ORF hack attack worse than feared

Hackers nicked significantly more data from a subsidiary of Austrian broadcaster ORF than officials initially admitted, it has emerged.

A spokesman for GIS, the ORF’s radio and TV fee agency, announced today (Tues) 214,000 customer data sets were stolen in the attack last week. He added that 96,000 of the data featured clients’ bank account information.

GIS officials announced last Friday the attack by Anonymous Austria had little impact “because (customer) data are located on several servers.” Now a spokesman for the company admitted that the dimension of the incident had been underestimated. “It wasn’t clear to us at first what was actually going on,” he told the press today.

The GIS spokesman explained the hackers took advantage of a loophole in the security system. He said GIS had already started getting in touch with the affected customers. “We appealed to these people to carefully check their account balances and activity,” he added.

GIS manages data of ORF’s 3.5 million private and business clients. Households with at least one television must fork out around 20 Euros a month to the national broadcaster. A certain amount of the fee goes straight to the nine provincial governments. The official argumentation is that these transactions should help them in subsidising local cultural events. Opposition politicians have criticised the structure of the ORF’s system of fees and its methods for years. The Freedom Party (FPÖ) – which recently also became a victim of Anonymous Austria – launched an online petition against ORF’s “enforced” fees.

GIS promised today to improve its security standards. The ORF affiliate announced plans to call for charges against Anonymous Austria. The group’s attack against GIS occurred shortly after it brought down the Austrian Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) internet representation.

Asked for the group’s motives, a member of the network of hackers told the Kurier newspaper last week: “We cannot continue watching on as Austrian politics are decreasing. Politicians are like pigeons – they shit on your head after you fed them.”

He added: “We won’t stop in the foreseeable future. (…) Most of us are ready to risk getting punished for what they are doing.”

The Anonymous Austria activist claimed members of the Austrian army and civil servants could be found among members of the group.

The Austrian police’s department for the protection of the constitution and the fight against terrorism (BVT) and the Federal Crime Office (BK) have been investigating the hackers’ recent attacks against the SPÖ and the FPÖ to no avail. Officials said they could not yet say for sure whether the people behind the strikes were residents of Austria.

Austrian police said people being caught trying to get hold of any kind of data on the internet with illegal means face five years in prison. They explained infiltrating computer networks could mean a punishment of the same extent.