Anonymous scores big in world-championship lurking, spying contest with FBI

Recording a conference call with Scotland Yard is a coup no matter how you count it

Anonymous has scored another coup against the FBI in what has become a marathon, high-stakes lurking contest.

This morning Anonymi identifying themselves with the AntiSec movement – a general "f-the-police" project within Anonymous and its affiliated groups – posted the invitation to a conference call Jan. 17 between the FBI and Scotland Yard. "Subject: Anon-Lulz International Coordination."

The group actually released about 15 minutes of audio recordings from the meeting, in which FBI and Scotland Yard investigators discussed details on cases against hackers from Anonymous and random-punk-affiliate Lulz Security.

p>At least part of the conversation was lightly gossipish, including one British investigator who called one 15-year-old confessed hacker "a bit of an idiot" who copycatted LulzSec attacks "to get attention," according to British newspaper The Telegraph.

(The British contingent also discussed one colleague who did not attend the meeting as an "old school detective but mad as a box of frogs" – a defamation I mention only to share the image of insanity personified in a container of frogs.)

The FBI sounded affronted when it confirmed the hack to U.S. news outlets today, characterizing the conference call as having been "intended for law enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained" – which, from Anonymous' point of view, would have been the point.

"A criminal investigation is under way to identify and hold accountable those responsible," an FBI spokesman said.

There is always a criminal investigation underway about Anonymous, to which it responds with a mixture of defensiveness and cheek – knocking off the bobby's helmet as it races by, so to speak, rather than slinking quietly with its hood pulled down low.

Anonymi posted to show they had access not only to dial-in conference-call passwords but also the "secure" email systems through which they're delivered.

The timing is just as interesting.

Though the recording itself went online Wednesday, Anonymi posted the email today as part of FFF – "F*** the FBI Friday," a tradition begun by those rascals of LulzSec last summer in a bid to get even more attention for a campaign that included attacks on the Senate, the Pentagon, the FBI and dozens of U.S. police departments.

This week's revelations are the most significant Friday issuance for a while from Anonymous, which is making the most of the opportunity by gathering a crowd on Twitter to which it can preach.

The Boston Police Department web site BPDNews took the hit this week, with defacements railing against the BPD's crackdown on the Occupy Boston movement and its alleged abuses toward protesters.

anonymousSabu – high-profile spokesperson for LulzSec and at least some factions in Anonymous, promised more releases as well.

This isn't the first barrage Anonymous has directed against the FBI recently.

A tantalizing (but faked) psychological profile and strategy document posted in September, after supposedly being stolen from the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, characterized members of Anonymous and LulzSec as being primarily under 30, dilettantish, but increasingly a threat to national security.

Read carefully, the document wasn't very realistic.

It was very effective as a bit of trollery that attracted a lot of attention to Anonymous and LulzSec and stole attention from members who had already been arrested.

A more recent doxing – an intelligence update circulated inside the bureau warning of the risk that agents will be "doxed" – have private information about themselves posted publicly by the hackers they're trying to catch – appears to be legitimate.

Anonymous has also mirrored and reposted a video allegedly made by a "part-time peace activist" who claims to have been visited by members of an FBI anti-terrorism squad, who tried to use intimidation to squeeze out new information, a confession or permission to search the house without a warrant.

The video is part of an ongoing campaign of counter-harassment against the FBI, which some Anonymi have accused of using hacker investigations as witch hunts, disregarding the rights of "hackers" being investigated an generally being on the support- and enforcement side of all the laws Anonymous metastasized to oppose.

It hasn't happened yet, but both the FBI and Anonymous are large organizations with a lot of resources at (or potentially at) their disposal. It's possible, if the situation becomes any more tense and involving, that neither the FBI nor Anonymous will have time, manpower or bandwidth for anything but investigating the organization that's investigating them.

It won't solve any of the crimes the FBI is trying to solve or the social problems on Anonymous' agenda, but at least it will keep them both occupied for a while rather than making the rest of us watch as they slink stealthily after each other in an ever-shrinking circle.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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