Hackers Leak Private Info on Congressional Staffers

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 07:06 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A Twitter account associated with the hacker group Anonymous has leaked the email accounts and passwords of hundreds of members of Congress and their staffers in protest of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program.

"We are paying very, very close attention to how you handle #NSA #FSA & #PRISM," the group's twitter handle @OpLastResort tweeted late Wednesday, its hashtags referring to the NSA, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the government's secret surveillance program.

"We mean it. This is a pivotal moment for America, and we will not tolerate failure."

In the online deluge, the hacktivist group removed some of the passwords — and said it had "shuffled the order of the remaining ones," but warned: "We reserve the right to spontaneously decide this restraint was unjustified."

The breach included the addresses of a slew of communications directors for the House and Senate. Others belonged to staffers who no longer work in Congress, including those of former Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., The Hill reported.

When asked on Twitter if "pissing off the House" is productive, Anonymous responded that "pissed off is exactly how Congress should be feeling. If it cannot wield the rod, it shall not be spared the rod," The Huffington Post reported.

House security officials believe the leaked information was poached from another online service rather than the House network's email system, The Hill reported, citing an email it had obtained that was sent to congressional offices.

A separate email Tuesday to House of Representatives' offices said the leak was traced to the iConstituent – a newsletter typically used by press staffers to communicate with constituents, and urged users to change their passwords. The email said accounts on the House network were not breached.

The users also were urged to reset their social media and email account passwords.

On Thursday afternoon, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer told The Hill that the hackers posted passwords that were not accurate. In a statement, he confirmed that a hacker was able to gain "limited access to a vendor's servers," but that Senate computers are safe and have not been hacked.

Gainer said his office is working with the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI as they investigate the breach.

Last February, Anonymous claimed that it hacked the Federal Reserve computers to release thousands of bank executives' credentials. Anonymous also claimed that it hacked the U.S. Sentencing Commission's website in January.

In the past, the group has claimed the leaks were made in honor of Aaron Swartz, who was facing prosecution for allegedly stealing several million online documents from the digital academic library JSTOR when he committed suicide in January.

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