Tuesday 24 October 2017

Hackers leak mail details of defence workers

Hannah Devlin and Murad Ahmed in London

THE e-mail account details of British government officials, civil servants and defence company staff have been leaked after computer hackers attacked a prominent group of gossip and news websites.

The work e-mail addresses and passwords of senior staff at the Crown Prosecution Service, officials at the Charity Commission and employees of BAE Systems are among those in a file of more than one million user names that is circulating online, putting highly sensitive correspondence at risk.

The leaked details belong to people who used their work e-mail to access websites run by the Gawker Media group, founded by Nick Denton. These include the gossip and celebrity websites Gawker and Jezebel and the popular gadget site Gizmodo. Although the passwords were published in an encrypted form, they were so easy to guess that a computer program was able to crack them within minutes or even seconds.

The list also includes a high-profile Liberal Democrat campaigner, several NHS staff and employees of Acas and Barclays. Senior editors at national newspapers were also left vulnerable to third parties tapping their personal correspondence.

Last weekend, Gawker Media stopped publishing on its websites after it emerged that hackers had gained access to its servers and databases. The hacking group, dubbed Gnosis, said it had found 1.3million user names and passwords on the web publishing firm's computers. The group posted the passwords of some Gawker employees and thousands of users whose passwords are simply "password". Gawker said it was "deeply embarrassed".

Gnosis hackers suggested that they were targeting Gawker in retaliation for pieces published on its sites that were critical of 4chan, an online forum that mounts attacks against other websites. 4Chan has been used by supporters of WikiLeaks to organise attacks on MasterCard, Visa and PayPal.

The hackers said that they wanted to teach a lesson to the general public. One Gnosis member wrote: "Maybe naming and shaming you all will encourge you all to use better passwords in the future? Probably not."

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