On Saturday, June 25, the day after the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade lapsed, a group of hackers dubbed “SiegedSec” posted a bold claim on their Telegram page that they had seized and leaked “internal documents and files recovered from the Kentucky and Arkansas government server.
The leak contained personally identifiable information about state employees, the group wrote. “Like many, we are also pro-choice, we should not be denied access to abortion,” reads the message, which concludes with a statement: “THE ATTACKS WILL CONTINUE! Our primary targets are all pro-life entities, including government servers in states with anti-abortion laws. KEEP PROTEST, PROTECT YOURSELF, FUCK THE GOVERNMENT.
On Thursday, July 7, SiegedSec delivered on its promises, claiming to have planted a number of industrial control systems across the United States on behalf of “Operation Janea reference to a series of hacking attacks targeting anti-abortion forces in America. “The more pressure on the government, the better!” the group wrote on Telegram. “Over time, more and more systems will be affected. REMEMBER TO CONVINCE YOUR FRIENDS TO CAUSE EVIL!
SiegedSec isn’t exactly a renowned hacker collective with enthusiasts all over the world, there Anonymous. On the contrary, the group is apparently small and very new, having been formed in early 2022, according to a analysis from the darknet data provider DarkOwl. He disclosed various dumps of stolen data from weak and compromised networks, including an Indian media outlet, a Taiwan-based telecommunications company, and a Puerto Rico-based insurance company, among others.
Throughout, the group made jokes about how they want to “hack the planet” for the “lulz”, identifying themselves as black hat pirates – meaning those who intend malicious to infiltrate and agitate – and encouraged people to seek their own autonomous actions against the government. They repeatedly refer to themselves as “gay furs”, including in passages where they make fun of their targets (“Imagine getting fucked by furs on the internet”, notes a message from Telegram).
In other words, SiegedSec is a bit like a group of self-aware shitposters, practicing their craft and aiming for low-hanging fruit of cybersecurity. In a chat on Telegram, SiegedSec member “YourAnonWolf” tells me things only changed after the team considered the impact of the fall in abortion rights. “We mostly do things for the lulz, for fun. However, when we saw the situation in Roe v. Wade, we felt we had to do something and so we decided to help with what we could. We have destroyed the control systems to increase the pressure on anyone who can change anti-abortion laws,” they say. “If they change the laws, we’ll stop attacks on control systems and more government targets.”
YourAnonWolf could not explain the practical impact of their recent attack, only to note that it likely disrupted a number of government and private operations. The scale of the Kentucky-Arkansas server attack has also been disputed by some state officials, who claims that the leak revealed far less private information than initially feared.
Nonetheless, SiegedSec is an intriguing new player in the ever-changing landscape of hackers choosing to join in social battles, including the wave of volunteer hacktivists work against Russian targets in the Ukrainian conflict.
Some have been in the world of hacktivism for years, helping to launch attacks on foreign governments, corporations, police departments, hospitals, right-wing militias, and any other entity deemed worthy of punishment. And others, like SeigedSec, are newer outfits with long-term motivations that have less to do with justice and altruism and more with the lawless power of hacking, especially when aimed at governments and corporations. companies.
Countless institutions, including the federal government, have glaring vulnerabilities in their networks and servers. In the eyes of black-hat hackers, the tactic of small-scale autonomous action, especially under the veil of anonymity and decentralized communication, is well suited to strike these vulnerabilities.
“They remind me of people active on [sites like] RaidForums or BreachForums, from what I read on SiegedSec. Like the money-driven threat actors who now want to get into activism,” says Lorax B. Horne, a writer who works with the Transparency Collective Distributed Secrets Denial. “There has been a lot of cross-pollination between these worlds. We have even seen big, lucrative companies, like ransomware operators, taking sides in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. I think it’s inevitable in the sense that business is linked to politics, and those interests can collide.
Roe has been an inciting factor for a number of hacking attacks. Anonymous claimed to have deleted data from period-tracking apps, although the impact was disputed by a daily item report, which notes that no serious security flaws were announced. A group reportedly took down the National Right to Life advocacy group’s webpage on June 27th, while the Texas Right to Life site went down earlier this weekthe 5 of July.
These efforts are reminiscent of the influx of hacktivism and attention in the summer of 2021: a team of female-led hackers and their allies trolled abortion whistleblower site ProLifeWhistleblower.com, then hacked into the Texas GOP website, wrecking it with Rick Astley memes and scathing criticism of the six-week abortion ban recently introduced by the state. It may also have opened the door to a massive breach by Anonymous as part of the vast Epik hackswhich revealed details about far-right extremists and their links to government officials.
Of course, hacktivism can work for any political ideology. Anti-abortion activists also exploited digital vulnerabilities, shutting down the websites of abortion rights groups, stealing patient information and using location data to track visitors to family planning clinics and shill anti-abortion material for them. In 2012, a Brit who claimed to be a member of Anonymous was sentenced to 32 months in prison for stealing the personal information of more than 10,000 women from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, with the aim of publishing private information in a coup against access to abortion.
So what will become of an outfit as new as SiegedSec? They could become infamous, like the four young British men (aged 18-26) behind Lulzsec. This group began as a prankster black hat operation, but rose to prominence after breaching the CIA, PBS, Westboro Baptist Church and Sony. Eventually, the group was tracked down and prosecuted, with the pirates serving between 20 and 32 months in prison.
Or it could just evolve too: hacking groups often split and warp as members develop their own abilities, beliefs, and strategies. Analysis of DarkOwl data noted a link between SiegedSec and a previous group called GhostSec, which was so successful that it split into a traditionally autonomous “Anonymous” faction and a legitimate counterterrorism consultancy known as the Phantom security group. Similarly, it’s likely that a younger generation of hackers will infiltrate all sorts of militant spaces, even if they start their careers in cells like SeigedSec, which is more lulz-focused than anything else in particular . “We’ll probably be back to black-hat activities very soon, but nothing has been planned for sure yet,” YourAnonWolf replies when asked about the future.
For now, however, there is nothing to choose from. To those hackers, harassing and disrupting the foundations of anti-abortion entities is it’s worth a laugh – it also happens to be a principle.