Once again, the hacktivist collective Anonymous is threatening a spectacular security breach, this time, against the Canadian government. Yesterday, Anonymous hackers told the National Post they'd stolen sensitive Canadian national security documents. They're prepared to release said documents if the officer who fatally shot a British Columbian protester last week is not arrested by Monday at 5pm, Pacific time.
This could be a very serious big deal, or a total load of bunk.
Anonymous would like us to think it's the former. To give the claim some legs, Anonymous members sent the National Post a document, apparently from the Treasury Board of Canada, which details cybersecurity upgrades at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's spy agency. The paper — whose authenticity has not yet been verified — includes discussion of cabinet approval of millions to dollars to "extend the Service's (CSIS's) secure corporate network environment to its foreign stations."
Anonymous members told the Post they have spent several months breaching Canadian government websites, and have other sensitive documents and files that they're prepared to release as well.
James McIntyre, a former member of Anonymous, was shot last week while wearing the iconic Guy Fawkes mask at a protest. The Canadian government has already faced a string of minor cyberattacks as fallout from the shooting.
Canadian government officials say they're monitoring the situation closely, but deny Anonymous's claims that CSIS computers were hit with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks last weekend. Other experts, however, tell the Post we shouldn't get too complacent:
Gabriella Coleman, a McGill University professor who is a leading academic expert on Anonymous and author of a recent book on the hacktivists' history, said the action outlined to the Post "definitely matches the style" of current Anonymous operations and seems credible.
"People now carry out [Anon operations] with a lot more security and seriousness in mind," she said. "This should be taken seriously."
It's tough to say what, if anything, this will all amount to, but a healthy dose of scepticism is warranted. Many, many Anonymous threats have turned out to be nothing but hot air. But one way or another, Anonymous is proving yet again that it's still capable of causing a major ruckus.