An informant working for the FBI coordinated a 2012 campaign of hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including some operated by the governments of Iran, Syria, Brazil and Pakistan, reports the New York Times. Exploiting a vulnerability in a popular web hosting software, the informant directed at least one hacker to extract vast amounts of data — from bank records to login information — from the government servers of a number of countries and upload it to a server monitored by the F.B.I., according to court statements.
The details of the 2012 episode have been kept largely a secret in closed sessions of a federal court in New York and heavily redacted documents. While the documents do not indicate whether the FBI directly ordered the attacks, they suggest that the government may have used hackers to gather intelligence overseas even as investigators were trying to send computer activists to prison. The attacks were coordinated by Hector Xavier Monsegur, a member of Anonymous. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.