A US fraternal society that caters solely to police officers has suffered a massive data breach. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is an organisation that was formed in 1915 and has 325,000 members organized into 2100 local lodges across the US. Its membership comprises of law enforcement officers that are sworn by oath to upkeep the morals of the fraternal organisation.
Although it is not technically a union, FOP has historically not been shy of making grievances known to local councils to get legislature changed, and has behaved in much the same way as a union at times.
The FOP data dump comes courtesy of someone calling themselves Cthulhu (named after a cosmic entity in H. P. Lovecraft’s revered fantasy novels) and comprises of 2.5GB of data that was at some point taken from FOP servers and has now been dumped on the internet WikiLeaks-style.
On the site where the data dump originated, Cthulhu claims that the source of the information wishes to remain anonymous. Cthulhu also explains that the material has been ‘released on the grounds [that] the information is within the scope of public interest, in light of an ever increasing divide between the police groups and the citizens of the US.’
Cthulhu, who cyber security experts are already claiming is a UK resident, attempts to make it clear that the data dump has been carried out with the best wishes of US citizenry at heart. The whistleblower’s post is quick to address possible accusations of anti-police rhetoric -answering the question – ‘Are you anti-police?’
‘No. I believe the police should have corruption exposed as all other places should also have wrongdoing exposed when they are in a public office. However, the information should not be used to attack the police; it should be used to help them address their problems and correct them. A society cannot be at peace when the citizens and the enforcers of the law are at war. Instead, it is the duty of every citizen to support their democratic society, even if in the short term it may seem like you are attacking them.’
The FOP’s national president, Chuck Canterbury, has made a statement about the data dump: ‘We have contacted the office of the assistant attorney general in charge of cyber crime, and officials from FBI field offices have already made contact with our staff.’
According to Canterbury, no sensitive information was taken, or member financial details compromised during the data breach. According to Cthulhu there is another 18 terabytes of police data to come. This point is contested by Canterbury, who says there was not that amount of data on the FOP servers to take. Whether this will turn out to be true remains to be seen.
The data breach comes at a bad time for the FOP, which is currently suffering public relations fallout from a recent scandal. The story of a Minnesota-based member of FOP – the standing second vice president of the order- who recently resigned the position due to allegations of encouraging drivers to run down Black Lives Matter protesters. Sensationally, it is claimed he did so on his facebook page – where he also told people how to get away with it,
‘Here is the deal, you continue to drive and if you hit someone make sure you call 911 to report the accident and meet the cops a block or two away and you can justify stopping further away because you feared for your safety since the past people in this group has shown a propensity towards violence. Since they are trying to block the street and/or cross where there is no crossing you should not be charged with anything. Now, these idiots could try and sue you in civil court, but remember that it will be jury trial and so most likely it will come out in your favor.’
Such high-profile corruption allegations are always disconcerting for the general public – specially concerning the police – and are bound to have their repercussions. A shame that the actions of a corrupt few can so easily tarnish the name of so many others. With articles describing how unions help to keep misconducting coppers on the streets, it is no wonder that hackers might feel it is honorable to attempt to expose those that do arrogantly bend the rules.
An associate professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College has expressed the same viewpoint. He, like so many other people, feels that this is one of those rare opportunities when perhaps the public gets to see what gets said behind closed doors,
‘No one really knows what is going on inside police unions. The most troubling thing is that they have been able to work out disciplinary procedures that shield them from oversight, as in what steps that the employer has to go to discipline or terminate someone’
As of yet the data dump has not been explored to its full extent. A few details, however, have begun to emerge. Messages from a members-only messaging forum contain resentment towards Obama and supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayo. They also make mention of a soft policy on ‘illegals’ who are in the country without papers – although unsavoury – pretty tame stuff. A post from 2010 made by law enforcement in Virginia says that Obama is ‘anti-police, anti-law and order President’. Perhaps slightly more damning, but still not mindblowing.
For now the files are circulating, and it remains to be seen whether the content will be revealing. The impression imparted by the whistleblower, Cthulhu, is that there is information within the dump that will interest the general public. For that reason, this story could develop interestingly as it unfolds.