Security firm offered misinformation and press intimidation
V3.co.uk, 12 Feb 2011
Data released as part of a hacking attack by the Anonymous group has shown what appears to be a corporate plan to destroy WikiLeaks.
Aaron Barr, head of security services firm HBGary Federal, claimed last week to have infiltrated the Anonymous hacking group's leadership and to have identified key players.
Less than 24 hours later the group attacked HBGary Federal's servers and posted their content on file sharing sites.
An analysis of the content revealed what appears to be a proposal, written for leading US legal firm Hunton & Williams by HBGary Federal, on how to bring down WikiLeaks (PDF) through a combination of hacking and disinformation.
It was prepared in conjunction with data analysis firm Palantir Technologies and consultants Berico Technologies
The document suggests a campaign of misinformation involving feeding false documents into WikiLeaks and exposing them to discredit the site's output. Hacking attacks against the central WikiLeaks document server in Sweden were also suggested.
The presentation recommended researching the backgrounds of those involved in WikiLeaks to identify "risky behavior", and a media campaign which would " create concern and doubt among moderates".
This media campaign may also have included attacks on journalists perceived as pro-WikiLeaks. The presentation highlighted Glen Greenwald of Salon.com as a key target.
"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," it reads. "Without the support of people like Glenn, WikiLeaks would fold."
HBGary Federal told The New York Times in a statement that some of the files stolen and displayed may have been falsified, but the two other companies mentioned in the presentation have now issued statements on the matter.
Berico Technologies confirmed in a statement (PDF) that it had done initial work on a proposal for a law firm on " information security and public relations challenges".
"Our leadership does not condone or support any effort that proactively targets American firms, organisations or individuals," said founders Guy Filippelli and Nick Hallam
"We find such actions reprehensible and are deeply committed to partnering with the best companies in our industry that share our core values. Therefore, we have discontinued all ties with HBGary Federal."
Palantir Technologies has also said that it is severing ties with HBGary Federal.
"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 that protects privacy and civil liberties," said co-founder Alex Carp in a statement.
"Furthermore, personally and on behalf of the entire company, I want to publicly apologise to progressive organisations in general, and Mr Greenwald in particular, for any involvement that we may have had in these matters."
According to the emails, the presentation was prepared for Hunton & Williams, which counts Bank of America among its clients. Hunton & Williams has reportedly declined to comment, but Bank of America issued a statement yesterday denying involvement in the presentation.
"We have not engaged in, nor do we have any plans to engage in, the practices discussed in this alleged presentation by HBGary," said Lawrence DiRita, a Bank of America spokesman.
In another set of documents, HBGary Federal appears to have offered a plan for the US Chamber of Commerce to "mitigate the effect of adversarial groups" like US Chamber Watch. The plan suggested a strategy to "discredit, confuse, shame, combat, infiltrate and fracture" these groups.
"The leaked emails appear to show that HBGary Federal was willing to propose questionable actions in an attempt to drum up business, but the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s emails leaked," Tom Collamore, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman, told The New York Times.