The personal information of thousands is at risk as a result of a hacking campaign against a number of federal agency computer systems. A Reuters report states that an FBI memo issues a warning that the “Anonymous” group have exploited a security flaw in the Adobe Systems Software.
The infiltration concerns the Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services and the US Army but could be far more extensive. Exactly how many systems have been compromised has not been made public.
Astoundingly, the cyber attacks have been in operation for almost 12 months and are believed to be still in progress. The mysterious group of loosely associated, unidentified hackers are believed to have accessed numerous websites of governments and private companies worldwide.
Reuters state that the FBI memo attributes the latest infiltration to what their members call “Operation Last Resort,” launched in retaliation for the prosecution of some of their community, particularly Aaron Swartz, who was arrested for illegally downloading millions of academic papers, and subsequently committed suicide.
This event brings into consideration a more extensive and on-going dilemma: privacy of information. There is no secret to the fact that we live in a world where the online behaviour of individuals is observed 24/7. The monitoring of the internet, emails and social networks by advertisers, employees and others is constant; however, the biggest bone of contention for many individuals concerns the significant role apparently played by governments using a considerable amount of non-transparency and ambiguity, in this scrutiny.
Some of the more cynical may take the view that there is a nice touch of justice, in that the all-powerful federal government, which spies on its citizens should have the tables turned in this case. Obviously, the affected departments are not doing any spying, but it does concern the same organism. Yes, we need the NSA or GCHQ to keep a watch out for dangerous threats and enemies, but perhaps their tenacity should not extend to private citizens. Surveillance should be carried out on behalf of them and not on them: a different matter entirely.
As a result of this security breach thousands of government employees are now experiencing some uncertainty about the safety of their personal information.