The hacker collective known as Anonymous published a collection of e-mail messages that allege mortgage fraud at U.S. banking giant Bank of America.
The documents – more than two dozen e-mail messages – are from Balboa Insurance Group, a Bank of America subsidiary that provides insurance for autos and home mortgages. They were taken by a former Balboa employee and published online at the Website bankofamericasuck.com at Midnight, Monday. The group issued a statement via its Twitter account, OperationLeakS, claiming that the documents “can prove mortgage fraud.” However, in a statement published by Reuters, a Bank of America spokesman said the stolen documents were clerical and administrative documents and did not relate to home foreclosures.
The release, just after Midnight on Monday, generated huge interest online. The Bankofamericasuck.com Web site was unreachable for periods of time Monday, as demand for the documents outpaced the resources of the server on which they were hosted. Numerous Web sites began hosting the e-mail package as “mirror sites.”
The documents published by Anonymous are different from those promised by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has said that his group is in possession of incriminating documents from the hard drive of a Bank of America executive. But the Anonymous Bank of America publication may succeed in further blurring the line between the doings of Wikileaks and its supporters in the ranks of Anonymous.
Anonymous has previously intervened on behalf of Wikileaks, launching Operation: Payback, which included attacks on Web sites of payment vendors like Paypal, MasterCard and Visa after they stopped allowing donations to Wikileaks to be processed using their systems following Wikileaks publication of U.S. diplomatic cables. The fate of the two groups became further entwined after Anonymous hacked into systems of security firm HBGary Federal, publishing tens of thousands of e-mail messages that showed that HBGary was being recruited as part of an operation to support “a major U.S. bank” that faced an embarrassing disclosure from Wikileaks, even while HBGary Federal CEO was promising to pull the mask off of Anonymous’s leadership.
That incident eventually forced the resignation of HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr.
The documents, purportedly the first of two installments, are suggestive, but fall short of the kind of smoking gun delivered by Wikileaks releases like “Collateral Murder,” which showed aerial video of a U.S. gunship attack on civilians in Iraq, or the Cablegate memos themselves. The brief exchanges between Balboa staff and management mostly concern a request to remove tracking numbers for scanned document images within an internal system, dubbed “Rembrandt.” Those documents purportedly relate to improper foreclosure notices sent to Bank of America. By removing the tracking numbers, Balboa was severing the connection between the troubled loan and correspondence from the mortgage holder, making it harder to connect the correspondence to the loan file. Also included are exchanges between Anonymous and the source of the leak, a former Balboa employee.
Anonymous, which had been best known for its longstanding protests against the Church of Scientology, has stepped up its activity in recent weeks, launching attacks and other online actions against government and military personnel in support of alleged Wikileak insider PFC Bradley Manning, against Web sites operated by the governments of Tunisia and Egypt in support of popular protests there, and against assets of Koch Industries, whose billionaire owners were linked to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to end collective bargaining rights for public employees in that state.