Police Arrest Man Accused Of Hacking Abortion Website

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Man believed to have links with Anonymous is arrested by Met Police’s e-Crime unit after BPAS is hacked

A man is being questioned by the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit (PeCU) following allegations that he hacked into the website of one of the UK’s largest abortion providers.

The suspect, who is believed to have connections to hactivist collective Anonymous, was arrested early this morning on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act.

Work of ‘anti-abortion extremists’

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which runs a number of abortion clinics in the UK and enables people to make personal enquiries about contraception, abortion, pregnancy, STI testing and sterilisation, alerted the police to the attack on Thursday 8 March.

Police made the arrest the following day by executing a search warrant at an address in Wednesbury, West Midlands.  The suspect is currently being questioned at a police station in the county.

“The website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS was hacked into and defaced for a period on 8th March, 2012 in what appeared to be a sophisticated cyber attack by an anti-abortion extremist,” said BPAS. “This incident appears to be the most extreme example of what is now a very concerning escalation in anti-abortion activity aimed at providers and the women who need their services.”

Both BPAS and the Met Police said that no details about women who had received treatment had been compromised, but that information about people who had requested information was stored on the website and may have been accessed.

Decisive action

“Around 26,000 attempts to break into our website were made over a six hour period, but the hacker was unable to access any medical or personal information relating to women who had received treatment,” commented BPAS. “The website does store details (names, addresses and phone numbers) of people who have requested information from BPAS via the website, including those making personal inquiries as well as health and education professionals, the media and students.”

“Relevant authorities were informed and appropriate legal action taken to prevent the dissemination of any information obtained from the website,” it added.

“We have taken rapid action to identify and arrest a suspect involved in hacking. This was done to prevent personal details of people who had requested information from the BPAS website being made public,” said detective inspector Mark Raymond. “It should be stressed that the stolen data did not contain the medical details of women who had received treatment or why individuals had contacted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.”

The man’s links to Anonymous remain unclear, but earlier this week the collective took down the Vatican City’s official website in revenge for the “corruption” exhibited by the Roman Catholic Church throughout its history. The group also hacked several Panda Security websites in retaliation for the arrests of several members of Lulzsec.

However it has also suffered a number of recent setbacks. Last month 25 individuals who are believed to be connected with Anonymous were apprehended in Spain, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, while several of its members were victims of attackers who tricked them into installing Zeus botnet code onto their systems.

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