Nate Anderson has put together an excellent play-by-play of the whole HBGary Federal fiasco
, mainly by going through the emails that Anonymous leaked. It's well worth reading the whole thing, so I won't repeat the key points here, but what's really fascinating is the back-and-forth between HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr and others at HBGary Federal, including his main technical guy, who clearly thinks Barr's methodology is worthless. It becomes clear that the technical guy sympathizes with Anonymous and Wikileaks and Barr even calls him on this point (admitting that he too sort of feels that way, but he recognizes this as a PR opportunity). The coder at one point mocks the whole plan as:
Step 1 : Gather all the data
Step 2 : ???
Step 3 : Profit
Yup. That's a coder alright. Then there's this fascinating argument where the coder points out that the statistical basis for Barr's claims (basically analyzing who people's friends on Facebook are is about as accurate as your daily horoscope:
Barr: [I want to] check a persons friends list against the people that have liked or joined a particular group.
Coder: No it won't. It will tell you how mindless their friends are at clicking stupid shit that comes up on a friends page. especially when they first join facebook.
Barr: What? Yes it will. I am running throug analysis on the anonymous group right now and it definately would.
Coder: You keep assuming you're right, and basing that assumption off of guilt by association.
Barr: Noooo....its about probabilty based on frequency...c'mon ur way smarter at math than me.
Coder: Right, which is why i know your numbers are too small to draw the conclusion but you don't want to accept it. Your probability based on frequency right now is a gut feeling. Gut feelings are usually wrong.
Coder: [some information redacted] Yeah, your gut feelings are awesome! Plus, scientifically proven that gut feelings are wrong by real scientist types.
Barr: [some information redacted] On the gut feeling thing...dude I don't just go by gut feeling...I spend hours doing analysis and come to conclusions that I know can be automated...so put the taco down and get to work!
Coder: I'm not doubting that you're doing analysis. I'm doubting that statistically that analysis has any mathematical weight to back it. I put it at less than .1% chance that it's right. You're still working off of the idea that the data is accurate. mmmm…..taco!
That same coder later warned another company exec saying that "I feel his arrogance is catching up to him again and that has never ended well...for any of us." Fascinating read all around.