Authorities are investigating interference with police radio communications, networks and websites utilised by police force and also other officials during recent US protests across the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The efforts to disrupt police radios and take down websites in Texas, Minnesota and Illinois aren’t considered technically difficult hacks, federal intelligence officials warned that police force should be prepared for such tactics as protests continue.
Authorities have not identified anyone responsible or provided information about precisely how the disruptions were completed. But officials were particularly concerned by interruptions to police radio frequencies within the last weekend of May as dispatchers aimed to direct responses to large unrest and protests that overshadowed peaceful demonstrations.
According to a June 1 intelligence assessment from the US Department of Homeland Security, during protests in Dallas on May 31, someone gained access to the police department’s unencrypted radio frequency and disrupted officers’ communications by playing music over their radios.
Dallas police failed to interact with doubts about the incident.
The assessment, that was obtained among the Associated Press, attributes the Dallas disruption to “unknown actors” and fails to say the way they accessed the radio frequency. It warned that attacks of varied types would likely persist.
“Short-term disruptive cyber activities connected to protests probably continue – various actors might be carrying out these operations – while using possible ways to use more impactful capabilities, like ransomware, or target higher profile networks,” the assessment warns.
The assessment noted similar issues with Chicago police’s unencrypted radio frequencies during large downtown protests on May 30 together with reports of arson, vandalism and theft. An official with the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications told the Chicago Sun-Times that the tactic was “very dangerous.?, though chicago police also have not said how the radio frequencies were accessed?
Police surrounding the country have encrypted their radio communications, often arguing that it’s a method to protect officers and block criminals from listening in on acquireable phone apps that broadcast police radio channels. But media outlets and native hobbyists are already annoyed by the adjustments, that also prevent them from reporting on issues regarding public safety.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a separate warning this week reporting that personal information of police officers nationwide is being leaked online, a practice known as “doxxing.” According to the report obtained by the AP, information shared on social media included home addresses, email addresses and phone numbers.
Law enforcement agencies are actually targeted by online pranksters or hackers in recent times, including by some who claimed to end up being motivated by on-the-ground protests against police tactics. As an example, the hacking collective Anonymous claimed responsibility to your defacement of local police departments’ websites in 2012 as protesters clashed with officers while in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
People that self-known as being part of the collective also claimed to receive accessed dispatch tapes as well as other Ferguson Police Department records in 2014 from a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man.
Like other government entities, police force agencies in recent years are already frequently targeted by ransomware attacks, where a perpetrator virtually locks up a victim’s computer files or demands and system payment to release them.
The prevalence of cyberattacks – which might cause physical damage or far-reaching disruption – and much less severe online trickery, including stealing passwords, has given police force agencies more experience at fending off efforts to adopt down their websites or access critical information. But hackers adapt too, and governments with fewer resources than private companies often struggle to take care of, said Morgan Wright, chief security officer with the cybersecurity company SentinelOne.
“The biggest concern they provide at the moment could be the safety of these communities, the security of their own officers,” Wright said of how police force agencies view cyberthreats amid large unrest and demonstrations. “But in case you take a look at what underpins everything we use to collaborate, communicate and operate, it’s all technology.”
A handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin his neck down for several minutes, Minnesota Gov, as large protests gathered steam after the May 25 death of Floyd. Tim Walz said state networks appeared to be targeted. He described the activity as an effective “a very sophisticated denial of service attack.”
But experts said the technique of bombarding a web site with traffic is usual and doesn’t always require a higher level of skill, counter to Walz’s description. Minnesota’s Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes later said state services weren’t disrupted.
However efforts got a whole lot of attention, partly mainly because of unverified online claims that Anonymous was responsible after many years of infrequent activity. The decentralized group largely went quiet in 2015 but is still known globally using headline-grabbing cyberattacks against MasterCard and Visa, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies.
Twitter users also made unverified claims that Anonymous was behind recent intermittent outages in the city government’s website inside Texas capital of Austin. Their posts revealed that the disruption was retribution for police officers shooting a 20-year-old black man with the head having a bean bag after a May 31 protest away from police headquarters.
The injured protester, recognized by family as Justin Howell, remained hospitalized Wednesday in critical condition.
The city’s IT department was looking into the site’s issues, but a spokesman said Monday that he couldn’t provide any information about the cause. He was quoted saying the website was still experiencing a high number of traffic.
“You must have expected us,” a free account purporting for being Anonymous’ posted on Twitter. In addition it warned that “new targets are coming soon.”
The collective’s approach – everyone can act inside the name – will make it tricky to verify the recent claims of responsibility. But Twitter accounts long affiliated with Anonymous shared them, said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University in Montreal that has studied the Anonymous movement continually.
Individuals who have more technical and disruptive hacking skills often drove peak instances of attention for Anonymous, and it’s not clear whether that types of activity will resume, she added.
“There’s lots of things occurring while in the background, persons are chatting,” Coleman said. “Whether or perhaps not it materializes is a second question. But certainly people are form of talking and arousedtalking and connecting.”
Foody reported from Chicago. Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas led to this report.
Acacia Coronado is often a corps member with the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is known as a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.