UK abortion provider under threat from hackers

Apr 19, 2012, 2:04 PM

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) – Britain’s largest abortion provider said Thursday that thousands of attempts have been made to hack its website following a high-profile security breach when personal details of 10,000 women were stolen.

Last week a judge jailed a computer hacker for breaking into the website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and stealing the data.

The service said that in the five weeks since the man’s arrest, it had recorded around 2,500 further attempts to hack its website, though none have succeeded.

It said the attacks were low-level and patients’ details remain secure, noting that no medical records are kept on the site.

The service said about a third of the IP addresses used in the attempts were in North America, but noted that did not mean the hackers themselves were based there.

“The police have been extremely supportive of BPAS but there has been no need to engage their services in these low level incidents which have caused no disruption nor compromised us or the safety of women’s data,” said Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the abortion provider.

She said there was “no evidence to suggest that this was an anti-abortion attack.”

Murphy said thee attempts did not appear to be denial of service attacks, in which hackers deluge a website with traffic to bring it down.

In March, the service’s website was targeted by James Jeffery, who claimed to be a member of hacking collective Anonymous. He said he attacked the provider because he opposed the decisions of two women he knew to have abortions.

Prosecutors said that the 27-year-old defaced the site with an anti-abortion statement and the Anonymous logo, and stole personal information about some 10,000 women who had contacted the service. He later boasted about the attack on Twitter, using the name of late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar as a pseudonym.

Jeffery was tracked down through his Internet service provider address, and pleaded guilty to two charges under the Computer Misuse Act. His defense lawyer said at the time that Jeffery regretted his actions and had written to the organization to apologize and suggest ways it could improve its Internet security.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service said Thursday it never received that letter but has “every confidence” in its security system.

____

Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at
http://twitter.com/CassVinograd

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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UK abortion provider under threat from hackers