Hacking victims speak out

2013-05-26 14:00

A Northern Cape whistle-blower fears for her life after her ­tip-off to the police was published on the internet this week.

The woman submitted details to the police of how her cousin’s ex-boyfriend had stabbed her relative.

She is just one of hundreds of crime whistle-blowers whose safety is now threatened even as police played down the sensitivity of the exploited information.

Crime tip-offs and other information – including job queries and congratulatory messages – were contained in the data set of 16 000 records made public by a hacker calling him or herself DomainerAnon.

The Northern Cape woman says her life would be in danger if her cousin’s ex-boyfriend found out that she had contacted the police and insisted that he should be jailed.

The ex-boyfriend had stabbed her cousin, who was subsequently hospitalised, but the man was never arrested.

“He is still roaming around freely. Police never did anything even though he should have been charged with attempted murder. If he sees this complaint on the internet, he might get angry and start victimising me. Who knows what else can happen with that information,” she said.

A farmer who was attacked with his wife at his farm near Rustenburg in 2010 told City Press he was shocked to learn their details had been made public when we contacted him through contact details available in the leaked website.

Four intruders had attacked the elderly couple on the night of October 31 2010, and bludgeoned him and his wife with an axe, but the two managed to flee. No arrests were ever made.

Over the past few years, they laid complaints on the police website against the officers investigating the case and said they still lived in fear of being attacked again.

“Those men had made it clear that they didn’t want to take anything, but were there to kill us. It’s scaring me now that my details were made public and we still don’t know who those men were and why they wanted to kill us.

“It is shocking that my details are now on the internet about this case. What if these men come back for us?” said the farmer.

A woman who complained to the police about her six-year-old twins being sexually assaulted by her ex-husband said she did not fear her own safety with the website hack because her case was finalised. But she feared for others with pending cases.

“It is obviously worrying that this has happened, but no one is immune to hacking,” she said.

Other chilling reports via the police website include family members of a murder victim in an up-market Cape Town suburb tipping off police about their suspicions about the involvement of her husband in the crime.

The information was extracted from the police website earlier this month, although it only emerged this week. DomainAnon claimed to website MyBroadband that they used a common attack called an “SQL injection” (simply submitting a database query through a website’s form) to access the data.

The attack is so trivial. It is one of the easiest for websites to defend against.

Publicly the police had downplayed how much personal information was contained in the release and also the sensitivity thereof, but City Press’ own analysis shows it is packed with personal data.

The data contains more than 10 000 unique cellphone numbers, 12 000 names, 8 000 street addresses and 700 suspect names with dozens of cases relating to murder, rape and drugs included in it.

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