LONDON — The group known as Anonymous said Saturday it has hacked into about 70 mostly rural law enforcement websites in the United States, a breach that one local police chief said had leaked information about an ongoing investigation.
The loose-knit international hacking collective posted a cache of data to the Web early Saturday, including e-mails stolen from officers, tips that appeared to come from members of the public, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information.
Anonymous said it had stolen the data in retaliation for arrests of its sympathizers in the United States and Britain.
Tim Mayfield, police chief in Gassville, Ark., told the Associated Press that some of the material posted online — pictures of teenage girls in their swimsuits — related to an ongoing inquiry. He declined to provide details.
Mayfield's comments were the first indication that the hack might be serious. Since news that some kind of an attack first filtered out earlier last week, various police officials dismissed it as nothing to worry about.
"We've not lost any information," was one typical response, given by McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy to WDEF-TV in Tennessee on Tuesday.
But many of Guy's e-mails were among those leaked to the Web on Saturday, and other data seen by the AP included tips about suspected crimes, profiles of gang members and security training.
The e-mails were mainly from sheriffs' offices in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi. Many of the websites were operated by a media services hosting company, Brooks-Jeffrey Marketing of Mountain Home, Ark. It declined to comment.
Anonymous said in a statement that it was leaking "a massive amount of confidential information that is sure to (embarrass), discredit and incriminate police officers across the U.S."