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City braces for Anonymous cyberattack

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The city of Albuquerque is bracing for a potential cyberattack by an Internet “hacktivist” group that has targeted the police department in response to the March 16 fatal police shooting of James M. Boyd in the Sandia foothills.

But the city’s chief information officer said there was only a “brief, temporary disruption” to the city’s website Saturday night.

“We can’t confirm the cause of the interruption,” said CIO Peter Ambs in an emailed statement. “The city of Albuquerque information technology team has been working for several days and continues efforts to ensure there have been no disruption to critical services. We will continue to monitor the situation…”

A city spokeswoman said this morning that officials expect the brunt of the attack to come around 9 p.m. today, but in the meantime APD appears to have taken down its Facebook and Twitter pages. The removal of those pages prompted some taunting on Twitter from some individuals who appear to support the attack and from a Twitter page purporting to represent “Anonymous”, the loosely organized Internet group calling for the cyberattack.

“We aren’t sure if Albuquerque PD understands what a ddos attack is,” tweeted Twitter user Anonymous Operations. “Come on let’s be serious here, they deactivated their FB and Twitter.”

A DDOS attack, or a “distributed denial of service attack” relies on as many users as the group can muster to flood a targeted website, resulting in the website’s inaccessibility and possibly other consequences. The group appears to have targeted these two city web addresses:

  • http://www.cabq.gov/police/
  • http://www.apdonline.com/index_flash

In another tweet shared by Anonymous Operations, a user hinted that the attack might not stop just at a DDOS attack. In past attacks, the group has taken credit for hacking operations and document dumps.

“The only thing Albuquerque city officials have been talking about is planned ddos attacks. Pathetic,” tweeted user “Cypherlulz”.

The city spokeswoman did not go into detail about what “proactive” steps officials are taking to anticipate such an attack. However, police scanner traffic suggests that certain department communications systems are down, and a police spokesman told reporters about a SWAT situation that unfolded Saturday morning through individual phone calls, saying that the department’s usual system of alerting the media was down.

This week, chief administrative officer Rob Perry said the threat is very serious and that the group has a 100 percent success rate when it finds a target.

Anonymous has targeted corporations, churches and governments alike in recent years. In a video posted on YouTube announcing the attack, a computerized voice called APD officers “militarized thugs” and warned Albuquerque residents about the growing police state.

The video came after helmet-camera footage was released showing officers shooting Boyd, 38, a homeless man likely suffering from mental illness, after an hourslong standoff in the Sandia foothills. The helmet-camera footage went viral and sparked a national and international outcry, not to mention a protest of hundreds of people here in Albuquerque who marched upon police department headquarters.

Anonymous also urged Albuquerque residents to “occupy” APD headquarters and other department spaces tomorrow.

The Journal will be monitoring the situation throughout the day today. Keep with ABQjournal.com for updates.

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