On Sunday, the hacktivist group uploaded to Pastebin the names, phone numbers, and social security numbers of numerous people it said are members of Westboro Baptist Church, which is based in Topeka, Kan. The data dump also includes the names of multiple members' children and grandchildren.
The Anonymous outreach was fueled by Westboro members promising to picket the funerals of people killed last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. "Your downfall is underway," vowed an Anonymous video uploaded Sunday. "Since your one-dimensional thought protocol will conform not to any modern logic, we will not debate, argue, or attempt to reason with you." Instead, the collective promised to wage a sustained assault that would "progressively dismantle your institution."
To that end, Anonymous has disseminated additional personal details about the group's members via Twitter and the AnonPaste website. Anonymous also claimed to have changed Westboro spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper's PC desktop wallpaper to gay porn, and filed a death certificate in her name, which would prevent her from using her social security number.
[ What constitutes justice for convicted hackers? Read Should LulzSec Suspect Face Life In Prison? ]
Meanwhile, on Monday Phelps-Roper's Twitter account was taken over by someone who claimed to be the hacker Cosmo The God, and who posted several tweets to the account about the takeover. Wired reported that Cosmo is a 15-year-old hacker who was arrested in June by the FBI, and who remains on probation until his 21st birthday, before which time he's not supposed to use a computer without supervision.
Phelps-Roper's Twitter account, which was compromised for over 24 hours, was exploited via a flaw in Twitter's Zendesk system that allowed trouble tickets that were submitted by users to be closed before they've been resolved by customer service personnel, reported Wired. By Wednesday, however, Phelps-Roper's DearShirley Twitter account page resolved to a page saying that the account had been suspended.
By Tuesday, the church's website also appeared to be on the receiving end of a multi-day distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, while Anonymous Twitter channels shared the name and contact information for the hotel where members of the church were staying in Connecticut.
A post to the Anonymous IRC Twitter account has also requested signatories for a petition to the White House to "recognize WBC as a hate group." As of press time, the petition had received over 180,000 signatures, which is well beyond the 25,000 signatures required for the White House to review the request and issue an official response.
A competing petition, which similarly requests that the White House "revoke the tax exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church and re-classify Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group," by Tuesday received over 38,000 signatures.
Westboro Baptist Church is thought to comprise about 100 people, and while the organization self-identifies as a church, it isn't affiliated with any established religious group, according to a statement released Sunday by American Baptist Churches USA. "American Baptists want to be clear that we denounce their message and tactics of hate," read the statement. "Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, is in no way affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, is not and never has been an American Baptist. Phelps' ordination is not in an American Baptist church, and his credentials have never been recognized by any region of ABCUSA. Westboro is an independent, non-affiliated church."
This isn't the first tussle between elements of Anonymous and Westboro, who notably debated last year on a call-in radio show. According to Parmy Olson's We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency, the Anonymous representative was none other than Jake Davis, aka Topiary, who was later to become spokesman for the hacktivist group LulzSec. According to Olson, Davis was debating Phelps-Roper via Skype while at the same time attempting to coordinate, via chats on Anonymous IRC server channels, a DDoS attack against the Westboro website. While the website was ultimately disrupted, hacker and DDoS botmaster The Jester claimed credit.
According to a Wed. post to The Jester's Twitter feed, the hacker appears to have again worked with Anonymous to launch this week's DDoS attacks against the Westboro website.
Whether it's for monetary gain, revenge or embarrassment, hackers want your organization's data, and they will stop at almost nothing to get it. In the How Attackers Find And Exploit Database Vulnerabilities report, we look at the vulnerabilities attackers target, how they get in and what they do once they get there. More importantly, we recommend how to close those holes and establish a layered security approach that includes products, processes and constant vigilance. (Free registration required.)