BAY ST. LOUIS -- People claiming to be a part of an internationally-known hacker group say they are prepared to launch a cyber attack against the Mississippi Department of Human Services, prompting authorities to closely monitor the situation.
Hancock County is included among threats made by the collaborative hacker activist network Anonymous, as the group pushes for reform in child protection agencies and family courts, according to several Anonymous-related websites.
Group members, who refer to themselves as "Anons," say they plan to disrupt the FBI headquarters with mass phone calling on Thursday. They also say they have plans for an International Day of Protest on June 5 at CPS agencies across the United States, including a 3 p.m. demonstration at the DHS office in Bay St. Louis. Other protests are planned in Canada, Jamaica and the United Kingdom, though their primary campaign is focused on the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in Washington, D.C.
"If this threat is truly from Anonymous, I think we need to be mindful of it," Waveland Police Chief Dave Allen said. "They have proven themselves time and again to have the skills needed to get into secure computer systems."
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A person claiming to be with the network contacted the Sun Herald last week and detailed ways the group could hack into the DHS computer system. Allen confirmed the techniques as legitimate.
The caller claims the group added Bay St. Louis to its campaign after reading news coverage of the Hancock County Sheriff's Office investigation into DHS. That probe began in February after deputies received complaints DHS workers were using forged and falsified documents to take children away from parents.
It is difficult for law enforcment to confirm one's level of affiliation with Anonymous since membership is self-proclaimed by simply joining the cause or participating in operations, all of which are done behind computer screens -- anonymously.
"It is too soon to ascertain the legitimacy of the messages," Hancock County sheriff's Cyber Crimes Investigator Steve Saucier said of the validity of the Hancock County threat.
Waveland chief Allen serves as a cyber-crimes consultant to other law enforcement agencies around the state.
Said Allen: "I think this is a good example of how the threats we face have changed with the times and how we need to educate ourselves to keep up and be effective."