The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department are investigating front-office officials from the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful baseballs teams for the past two decades, for hacking into internal servers of their rival team to steal critical information on players and team personnel.
New reports uncover evidence that the Cardinals baseball team broke into the network of the Houston Astros, stealing important team data and databases that the team had built. Law enforcement officials said stolen data included inside information on the teams trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports.
Officials working on the ongoing investigation did not say specify which employees were in the FBI’s scope or whether team officials were knowledgeable on the hacking incident or possibly even authorized it. The FBI has severed subpoenas to the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.
“Major League Baseball has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database,” a spokesperson for the commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Once the investigative process has been completed by federal law enforcement officials, we will evaluate the next steps and will make decisions promptly.”
“We’ve been fully cooperative,” Manfred said during a trip to the Fenway park on Tuesday.
Cardinals officials under investigation have not been put on any type of leave, suspension or been fired. Baseball commissioner’s will likely wait to hear back from the feds before proceeding to taking any type of disciplinary action against accused staffers or team members.
“The St. Louis Cardinals are aware of the investigation into the security breach of the Houston Astros’ database,” the baseball team said in a statement. “The team has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so. Given that this is an ongoing federal investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.”
Authorities believe the Astros hack was executed by front-office employees who wished to wreak havoc against the rival team, and the Astros’ general manager, Jeff Luhnow. While under Luhnow, the Astros were able to accomplish a complete turnaround, taking first place in the American League West. Just before accomplishing their major league revival, the Astros internal database holding information on statistics and player information was compromised, law enforcement officials said.
During Luhnow’s time at the Cardinals, the team built a computer network called Redbird, to house and store all of their baseball operations information. Including information on scouting reports, player information among other personnel team details.
The intrusion hackers abused to gain access to the Astros database was not sophisticated in the slightest. Investigators believe that Cardinals officials examined a long list of passwords used by Luhnow and other team officials who had joined the Astros while working for the Cardinals. Officials are believed to have abused the password list to gain unauthorized access into the Astros’ network.
Just last year, some of the stolen information was leaked online. Information exposed details on trade discussion that the Astros had with other teams in the league.
Major League Baseball contacted the FBI after believing the Astros network had been breached by a third-party, and authorities opened an investigation only shortly after the claims had been reported. This was due to agents short-term investigation bringing back results that the network had in fact been breached by a computer that old Cardinals officials had once used.
If this bizarre attack is true, it would be the first known case of corporate espionage, in which a professional sports team hacked the computer network of another team to steal confidential information and likely win ongoing games. Breaches are often carried out by cybercriminal gangs from all across the world, but yet have we seen a case of sports officials hacking their rival team.
Legal experts believe Cardinal employees that took part in the hacking could face serious prison time.
“The FBI aggressively investigates all potential threats to public and private sector systems,” an FBI spokesperson said. “Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”