The data intelligence firm attacked by Anonymous this week had drafted a proposal to eliminate the WikiLeaks infrastructure on behalf of Bank of America.
Careful, we're entering some really crazy conspiracy level stuff here. Get ready to jump down the rabbit hole with me.
When hacker amalgam Anonymous attacked the computer security firm HBGary as most of the country was busy watching heavy-set men play with a leather ball, you could assume that it was retaliation for the recent crack down on its membership by the FBI and Scotland Yard. But as we've had more time to digest the 60,000+ HBGary emails that Anonymous posted online as a big f**k you, it seems that the data intelligence firm proposed to engage in some social engineering and subterfuge of its own to "take down" WikiLeaks. Anonymous might be a hero.
The hacker group has made clear its support of Julian Assange's initiative, and Anonymous made headlines last year by DDoS attacking Amazon.com, Bank of America, PayPal and any other entity or website that appeared to wrong WikiLeaks. (Amazon dropped hosting the leaked cables, while PayPal and Bank of America refused to release funds.) On November 29 2010, Julian Assange said he was going to post documents from an executive's hard drive revealing an "ecosystem of corruption" at a major American bank. The next day, Bank of America went on the offensive and contacted HBGary to formulate a plan to retaliate against WikiLeaks and publicly discredit Assange.
In the emails stolen by Anonymous was a presentation that detailed exactly what HBGary (along with partner firms Palantir and Berico) could offer Bank of America. The firms involved presented an overview of the WikiLeaks situation, including pictures of the servers that currently hosts the website in a bomb shelter in Sweden. Some of the language is borderline creepy, involving discrediting "liberal" reporters like Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com for his support of Assange's work. " These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals," the slide reads. "Without the support of people like Glenn [Greenwald] WikiLeaks will fold."
Thanks to Anonymous, you can find a pdf of the entire presentation on WikiLeaks here.
Based on this proposal, HBGary and its partners continued to investigate and gather information on both WikiLeaks and Anonymous, but no deal was struck to go forward with the plan. CEO of HBGary Aaron Barr scheduled a meeting with firms representing Bank of America to "close the BOA deal" on Monday, Feb. 7th, and learning about this meeting was the direct cause of Anonymous' attack on Sunday night.
In the fallout this week, one of the security firms that prepared the proposal (the one with the coolest Tolkien reference name, Palantir) tried to distance itself from the controversy, possibly to try to prevent a similar attack. "I have directed the company to sever any and all contacts with HB Gary," Palantir CEO Alex Karp said. "We do not provide - nor do we have any plans to develop - offensive cyber capabilities."
HBGary also released a statement this week which seemed to suggest that the information Anonymous posted was faked. "Please be aware that any information currently in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data," the statement read.
Besides the fact that forging 60,000 emails as well as PDFs, Word docs, and presentations is ridiculous, it is not Anonoymous' modus operandi to think the way these mooks do. I don't know about you, but claiming that the information is false is disingenuous. It's clearly a deliberate attempt to discredit Anonymous that's worthy of the way these guys think, say, like proposing to do the same thing with a liberal reporter.
The entire story is endlessly fascinating for me, and as more information comes to light Anonymous is looking more and more honorable. Attacking a cyber-security firm is one thing, but preemptively assaulting a company that planned to use nefarious tactics to "take down" WikiLeaks on behalf of a corrupt billion-dollar bank? That's Cyberpunk 2020 shit right there.
Nice hack, choombah.
Thanks to h264 for the tip.