In "an attempt to show those engaging in the censorship what it feels like to be silenced," The hacker collective Anonymous chose Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) as its latest prey of hacking attacks.
Personal data of at least 2,400 public transport customers in the San Francisco area were released Sunday, as Anonymous' response to BART's temporary shutdown last week of cellphone service in some of its stations to block a protest of the police shooting of a knife-wielding man on a platform.
BART has been sharply criticized for the fatal shootings of two men by its own police force.
"BART has proved multiple times that they have no problem exploiting and abusing the people. First they displayed this by the two recent killings by BART police," Anonymous said in a statement.
"Under no circumstance, unless police are shot at, make police killings acceptable. Non-lethal weapons were available to use during both incidents, providing even that was necessary, but instead they shot to kill. Next they violated the people's right to assembly and prevented other bystanders from using emergency services by blocking cell phone signals in order to stop a protest against the BART police murders."
The breached data include names, addresses and phone numbers of BART passengers.
The hackers got hold of the information from the database of more than 50,000 subscribers who receive alerts and other information from MyBART.org. But BART said the site held no financial information.
The website has been shut down, and law enforcement has been notified, according to BART.
"We are sorry this intrusion into the myBART data occurred, and we notified those affected right away in case anyone tries to exploit the information," BART stated. "We will provide an update as soon as we have additional information."
According to Anonymous, however, the hacker collective does not intend to exploit BART's general customer information.
"We apologize to any citizen that has his information published, but you should go to BART and ask them why your information wasn't secure with them," the group wrote. "Also do not worry, probably the only information that will be abused from this database is that of BART employees."
The group also stated its plan to hold a protest outside the Civic Center Bart Station at Monday 5 p.m. PT.
BART officials are working a strategy in order to block protests.
"We have been planning for the protests that are said to be shaping up for tomorrow," BART spokesman Jim Allison said. According to Allison, BART police will be staffed inside stations and trains, and they have notified San Francisco police as well.