This time the group, which goes by the name Crackas With Attitude, says it gained access to an even more important target—a portal for law enforcement that grants access to arrest records and other sensitive data, including what appears to be a tool for sharing information about active shooters and terrorist events, and a system for real-time chats between law enforcement agents.
The CWA hackers said they found a vulnerability that allowed them to gain access to the private portal, which is supposed to be available only to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the country. That portal in turn, they say, gave them access to more than a dozen law enforcement tools that are used for information sharing.
The hackers wouldn’t identify the vulnerability that gave them access, but one of the hackers, who calls himself Cracka, provided WIRED with a screenshot of one of the systems they accessed called JABS. JABS stands for Joint Automated Booking System, and is a database of arrest records for the US.
Cracka is the same handle of a hacker who spoke with WIRED last month to describe how the same group hacked into the private email account of the CIA director.
This latest breach, if legitimate, is significant because it gives the hackers access to arrest records directly after they have been entered into the system. This would be valuable information for gossip sites and other media outlets interested in breaking stories about the arrest of celebrities and politicians.
More importantly, the system can also include information about arrests that are under court seal and may not be made public for months or years—such as the arrest of suspected terrorists, gang members and drug suspects. Knowledge about these arrests can tip off other members of a terrorist cell or gang to help them avoid capture.
“Just to clear this up,” Cracka tweeted on Thursday about the breach of the JABS database. “CWA did, indeed, have access to everybody in USA’s private information, now imagine if we was Russia or China.”
Sealed arrest records are also quite common in hacker investigations when law enforcement officials quietly arrest an individual, then flip him to work as a confidential informant with agents to capture others.
A former FBI agent confirmed to WIRED that JABS shows “all arrests and bookings no matter the sealing.” But he noted that arrest records in which suspects are charged under seal “will only have limited data,” and sensitive records are sometimes removed from the system to prevent news of an arrest from leaking.
“The records go in but after processing they can be removed if they are sensitive matters,” he said, “or more likely there will be [a] flag when you run a name to contact a specific agency. Hackers might be removed if they are potentially cooperating witnesses or sources.”
He noted, however, that “[i]t takes some serious work or threats to get the records removed.”
The investigation into Silk Road, for example, involved anumber of initial arrests that were kept quiet to avoid tipping off other suspects.
Cracka told WIRED that he and his fellow hackers were able to view the JABS arrest record of Jeremy Hammond. Hammond was a hacktivist with Anonymous who iscurrently serving a 10-year sentence for hacking into Strategic Forecasting in 2011 and stealing 5 million private email messages and 60,000 customer credit card numbers. He told WIRED, however, that they did not access other criminal records.
“[W]e wasn’t there to hurt innocent people, just the government,” he said.