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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Ben, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Spying?

    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.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

      Re: Spying?

      Real spy work, when done correctly, is actually pretty boring.

       

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      TechnoMage (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

      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)

       

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        nasch (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

        Re: Re: Spying?

        Just any ordinary person, really. I would guess a lot of average people would have the potential for violence if their children are being threatened. Beyond being totally unethical, it's just a really bad idea to mess with that.

         

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

      Re: Spying?

      RTA

      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.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

        Re: Re: Spying?

        Lawyers intimidating each other? Well, they aren't so different from gangsters and mafioso.

         

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    aperson (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 11:59am

    LMAO, they're essentially doing the same ground work any internet troll does before a raid.

     

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    Kaden (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    I think the term most widely used is 'stalker'. A cheap suit and tie doesn't hide his cheetos encrusted T-shirt roots.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    Is it just me or are photos of children with their heads blanked out or removed profoundly disturbing.

     

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    Phillip, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Barr has to be one of the most arrogant people alive. Seriously, I've never seen anyone so ignorant believe that he knows so much when he really knows so little.

    I know that's pretty pervasive throughout all of humanity, but this guy has it in droves.

     

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    iamtheky (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    nice outro

    the ever elusive full sentence hyperlink. Reminds me of geocities.

     

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    Thomas (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    spying..

    on anyone, for any reason at all, without any legal basis, is considered perfectly acceptable by the U.S. government and pretty much any business that wants to do so.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    No investigation

    Every time I read another story about this I think, "Why is the Justice Department not investigating these guys (HBGary Federal)?" And then I remember, oh yeah, they're they ones who pointed BoA in their direction to begin with.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Amusing

    The ThinkProgress article linked above shows an email from Barr where he identifies the "Jewish Church" frequented by a CoC detractor. He can search Facebook, but apparently not Dictionary.com.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/synagogue

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    I love his quote that if he can exploit her social account information he can exploit their home network. WTH? So you went to Facebook and rummaged through his wife's pictures and info that are public. That means you can gain access to their home network too? Barr is the 733tist hacker ever!

     

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    iamtheky (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    its good now, would be even more odd if I was the only one who had it linked with the image.

    Could very well have been firefox not playing well with others.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    I still don't think that hacking HBGary Federal's email was the right move

    The discussion should end there. Hacking to reveal this is no better than the supposed torture that Manning is "suffering" in order to get some sort of confession. You are either for or against illegal means.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

      Re:

      I would argue that there are degrees of severity. Yes, malicious hacking is wrong. Yes, torture is wrong.

      Hacking is not the moral equivalent of torture.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 2:17pm

        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.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 2:47pm

          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.

           

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          lux (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I don't always agree with TD, and lately it's been somewhat of a ballwashing seminar around here - the kool-aid's a little to sweet for my taste.

          But anyway, hacking is not always illegal:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_hat_(computer_security)

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 9:19pm

          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).

           

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      Chris Rhodes (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      You are either for or against illegal means.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 9:08pm

      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

      vs.

      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.

       

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    Mike B, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    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.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

      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.

       

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      Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

      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.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

        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.

         

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    Jay (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Just a thought

    With all the "spying" that Aaron Burr did, why is he not being arrested or put on charges for actually trying to blackmail people on this?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 4:53pm

    If wikileaks was an authentic site it would've been shut down long ago.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 4:54pm

    If wikileaks was an authentic site it would've been shut down long ago.

     

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      teka (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 5:06pm

      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!

       

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    StrongStyle81, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 4:54pm

    I slightly disagree that this was a bad move by Anonymous. You pick a fight with a boxer don't be surprised if you get knocked out.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      Yes, but it isn't always a good idea for the boxer to hit back. If an old lady poked Iron Mike Tyson with her cane, it would be unwise for him to hit back with a big uppercut. Not that Iron Mike is a prime example of restraint, but you get my meaning.

       

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    davebarnes (profile), Feb 14th, 2011 @ 7:17pm

    I hate redactions

    Publish it in full.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 10:01pm

    Will Aaron Barr be investigated and perhaps prosecuted? Of course not. Laws don't apply to them, they don't apply to the government, and they don't apply to big corporations.

     

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    David Maddon, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:06am

    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.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:40am

    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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    AlexT (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 8:46am

    Sounds like

    He would be a good kidnapping ringleader.

     

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