Barrett Brown, a journalist who has closely covered the activities of hacker group Anonymous, has been indicted by the US government after sharing a hyperlink through an IRC channel. On December 7th The Dallas Morning News reported that the link in question led those who clicked to detailed personal and credit card information that is believed to have been stolen from US global security intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor). In addition to the link-sharing incident, Brown is faced with 11 charges — including identity theft and fraud — related to the massive hack that Statfor become victim to earlier this year.
According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, Brown's actions were unlawful because "by transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders." While the indictment may be a move by the government to obtain more information about Anonymous, the idea that one can be criminalized for sharing links is a cause for concern.
Law enforcement agencies across the globe are in the middle of an ongoing quest to stop Anonymous, but the results have been mixed. At the beginning of the year, the FBI and UK police held a private conference call to coordinate a strategy to apprehend members of the group, but a recording of the meeting was released by Anonymous a month later. Despite the embarrassment, law enforcement has tallied up some major wins against the decentralized group: with the help of an undercover witness, an FBI investigation led to the arrest of five members of the hacker group last March.
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