ARS TECHNICA: Aaron Barr believed he had penetrated Anonymous. The loose hacker collective had been responsible for everything from anti-Scientology protests to pro-Wikileaks attacks on MasterCard and Visa, and the FBI was now after them. But matching their online identities to real-world names and locations proved daunting. Barr found a way to crack the code. In a private e-mail to a colleague at his security firm HBGary Federal, which sells digital tools to the US government, the CEO bragged about his research project. “They think I have nothing but a heirarchy based on IRC [Internet Relay Chat] aliases!” he wrote. “As 1337 as these guys are suppsed to be they don’t get it. I have pwned them! :)” But had he?
Indeed, publicity was the plan. Barr hoped his research would “start a verbal braul between us and keep it going because that will bring more media and more attention to a very important topic.” But within a day, Anonymous had managed to infiltrate HBGary Federal’s website and take it down, replacing it with a pro-Anonymous message (“now the Anonymous hand is bitch-slapping you in the face.”) Anonymous got into HBGary Federal’s e-mail server, for which Barr was the admin, and compromised it, extracting over 40,000 e-mails and putting them up on The Pirate Bay, all after watching his communications for 30 hours, undetected. In an after-action IRC chat, Anonymous members bragged about how they had gone even further, deleting 1TB of HBGary backup data. They even claimed to have wiped Barr’s iPad remotely.
The situation got so bad for the security company that HBGary, the company which partially owns HBGary Federal, sent its president Penny Leavy into the Anonymous IRC chat rooms to swim with the sharks—and to beg them to leave her company alone. (Read the bizarre chat log.) Instead, Anonymous suggested that, to avoid more problems, Leavy should fire Barr and “take your investment in aaron’s company and donate it to BRADLEY MANNINGS DEFENCE FUND.” Barr should cough off up a personal contribution, too; say, one month’s salary? MORE
THE TECH HERALD: The tip from Crowdleaks.org is a proposal titled “The WikiLeaks Threat” and an email chain between three data intelligence firms. The proposal was quickly developed by Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies, after a request from Hunton and Williams, a law firm that currently counts Bank of America as a client.The proposal starts with an overview of WikiLeaks, including some history and employee statistics. From there it moves into a profile of Julian Assange and an organizational chart. The chart lists several people, including volunteers and actual staff. One of those listed as a volunteer, Salon.com columnist, Glenn Greenwald, was singled out by the proposal. Greenwald, previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York, has been a vocal supporter of Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have given diplomatic cables and other government information to WikiLeaks. He has yet to be charged in the matter. Greenwald became a household name in December when he reported on the “inhumane conditions” of Bradley Manning’s confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Since that report, Greenwald has reported on WikiLeaks and Manning several times. “Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH transition,” the proposal says, referencing the hosting switch WikiLeaks was forced to make after political pressure caused Amazon to drop their domain. MORE
[Earlier drafts of the proposal and an email from Aaron Barr used the word “attacked” over “disrupted” when discussing the level of support.]
UPDATE: Dr. Alex Karp, the Co-Founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies, one of three data intelligence firms who worked to develop a systematic plan of attack against WikiLeaks and their supporters, has severed all ties with HBGary Federal and issued an apology to reporter Glenn Greenwald. “I have made clear in no uncertain terms that Palantir Technologies will not be involved in such activities. Moreover, we as a company, and I as an individual, always have been deeply involved in supporting progressive values and causes. We plan to continue these efforts in the future,” Dr. Karp added. “The right to free speech and the right to privacy are critical to a flourishing democracy. From its inception, Palantir Technologies has supported these ideals and demonstrated a commitment to building software that protects privacy and civil liberties. Furthermore, personally and on behalf of the entire company, I want to publicly apologize to progressive organizations in general, and Mr. Greenwald in particular, for any involvement that we may have had in these matters.” The move comes just twenty-four hours after The Tech Herald reported on the plans. MORE