FBI investigates St Louis Cardinals over Houston Astros hacking

Suspicions were raised after internal Astros information began appearing online last year

houston astros luhnow

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, right, and General Manager Jeff Luhnow talk during batting practice in March 2013. The St. Louis Cardinals are accused of hacking into an Astros database to undermine Luhnow, who left the Cardinals for the Astros in 2011.

Credit: Richard Carson/Reuters

Federal law enforcement officers are investigating whether the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team sought to gain advantage over the rival Houston Astros by hacking into the team's computer network and accessing a key database.

If the hacking is confirmed, it would be the first known example of a major U.S. professional sports team hacking into the systems of a rival.

The investigation centers on the baseball operations database which is said to contain statistics, video and other vital information about players.

The federal investigation was confirmed by both Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals in brief statements.

The Cardinals said it was aware of the investigation and has "fully cooperated and will continue to do so," but declined additional comment because the investigation is not yet complete.

The MLB, which runs the league and has the power to sanction teams, said it has also been cooperating.

"Once the investigation process has been completed by federal law enforcement officials, we will evaluate the next steps and make decisions promptly," it said.

The Houston Astros has yet to comment.

The New York Times reported that the hacking appears to have been conducted by office staff who wanted to undermine Jeff Luhnow, who left the Cardinals in 2011 to become the general manager of the Astros.

Baseball is a sport built on statistics of hundreds of data points about teams, players and staff, and the Cardinals staff were apparently worried that Luhnow had taken some of its proprietary knowledge with him to Houston, where he built a baseball operations database similar to the one in St. Louis, said the newspaper.

So they compiled a list of passwords used at the Cardinals by Luhnow and other staffers who had joined the Astros and tried them until one allowed access to the database, the Times reported quoting law enforcement officials.

The investigation was understood to have begun after the Astros became aware that its database had been compromised. That happened when information from the database began appearing on an anonymous text-pasting website last year.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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