HBGary Federal Spied On Families And Children Of US Chamber Of Commerce Opponents

from the lovely-folks dept

The story of HBGary Federal keeps getting worse and worse. After threatening to reveal the “leaders” of the leaderless group Anonymous, the company’s servers were hacked and emails released, exposing a bizarre plan to intimidate Wikileaks critics to get them to stop supporting the site, and to plant false information. A few days later, it came out that HBGary Federal (along with partners Palantir and Berico) also had proposed a similar campaign to help the US Chamber of Commerce silence critics. New reports show that HBGary Federal boss Aaron Barr apparently went so far as to “demonstrate” his ability to intimidate people by using social networking info to dig up information and photos on people’s families.

In fact, in a bit of bravado, he even used the same tactics to reveal info he was able to glean about the family of one of the lawyers, Richard Wyatt, who had contacted HBGary Federal from the law firm/lobbying firm of Huntoon and Williams, in looking to secure their services for both the Bank of America anti-Wikileaks campaign and the US Chamber of Commerce anti-critics campaign:

I still don’t think that hacking HBGary Federal’s email was the right move, but if anyone has ever come close to deserving such treatment, it seems like Barr may be in the lead.

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Companies: berico tecnologies, hbgary federal, huntoon and williams, palantir technologies, us chamber of commerce

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Comments on “HBGary Federal Spied On Families And Children Of US Chamber Of Commerce Opponents”

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Ben says:


Is it spying to profile someone based on their public information (i.e. facebook, linked in, etc.)? May be creepy, but if its spying its a pretty weak form of it and is only marginally “evil” given that its common knowledge that companies, schools, etc. regularly “spy” on future employees, students, etc. by harvesting as much “public” information on the person they can through facebook and other social media networks.

Not saying that Aaron Barr is awesome, but he appears to basically just be selling the idea that he can profile someone based on public information, which is nothing new. I wouldn’t give him the glory of being called a “spy” . . . his “spying” is a little too inane for that.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Spying?

Actually You have no Idea what you are talking about, He is planning to HACK the lawyer’s computer by targeting his wife/children.(or at least saying he ‘could’ plan to do that)… Actually we can only assume that HACKING A LAWYER’s computer was _the most legal_ thing they were going to do. ‘Implied’ blackmail, just telling the guy: it would be a shame if lots of attention was drawn to your family… like how you and your wife(do whatever)… and your kids go to a public school (you wouldn’t want their names/pictures getting out all over the internet)… etc.

Personally the potential of exploiting the children is the greatest, and most (i’m kinda hesitant to use this term, because it is over used) but _evil_ thing you can do to a parent.

I dare you to try and do this to a Federal Judge, Congressman… and see what happens to you. (Hell I would say someone from Anon… but we know what happens then)

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Spying?


He went beyond gathering personal information on someone’s family and into how that information could be used to intimidate:

To dramatize his firm?s intimidation tactics, Barr sent an email to Hunton & Williams attorney John Woods that contained personal details about fellow Hunton attorney Richard Wyatt, who was representing the Chamber. The email was intended to show Woods and Wyatt how ?vulnerable? they are:

Even if you accept that “spying” on a business or political rival’s family is perfectly fine, intimidating them certainly is not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is one of those plays that often gets presented here, I guess I just present one that isn’t popular:

Black or white, right or wrong. Is hacking illegal? Yup. Is Torture illegal? Yup. They are, therefore, the same in that regard.

If you are against whatever is produced via torture (confessions or information), you should be equally against what is produced by hacking (information).

It’s not hard. It’s the sort of choice that is presented every day around here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure where you get the interpretation that this website interprets all things in black or white. I don’t always agree with Techdirt, but I appreciate its ability to attempt a more nuanced approach to news items, rather than reducing it to a yes vs. no mentality. I think you are oversimplifying some very big concepts here.

To reiterate:
Jaywalking is illegal.
Murder is illegal.
Jaywalking is not murder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is the most simplistic, moronic statement I have ever read.

This is like saying human blood = kool aid because they are both red.

If you want to attack the illegal actions of Anon, go ahead. but if you try to compare those actions with torture, you’re going to get laughed out of every room (the conference room of HBGary excepted).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, this is a ridiculous argument.

You have to base it on the actual act.

Torture- putting a human being through life altering traumatic physical pain, holding them hostage, their family fearing for their safety


exposing a companies wrong doing and embarrassing them.

Not the same. Not even like within a million miles of each other in fact.

Get a grip.

Mike B says:

right or wrong

@Anonymous Coward –

It may be nice to think that way, but unfortunately the world is not that black and white. Is hacking illegal: Yes. However to say that hacking is equivalent to torture shows a profound lack empathy for a fellow human being. You may as well say rape is the same as jay walking.

I think in this case, the ends absolutely HAVE justified the means, and showing that these are the types of people our government is actively using to do their dirty work should be worrisome to us all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: right or wrong

I agree (and you apparently beat me to the punch on the jaywalking analogy). To expand on the concept of the ends vs. the means:

It is justifiable to commit the illegal act of jaywalking to prevent someone from vandalizing a mailbox.

It is not justifiable to commit the illegal act of murder to prevent someone from vandalizing a mailbox.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: right or wrong

Just to follow this up. Data mining is still legal and (for the most part) is what an altruistic hacker still does. In the past 20 years we call them hackers and 80 years beyond we called these people investigative journalist.

My favorite to date because people seem to ignore it ad-nauseam is climate gate but people are still stuck on green because there is no red.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: right or wrong

“Data mining” is not the same thing as obtaining unauthorized access to private systems to release information publicly. Data mining, and to a larger extent journalism, involves working with information that has been made public (legally or otherwise) by a third party (or seeks to be made public via the journalistic process). There is a significant gulf between the leaker and the publisher of that leak.

For a modern example, Bradley Manning is in hot water legally for allegedly leaking the Wikileaks troves. However, Wikileaks, the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, et al did not break any laws by publishing the (until then) classified information.

In summary, a whistle-blower, or altruistic hacker, is not the same as a journalist, although the two overlap in many ways. “Deep Throat” was the leaker, not the publisher.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So true.

One time, i visited Wikileaks and poked my head through a door marked “Employees Only”, and what i saw was amazing!

The entire site was all made of cardboard and plywood and little bits of tape! Sure, they painted a nice site on the front, but if you start wiggling it at the edge you see where the ‘roof’ starts to flop around. Maybe it is a fake site, and all the residents of the real site are up the hill waiting for Taggart and his posse to whup and holler their way in before blowin’ the whole thing down!

David Maddon says:

I am not sure what crime may have been committed by getting access to their email but whatever was found in them is now open to the government to go through and use to prosecute. I would be no different if I broke it to your house to steal a sandwichand found the owner was making child pornography. We both would have to face a judge but the fact I turned myself in to make sure a greater justice was done would mitigate most if not all of any punishment I would receive.

Anonymous Coward says:

And of course, HBGary won’t be punished for this. This is the United States, where corporations and the wealthy can get away with anything.

If an average citizen did this, he’d spend the rest of his life in prison. Probably get branded a ‘terrorist’ so he can get the death penalty.

In fact, I suspect the Justice Department will go after Anonymous now, while completely ignoring Barr. How dare someone stand up to our corporate masters…

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