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Badger bloodbath brouhaha brings 'bodge' bumpkin bank burgle bluster

Not a black-and-white case

Activists enraged by Blighty's badger cull claim they have hacked a financial biz used by UK farmers and swiped sensitive personal data.

The animal-rights protesters bragged they infiltrated the computer systems of the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society - an investment and insurance company closely linked to said union. The organisation is probing the alleged security breach, but has so far drawn a complete blank.

It's claimed badger-loving hackers downloaded NFU Mutual's customer files and made changes to accounts of individuals believed to be involved in the controversial cull, which its supporters argue is necessary to curb the spread of tuberculosis to cattle.

Boasts of the hack were made by someone using the nickname BrockCyberClan on Bite Back, an American animal-rights website. The otherwise anonymous comment poster declared:

Since the beginning of May we have exploited vulnerabilities on NFU Mutual systems to allow us to download almost all of their customer files including full financial details, claims and account history.

Our access is so complete that we were able to make subtle modifications to the accounts of several people we know are involved in the badger cull.

As more people are identified as being part of the badger cull we will exploit the details we have on them. We will show the same mercy to their finances that they show to the lives of badgers.

We already have plans to use the details we have on some of the more high-profile supporters of the cull.

A longer version of the statement was posted to the Earth First News blog, and outlines the political rationale behind the alleged attack: it also accuses NFU Mutual of "bodging" its website security without providing a shred of evidence that any systems were compromised.

Given the high-level access supposedly obtained by the badger cull protester, the leaking of some swiped data or vandalism on the NFU Mutual website was expected - these are standard hacktivist tactics. Yet there was none. BrockCyberClan states that he's a hacker and an animal lover, but makes no claim of affiliation with any group.

NFU Mutual told El Reg it was investigating the claims, but so far it had no evidence of any security breach much less any tampering with customer records. It stated:

NFU Mutual has very strong systems and controls in place to protect against malicious behaviour of this type and our investigations show there is no sign of customers' records being tampered with. We will of course continue to remain vigilant and monitor the situation closely.

Adam Quinney, vice-president of the National Farmers Union, added to the Telegraph that threats by anonymous online troublemakers will not intimidate Blighty's rural communities. “If anything it brings people together,” he said.

The badger cull is backed by the UK government's environment secretary Owen Paterson, farmers and some scientists, and is opposed by groups such as Stop the Cull, hunt saboteurs and others. Farmers in the English counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire have been authorised to shoot badgers since the start of the month. It's possible the cull may eventually roll out nationwide, extending its scope from 5,000 to an estimated 100,000 animals. ®

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