision to cut wireless communication last Thursday to avoid a public demonstration has been severely criticized by civil liberty organizations. After cell phone signals were shut down by the transit system, the hacker group Anonymous threatened in a news release and on Twitter posts that it would organize a cyber attack against the BART website on Sunday, which did in fact take place. On Monday night, BART officials temporarily opened and closed downtown subway stations to avoid the threat of spreading protests, and employed police officers equipped with riot gear at BART’s Civic Center subway station.
BART’s Actions Launch Debate over Free Speech Rights
The recent digital attacks on the transit system have been called “cowardly” by BART officials, who believe that the safety of their officers’ family members has been jeopardized. The FBI has already launched an investigation into the hack involving the MyBART.org website, and will expand the probe to include the breach of the police union’s website. Online postings made by Anonymous suggest that the two breaches were carried out in retaliation to BART’s decision to cut wireless communication, which successfully stopped a brewing protest over the shooting of Hill, who officers claim lunged at them with a knife.
The decision by BART to disable cellular service is believed to be the first time a government agency in the U.S. cut wireless communication to stop a protest, and the action ignited a heated debate over free speech rights. Officer Linton Johnson, chief communications officer for BART, admitted that it was his idea to cut power to the underground wireless system that is owned by the transit system, and has called the tactic legal and appropriate to ensure the safety of commuters. In the meantime, protestors are planning to hold demonstrations next Monday at the Civic Center station, and transit system officials have taken the steps to increase security.