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Tipsters exposed after South Africa's national police force hacked

Whistleblowers, crime victims laid bare by 'Anon splinter group'

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The identities of more than 15,000 South Africans who reported crimes or provided tip-offs to the police have been exposed following an attack on a SAPS (South African Police Service) website.

The names and personal details of whistleblowers and crime victims were lifted from www.saps.gov.za and uploaded to a bullet-proof hosting site.

Names, phone numbers, email addresses and ID numbers of people who thought they had been providing information in confidence and anonymously have been spaffed on the net.

The data dump includes information on 15,700 individuals who used the website from 2005, according to eNews Channel Africa, the local news service that broke the story of the leak. Usernames and passwords of around 40 SAPS personnel were also leaked.

The South African cops initially denied anything was amiss before confirming the breach after eNCA reporters had spoken to a number of individuals named in the data dump.

"Complaints range from rape cases opened in Durban to police brutality in Port Elizabeth," the news service reports.

"Also on the list are ordinary South Africans asking for help in cases involving vehicle theft and illegal shebeens*. People have also complimented police on their work, including speedy responses to emergencies and help in cases."

Safety concerns

One tipster - who had made a complaint about police brutality - expressed concerns about her safety in the wake of the breach. Daily newspaper The Star also spoke to someone who had complained to the police about a lack of apparent progress in the investigation of the rape of a 14 year-old girl. The complainant, who remained anonymous in The Star report, is clearly concerned about the safety of the victim.

A previous obscure hacker crew called @DomainerAnon, which claims an affiliation with loosely knit hacktivist collective Anonymous, claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was pulled off using a SQL injection attack.

The group tweeted: “A message to SAP: You are responsible for the data you hold.... we have merely shown that you do not live up to your own Code of Conduct!”

Payback... but who's paying?

The attack was apparently motivated by a protest against the death of 34 people when police opened fire on striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine last August.

The potential for collateral damage from @DomainerAnon's actions is obvious, but the self-declared lone wolf group dismissed suggestions that it was potentially putting the lives of innocents and whistleblower on the line to further its political agenda in exchanges on Twitter (here and here).

In an interview with MyBroadband, a member of DomainerAnon attempting to justify the decision to release the stolen data said. “I laughed when I was accused of ‘blowing’ covers of so-called whistle-blowers,” Domainer said. “I read one email which complained to the police of their lack of service. Another mail reported their missing cat!”

It's not the first time hacktivists have published personal details of private citizens from leaked websites to "embarrass the authorities".

In June 2011, LulzSec released a number of documents pertaining to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Leaked data including email addresses and passwords of immigrants, as well as potentially sensitive police documents was dumped online in a protest against Arizona laws requiring those immigrants to carry documents at all times. Police officials at the time expressed concerns that leaked information on how Arizona cops combat gangs - as well as lists of some of the officers' identities - put the lives of police at risk. ®

* Makeshift drinking taverns where often illegally brewed alcohol is consumed.

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