The XX Factor

Hackers Go After Planned Parenthood Employees’ Information

Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in July 2015, following the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos.

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Late Sunday night, hackers gained access to Planned Parenthood’s internal database containing employee records. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the names and contact information for more than 300 Planned Parenthood employees have been published on a private website hosted by a group of hackers, part of an organization called 3301.”

As Slate’s Future Tense has thoroughly documented, hacks targeting everything from the Census Bureau to the Office of Personnel Management to Sony have all occurred within the last year, putting millions of people at risk for identity theft, fraud, and blackmail.

In this landscape, the attack on Planned Parenthood’s database might blend in with an overall trend, but it shouldn’t. While the others relied on a large-scale attack to make their impact, this hack targets a selected group—only a few hundred workers—and is all the more frightening for it. By releasing the information of a relatively small number of employees, the hackers are enabling and encouraging the harassment of Planned Parenthood workers.

As David Cohen and Krysten Connon explained in Slate in February, the anti-abortion harassment comes in many forms: “Providers told us about being physically assaulted, picketed at home, threatened over the phone, and stalked around town. Providers’ children have been the subject of protests at school, providers’ parents have been harassed in nursing homes, and their spouses have been targeted at work. The list of tactics is almost endless.”

The group’s political motivation is clear: They want to bring down the organization. The Daily Dot spoke with one of the hackers, who said that “trying to mold an atrocious monstrosity into socially acceptable behaviors is repulsive. … Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice. It’ll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped naked and exposed to the public.”

The timing of the hack, on the heels of the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos, is serious cause for concern. These videos—with more promised on the way—are heavily manipulated to misconstrue the providers’ activities and their legality. (CMP might be the ones guilty of illegal behavior, as a review by California Attorney General Kamala Harris will soon determine.)

While the information from the hack is currently being held on a private website, the hackers told the Daily Dot they will release decrypted internal emails soon. Concurrently, Planned Parenthood has reached out to the FBI and U.S. Justice Department to address the security situation.

Whether 3301 is tied to CMP or was just inspired by the videos remains to be seen. What is clear is this all-out campaign against Planned Parenthood could have real and dangerous effects.