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Anonymous Claims Responsibility for Minneapolis PD Cyberattack

The well-known hacktivist group said it would punish authorities in Minneapolis and Minnesota for the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Floyd's death has sparked protests globally.

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Against the backdrop of the national tumult surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, the highly secretive, loose affiliation of hackers known as Anonymous threatened to hack and "expose" the Minneapolis Police Department. 

A decentralized, longstanding "hacktivist" group that has a habit of turning up at moments of national unrest, Anonymous apparently called out the MPD in a recent Facebook video, claiming that it would expose “your many crimes to the world” and that the “brutal killing of George Floyd… is merely the tip of the iceberg in a long list of high-profile cases of wrongful death at the hands of officers in your state.” 

The Minneapolis city and police department websites were subsequently struck by what appears to have been a cyberattack Saturday, becoming temporarily inaccessible. 

After claiming responsibility for the attack, Anonymous published what it said were hundreds of email addresses and passwords it stole from the city. However, a closer look at the disclosures showed the information had mostly been culled from previous leaks, and some of the data was already publicly available. This led commentators to speculate that the hacker group was largely using the protests as a way to gain press. 

A cyberattack on the Minnesota Senate's servers Tuesday also had some traces of Anonymous, as the group tweeted about the intrusion and the attack apparently involved defacement of a Senate website that involved an Anonymous insignia. 

The incidents involving the hacker group add to a string of cyberattacks that have targeted the state of Minnesota in recent days. 

“MNIT’s Security Operations Center is defending against distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) cyberattacks aimed at overloading state information systems and networks to tip them offline," Tarek Tomes, the state’s CIO and commissioner of Minnesota IT Services (MNIT), told a local paper. "At this time, these attacks have not successfully disrupted the state services that Minnesotans depend upon, and MNIT is working in close coordination with partners at the Department of Public Safety and with the federal government to share intelligence and stay proactive on cyberthreats.”

The city's police department has been the focus of extreme criticism in the days since George Floyd, a local bar bouncer, died in police custody. His death prompted mass protests across the U.S. and the world. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.