FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) – Protests in the streets have not been the only disruption in the city of Ferguson since the shooting of Michael Brown by police. A cyber attack by the hacker group “Anonymous” has done more damage than any bottle or brick.
The threats from “Anonymous” came shortly after the protests surrounding Brown’s death started. In a video released on YouTube, the group was specific about what it intended to do.
“We will take every web based asset of your departments and governments offline,” the robotic voice said over video associated with the Brown case. “That is not a threat, it is a promise. Attacking the protestors will result in the release of personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department.”
It quickly became clear this was no joke.
”The disruption of the hackers of the website also disrupted of course our Microsoft Exchange servers and also our phones because our phones are voice IP,” Mayor James Knowles, III of Ferguson said.
Those technical problems have made systems unreliable for the city all week. Knowles says they’ve been running much of city government by text message, and City Hall has yet to re-open.
But Knowles says the far scarier part of this is the personal information that has been hacked and published online.
“They’re posting it out there asking for violence against me, my family, our council members, their families,” Knowles said. “(St. Louis County Police)Chief Belmar, it was Instigram, Chief Belmar’s house and his wife’s name was put online and people asked them to go and do harm to them. That’s the kind of people you’re dealing with, and that’s serious.”
Knowles says he’s received a number of threats himself. What’s the worst he’s heard?
“I can’t say it on the air but people who want to come here and excrement on my dead body and different things like that. Cut my throat.”
Ferguson Police agree, as many of their officers have also seen their information put out into the public.
“I think it’s extremely dangerous,” Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said. “It exposes people to individuals out there who are violent and are looking for some sort of vengeance. It’s not a lot of people obviously but we really need to be cautions.”
Some city employees, including the mayor, have sent family members to stay with relatives until the violence subsides.
Officials say federal agencies are helping to get the city’s system’s stabilized and to find those making the threats. They believe most, if not all the threats are coming from outside the St. Louis area. The same thing has been said of the most violent protestors and looters.
The outside intervention on all fronts is getting on the nerves of people like Gary Benton, who lives just feet from the stretch of West Florissant where most of the violence has taken place.
“It makes me mad because they come here, and they tear up this neighborhood and I’m a taxpayer. I have to replace it. I have to pay taxes for that,” he said.