Suspected Anonymous hacker arrested after abortion website attack

Filed Under: Data loss, Law & order, Privacy

BPAS and AnonymousIn the early hours of this morning, police arrested a 27-year-old man, suspected of defacing and hacking into the website of Britain's largest single abortion provider.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) website was compromised yesterday, with a message from a hacker calling themselves "Pablo Escobar", and linking themselves to the Anonymous hacktivist group.

For a period of time yesterday, visitors to the BPAS website saw an anti-abortion message.

BPAS defaced website

In a series of tweets, someone using the name "Pablo Escobar" claimed that the names of women who had undergone abortions had been accessed from the BPAS site, and would be released today (Friday).

Tweets related to BPAS hack

It appears that the authorities moved quickly to reduce the possibility of personal details of people who had contacted the BPAS site being made public.

According to a news release by Scotland Yard, officers from the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PeCU) arrested the man, who has been linked to the Anonymous hacktivist group, at an address in Wednesbury in the West Midlands.

BPAS's website allows people to make enquiries regarding abortion, contraception, pregnancy, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and sterilisation. However, it has been stressed that no medical or personal information regarding woman who have received treatment from the charity was obtainable.

The Guardian reports BPAS as claiming that there were "about 26,000 attempts" to break into its website over a six-hour period.

Incidents like this underline the growing trend for there to be a political or ideological motivation behind cybercrime. Of course, there is still a larger proportion of attacks which are financially motivated, but there's a worrying tide of hackers who think it's okay to break the law and expose the personal information of members of the public to get their point across.

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20 Responses to Suspected Anonymous hacker arrested after abortion website attack

  1. Carrie · 966 days ago

    It looks like the FBI and police are working very hard to smear the 'anonymous' group and convince us all that they're the real enemy.

    • Anonymous · 966 days ago

      When your personal details linking you directly to something you would consider personal and private are leaked to the world for all to see and judge, you may change your opinion of Anonymous.

      The majority of the attacks Anonymous and Lulzsec have done have had very little long lasting effects on the corporations themselves and far more adverse affects on the innocent members of the public who's details were leaked. I would have far more support for their "cause" if they focused on exposing evil such as paedophile networks, human trafficking networks and the various mafia and drug cartels that terrorise entire countries. Personal vendettas such as anti abortion and attacking corporations & government departments for fun only polarises public opinion on their true intent.

    • Mike Sadler · 966 days ago

      Hear, hear! 'Anonymous' is full of blokes who want all teen pregnancies to go full term and women/girls who are just gagging to hang-out at home sans footwear? Yeah... right...

    • RealityCzech · 966 days ago

      I support Annonymous' attempts to highlight injustice and battle the greed and illegality practiced by big business and governments, but if the intent or purpose is to bring harm to individuals by hacking their systems or publishing thier private data, then yes, they ARE the enemy.

    • Dan · 966 days ago

      One thing is for sure. This doesn't seem to fit in with the type of sites people normally attack in the name of "Anonymous."

    • NothingNew · 965 days ago

      Anonymous fights for freedom of speech unless they disagree with it...then they black it out. They fight against greed by stealing credit card numbers... They don't need much smearing. They are just the usual lot of disaffected kids with time on their hands and chips on their shoulders.

  2. Dave · 966 days ago

    First thing I have seen that I don't support in the slightest coming from anyone connected with anonymous. Really hope it is a rogue/fake thing.

  3. Heather · 966 days ago

    I am glad this person was caught before too much damage occurred and the names were not released. They have just made themselves look like nosey, annoying people. I don't have a problem with people trying to put across their point in extreme ways, but this is a very emotive subject and I think that they have lost any respect people may have given them for their cause. I'd have more respect if they stood outside with a placard. I am pro-choice, but I understand the other point of view. Any person who has that, I hope they distance themselves and make sure this person knows that it is all his responsibility, and will face the consequences alone.

    • test2 · 965 days ago

      just a quick one... regarding about "not releasing names yet" how we know this hasn't been done yet by other hackers.... Underground hackers usually go in take what they want and get out asap not leaving messages and "yay I got you" all over the page just take the info and sell it to criminals.... that way companies do not need to state security risks unless someone leaks to the public for all you know "your" information is being sold right now .... hrmm

  4. Sean · 966 days ago

    Hello Graham,

    Good post. Worrying tide indeed.

    Something about your last paragraph doesn't quite sit right with me. I'd like to say that I don't think, but I guess it's I don't feel, that this can be called “cybercrime”. Yes, there are criminal actions involved in this case that could be classified as cybercrimes… but the intentions are so reprehensible that it feels more like a hate crime. I draw a strong association between cybercrime and criminal enterprise.

    I'm not sure what the “cyber” term equivalent of an attack to intimidate should be. Cyberterrorism might be suggested, but I think that's too hyperbolic. But somehow, cybercrime just isn't sufficient.

    Your thoughts?

  5. Steve · 966 days ago

    Anonymous needs no help from the cops to smear their name, they all too often do it themselves.

  6. Guest · 966 days ago

    "...but there's a worrying tide of hackers who think it's okay to break the law and expose the personal information of members of the public to get their point across"
    Even worse, when political leaders and big companies are getting away with breaking the law or are not concerned about protecting personl information.
    Who is whatching them?

  7. Alan hat · 966 days ago

    It appears that "Anonymous" is a group - if this was a group activity why was there only one arrest?
    I feel that this was the work of an individual & that the group should not have been mentioned

    • Mrs. W · 965 days ago

      If an organization has no membership rolls and no leader, then anyone can claim to be part of them. You can't arbitrarily decide they're acting independently just because you want to distance the group from the act that was committed.

      It doesn't take a village to hack a website. No doubt other hacks in the name of Anonymous were perpetrated in similar solitary fashion.

      This guy has ties to Anonymous, and he claims to be Anonymous. Isn't that about all you can say of any of them? And if that's not enough, what would someone need to do to prove they are acting on behalf of the group?

  8. wibble · 966 days ago

    I get the impression it's a combination of unaffiliated groups jumping on the "Anonymous" brand to get attention, and the authorities using the "Anonymous" tag as a convenient way of escaping some responsibility. For example, if you say "random person breaks into site" everyone thinks the website security was poor, whereas if you say "Anonymous breaks into site" everyone thinks the site owners didn't have a chance because Anonymous have such a reputation.

  9. Nathanael · 966 days ago

    Carrie; the FBI don't need to do anything. Anonymous will do it themselves because of the sort of "organization" they are (as in, it's not a formal one) and the sort of people they attract (their roots are in the trollfest and cyber-bullying hotspot that is 4Chan)

  10. Frank · 966 days ago

    The big problem is as 'anonymous' are anonymous, anyone can claim to be one. When they get caught that fast, you can tell that they were not the real ones just wannabe. But this guy will now know the cost of claiming to be part of this group. These people do smear more the 'anonymous' name than the police does.

  11. Trifolium Medium · 966 days ago

    They will never convince me.

  12. anonymous (not them) · 966 days ago

    I'm wondering that if these hobby hackers can so easily breach websites what are the real hackers capable of? I mean think of the Chinese scouting for children with a natural bent for computers taking them out of mainstream education, nurturing them full time with computer experts for years to develop super hacker geniuses. And that's only supposing China, what about all the other nations? Perhaps the authorities ought to be grateful to the amateurs for the wake up call of exposing just how vulnerable they really are.

    • test2 · 965 days ago

      Totally agree with this. Be thankful that they even tell you what they have done most will be silent and you will live by your day thinking your information is safe but your identity is being sold in the black market...

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.