A nonprofit organization called FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) confirmed on Sunday that hackers breached its servers and stole several databases containing personal information, including names and email addresses, for 23,000 people.
The hackers claimed one of the databases they exposed contains thousands of people “watched by the FBI,” some of them affiliated with major media organizations.
FBINAA is a law enforcement support, training, and networking group with dozens of chapters across the United States, plus several international chapters. According to a statement from the organization, hackers raided three of its local chapters, stole personal information, and made it available for sale on the Internet. The attack did not affect the national database for the group.
The databases the hackers posted contained personal information on at least 1,400 employees of the FBI, Secret Service, Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police, and other federal agencies, plus sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina and Florida. Home addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers were included with the data.
NBC News speculated the raid was intended as “proof of concept” for the hacking group, which wanted to demonstrate “they are to be taken seriously.” The hackers, whose organization NBC did not name, are also promoting a ransomware package that could be used to take computer systems hostage by encrypting their data and requiring the victims to pay the hackers to unlock it.
The hackers claimed they have been “working quietly since 2014” but now believe “the time has come to change the world.” One of the changes they demanded is the release of Russian hacker Peter Levashov, who was extradited to the United States and pled guilty last year to fraud and conspiracy charges for creating and distributing malware. Levashov’s sentencing hearing will be held in September.
An anonymous member of the hacking group spoke with TechCrunch via encrypted chat on Friday. The hacker claimed the group is hoarding data on over a million federal employees, plus other data stolen from thousands of websites, and they are well aware that disclosing the information they have stolen could put law enforcement agents at risk.
The hacker said most of the websites the group has targeted were easy to penetrate because they used outdated software. During the interview, this individual appeared to demonstrate the ability to hack and vandalize FBINAA websites at will in a matter of moments. The FBINAA speculated that the hackers exploited a vulnerability in the third-party software the breached websites used.
According to the TechCrunch interviewee, the group contains more than ten hackers and is largely motivated by the desire to accumulate “experience and money.”
The Associated Press found a Twitter account linked to the hacking group that claims it is based in Ukraine. The AP quoted an FBINAA statement that if a felonious attack on its systems has indeed occurred, “we will prosecute the culprits to the fullest extent of the law.”