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Monsanto confirms Anonymous hacking attack

Agricultural biotech giant says its Web sites were hit last month and some employee data was compromised after Anonymous data dump.

Agricultural biotech giant Monsanto confirmed today that it had been victimized by a hacking attack that the online activist collective Anonymous had announced on Tuesday.

"Last month, Monsanto experienced a disruption to our Web sites which appeared to be organized by a cyber-group," Tom Helscher, director of corporate affairs, said in a statement provided to CNET. "In addition, this group also recently published publicly available information on approximately 2,500 individuals involved in the broader global agriculture industry. Contrary to initial media reports, only 10 percent of this publicly available information related to Monsanto's current and former employees. The list also included contact details for media outlets as well as other agricultural companies."

The company has turned information on the attacks over to the "appropriate authorities," and remains "vigilant in protecting our information systems," the statement said.

Anonymous released contact information for about 2,500 people that presumably was snagged from Monsanto on Tuesday and said it had attacked the company's Web servers to protest lawsuits the company filed against organic dairy farmers for stating on labels that their products don't contain growth hormones. Monsanto makes genetically engineered seeds and pesticides (and was one of seven companies that supplied the U.S. military with Agent Orange during the Vietnamese War) and used to make bovine growth hormone, but sold that business to Eli Lilly a few years ago after settling the labeling lawsuits, according to Helscher.

Anonymous, separately and as part of its AntiSec campaign with hackers known as "LulzSec," has been involved in recent attacks on Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as attacks on Arizona lawmen, Apple, Sony, the city of Orlando, Florida, and the governments of Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, among many other targets. (A list of recent hacking attacks is here.)

Updated at 3:30 p.m. PTto correct that Monsanto no longer makes bovine growth hormone and to clarify timing of Agent Orange use.