Texas cops, normally charged with helping people who fall prey to crime, became victims themselves when their e-mails were hacked, according to an online civil disobedience group.
More than two dozen state law enforcement agencies had their e-mail accounts hacked, the group known as Anonymous claimed. The hack job was supposedly in retaliation for arrests of its supporters and what it sees as harassment of immigrants by authorities in the state.
The group appeared to briefly take over the website of the Texas Police Chiefs Association on Thursday, replacing its home page with one that listed police departments and officials whose e-mail accounts Anonymous said had been hacked.
The group posted a statement on the police website saying it was "attacking Texas law enforcement" because of arrests of its supporters and what the group sees as harassment of immigrants by authorities in the state.
A telephone message left with the executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association was not returned Thursday night.
Dozens of arrests linked to the loose-knit international hacking collective have been made in recent weeks, including a cross-country FBI sting earlier this summer in which 14 alleged cybercriminals were arrested. The claims about the hacking in Texas came as police in Britain arrested two men as part of a trans-Atlantic investigation into attacks carried about by Anonymous and Lulz Security, which is a spin-off of Anonymous.
Anonymous said the data it posted Thursday came from the work and personal e-mail accounts of law enforcement authorities, including police chiefs. Most of the Texas law enforcement agencies that Anonymous claimed it had hacked into were police departments in small Texas cities or school district police agencies.
About 10 of the e-mail accounts the group said it breached were personal accounts for law enforcement officials. Some of the individuals' personal information, such as Social Security numbers and passwords for various accounts, were posted online as well.
Some of the e-mail accounts belonged to individuals who were retired from law enforcement.
The group said the information it posted online included classified police documents as well as lewd and racial jokes. A quick review of the large volume of data that Anonymous released Thursday revealed some of these things.
Robert Mock, one of the individuals whose personal e-mail account was apparently breached, said he had only been made aware of the possibility earlier Thursday.
"I'm upset, as anybody would be whose account was hacked into," he said. "This wasn't my work account. Got my private information out there. I don't even know what's out there."
Anonymous listed Mock as being a lieutenant with the Houston police department, but Mock said he had left the department about four years ago. Mock said he still worked in law enforcement in the Houston area but declined to say where he was employed.
In addition to his cellphone and water bills, Anonymous also posted emails of jokes that were forwarded to Mock that made fun of Arabs and Muslims.
"I get forwarded emails like anybody else. I delete most of them. It is what it is," he said.
Another law enforcement official whose account Anonymous claimed to have hacked was Jesus Torres, an assistant chief of police in Laredo. When reached by a reporter Thursday, Torres said the call was the first he had heard about the apparent hacking and couldn't immediately confirm it had happened.
Anonymous also listed as hacked the personal e-mail account of a manager of a Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab. Agency spokesman Tom Vinger said he had no immediate comment.
Last month, Anonymous claimed it hacked into some 70 mostly rural law enforcement websites, mainly from sheriffs' offices in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi.
Anonymous also has claimed responsibility for attacking companies such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, as well as the music industry and the Church of Scientology.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.