BART Cell Phone Shutdown Provokes Response From Hackers

Steve Rhodes

Gilbert C. Anton

BART police blocked cell phone usage after riots following the most recent shooting.

In response to the decision made last week by the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) to shut down subterranean cell phone service, hacking group Anonymous launched attacks on myBART.org throughout the weekend into Monday.

The attacks resulted in the release of over 2,400 BART user’s personal information including names, email addresses, passwords and even personal addresses.

The hacking attacks forced BART to temporarily shut down the website to close access to the database through which Anonymous was gathering the information is currently being investigated by the FBI.

Anonymous released an announcement on their site before the hacking that indicated the group would take credit for the attack on myBART.org and offered their justification for launching the attack.

Anonymous claimed that the attack was a response to the shutdown by BART of subterranean cell phone service that was intended to curb protests that had sprung up around BART stations since the fatal shooting on July 3 of homeless man Charles Hill by a BART police officer.

“Anonymous demands that this activity revolving around censorship cease and desist and we know you are already planning to do this again,” read the announcement. “We will not issue any more warnings.”

The announcement went on to claim that the ease with which Anonymous was able to break into the BART site and gain access to the information of thousands because of the weak security behind the website only further proved that BART “doesn’t care about its customers.”

BART has attempted to clarify its reasoning for the decision to disrupt cell service and their position on the protests, namely that such protests can occur without disrupting the flow of traffic into BART stations.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson stated that protestors have free speech rights outside of the fare gates, including designated free speech zones, but “don’t have the right to free speech inside the fare gates.”

While BART officials continue to defend their decision to disrupt service, the FCC has launched an investigation concerning the legality of the move.

The combination of protestors and service disruption through the hacks employed by Anonymous put BART in a difficult position on Monday night as the company struggled to handle the situation.

The decision was made by BART to close the Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero stations from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The rationale behind the decision to shut down these specific stations remains unclear, as the closures occurred during rush hour for the stations, with trains only dropping off passengers at these stations while those looking to board were held back by police in riot gear.

BART’s deputy police chief Daniel Hartwig only revealed that the decision concerned the safety of passengers.

“Once we got to a situation where the BART platform was unsafe, we cleared the station,” commented Hartwig.

With no end in sight, commuters who use the BART system may have to deal with more shutdowns, disruptions and information leaks in the coming weeks.