The group, which calls itself the Deceptive Duo, is in the midst of a multipart hacking campaign targeting different sectors of government and industry. Initial victims have included the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense and Sandia National Laboratories.
Each defaced Web page is replaced with a message identifying the group and its goal: "Locate and scan critical cybercomponents of The United States of America for vulnerabilities creating a foreign threat, while remaining undetected...Take necessary measures to ensure that the public is aware of The United States of America's lack of security. Include proof/documentation of infiltrated systems."
Defacements, as archived by security site Zone-h, have included documents apparently pilfered from hacked sites, including a page from a bank database, with customer names and account numbers, and pages from government databases, with usernames and passwords for network access.
Sandia National Laboratories spokesman Chris Miller confirmed that a page maintained by the lab had briefly been defaced. "We have worked with our system administrator to make sure our system is properly configured," he said. "We are confident such a hacking attempt would not go through again."
An FAA representative said the FBI is investigating the defacement of one of the agency's Web pages. That defacement included publicly shared information taken from an FAA database on airport-security screeners.
While the hackers have picked high-profile government targets, they have also chosen more obscure pages, including the site for the city of Hazelhurst, Miss., and a press release from research firm Gartner.
The Deceptive Duo said in an e-mail interview that it was in the early stage of an extensive campaign to expose holes in online security, initially targeting sites using Microsoft software with known vulnerabilities.
"This is the situation that would most likely take place if targeted by a terrorist," the group wrote. "We are doing this to emulate the situation as real as possible. We plan on exercising Stage 1 for about 3-4 more months. This is a long-term situation for us."