When Aaron Barr, a computer security expert for the firm HBGary, announced his plans in a Financial Times article to talk to the FBI about Anonymous, the worldwide collective of hacker activists, the group quickly lashed out, publishing personal information (like his social security number) and taking over his Twitter and company’s website. Then, Anonymous set up a WikiLeaks-style dump of Barr and his colleagues’ emails, which could be seen in full, searched and even downloaded. After three weeks of attacks, Barr has stepped down from his role at HBGary. But the issues don’t end there.
“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” Barr told the website Threatpost, announcing his resignation as CEO of HBGary. “It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of bad press, I hope that, by leaving, HBGary and HBGary Federal can get away from some of that. I’m confident they’ll be able to weather this storm.”
Revealed in the piles of HBGary emails were plans by Barr and co. to launch a “disinformation” campaign on behalf of a “large U.S. bank” thought to be Bank of America, the target of the next WikiLeaks dump. (Anonymous is known to support WikiLeaks with force.) Additionally, the emails recommended similar tactics, like targeting journalists, for the law firm that represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It gets worse:
HBGary counted many U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, CIA and NSA as customers. The disclosure of e-mail messages from the company poses a major security risk to those organizations, as well as individuals who had corresponded with the firm. The breach also raises troubling questions about the direction that HBGary and other Beltway firms have taken.
All unethical — not far from the aggressive tech tactics of Anonymous, really — except only HBGary was seeking monetary compensation. And from the government. Anonymous, it goes with out saying, was not pleased with what they saw as corruption, and probably won’t stop targeting HBGary even with Barr gone.