Pro-abortion hacktivists slam states with bans

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(TNS) – An abortion rights hacktivist group says it has launched cyberattacks against the Arkansas and Kentucky state governments and leaked files from their servers to protest their abortion bans after the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled Roe v. pick up calf.

The group, which calls itself SiegedSec, said it hacked the two states because it was angry at their bans.

“THE ATTACKS WILL CONTINUE!” the group posted on a Telegram channel. “Our primary targets are all pro-life units, including government servers of states with anti-abortion laws.”


While the group claims it leaked internal documents and files containing employees’ personal information, Arkansas and Kentucky state officials say initial reviews found none of the documents were deemed sensitive or not publicly available.

Cybersecurity experts expect more attacks by hacktivists on states angered by abortion bans.

“This is a legitimate threat that states need to take seriously,” said Dan Lohrmann, chief information security officer at Presidio, a global digital services and cybersecurity company. “It’s an important issue. It is likely that there will be more of these hacktivist attacks.”

In recent years, state and local governments have been the target of hacktivism, a mix of hacking and activism for a political or social cause. Unlike cybercriminals, who hack into computer networks to steal data for money, most hacktivists are individuals or groups of hackers who band together and see themselves as fighters against injustice.

Hacktivists have launched attacks on everyone from foreign governments and corporations to suspected drug dealers and pedophiles. Police stations and hospitals were also attacked. Hacktivists have frozen government servers, defaced websites, and hacked data or emails and put them online.

Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February, hacktivist groups on both sides have stepped up their attacks. A Twitter post from an account called Anonymous, a loosely affiliated network responsible for attacks on government, corporate and religious websites, for example, urged hackers around the world to target Russia.

Hacktivists often launch cyber attacks against state or local governments after a major, controversial event or decision, such as B. the fatal shooting of a black man by the police or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

In the case of Arkansas and Kentucky, both have laws prohibiting abortion that went into effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling.

Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet of Finance and Administration, said the Commonwealth Office of Technology is investigating the hacktivist group’s claims about its impact.

“Information related to Kentucky has been identified, and while initial indications are that this is publicly available data that does not contain personally identifiable information, the state will continue its investigation,” she said in an email.

The information accessed, she added, was in a single folder on a government server designed to “store publicly available documents linked directly from a publicly available government website.”

Federal law enforcement agencies have been notified, Midkiff said, and the technology bureau’s information security officers “remain on high alert.”

In Arkansas, Shealyn Sowers, spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sent a statement to Stateline saying that last week the state Department of Information Services became aware of the hacktivist group’s allegation of accessing and downloading internal documents from state systems to have.

“After an initial analysis, our security teams determined that there was no access beyond what was publicly available and only public records were viewed or downloaded,” Sowers said. “The systems involved were not on the Arkansas state network, but on a public cloud provider.

“We remain vigilant while keeping our systems secure,” she added.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst for cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said he wasn’t surprised states with abortion bans were being targeted.

“States that legislate against abortion rights may be targeted by hacktivists,” he said. “I would be very surprised if this were an isolated case. That’s pretty much controversial as it gets.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion rights, the Supreme Court ruling is expected to make abortion illegal in more than two dozen states.

And while many states have banned abortion, others have strengthened abortion rights and protections. That could also make them vulnerable to anti-abortion hacktivists, Lohrmann said.

“I think both sides will potentially launch hacktivist attacks,” said Lohrmann, a former Michigan state chief information security officer. “States need to be vigilant, exercise due diligence and be on the lookout for unusual activity.

©2022 The Pew Charitable Trusts distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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