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9 February 2011  |     mail this article   |     print   |    |  The Tech Herald
Data intelligence firms proposed a systematic attack against WikiLeaks

By Steve Ragan

After a tip from Crowdleaks.org, The Tech Herald has learned that HBGary Federal, as well as two other data intelligence firms, worked to develop a strategic plan of attack against WikiLeaks. The plan included pressing a journalist in order to disrupt his support of the organization, cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics.

The tip from Crowdleaks.org is directly related to the highly public attack on HBGary, after Anonymous responded to research performed by HBGary Federal COO, Aaron Barr. Part of Anonymous’ response included releasing more than 50,000 internal emails to the public. For more information, the initial coverage is here.

What was pointed out by Crowdleaks is a proposal titled “The WikiLeaks Threat” and an email chain between three data intelligence firms. The proposal was quickly developed by Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies, after a request from Hunton and Williams, a law firm that currently counts Bank of America as a client.

The law firm had a meeting with Bank of America on December 3. To prepare, the firm emailed Palantir and the others asking for “…five to six slides on Wikileaks - who they are, how they operate and how this group may help this bank.”

Hunton and Williams were recommended to Bank of America’s general council by the Department of Justice, according to the email chain viewed by The Tech Herald. The law firm was using the meeting to pitch Bank of America on retaining them for an internal investigation surrounding WikiLeaks.

“They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data,” an email between the three data intelligence firms said. “They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak.”

Hunton and Williams would act as outside council on retainer, while Palantir would take care of network and insider threat investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal would analyze WikiLeaks.

“Apparently if they can show that WikiLeaks is hosting data in certain countries it will make prosecution easier,” the email added.

In less than 24-hours, the three analytical companies created a presentation filled with publically available information and ideas on how the firms could be “deployed” against WikiLeaks “as a unified and cohesive investigative analysis cell.”

On January 2, The New York Times wrote about a late night conference call held by Bank of America executives on November 30. The reason for the call was to deal with a statement given by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on November 29, where he said that he intended to “take down” a major American bank. The country’s third largest financial institution needed to get the jump on WikiLeaks, so they started scouring thousands of documents, and auditing physical assets.

Shortly after the late night conference call, the email from Hunton and Williams was sent. Booz Allen Hamilton, according to the Times, was the firm brought in to help manage the bank’s internal review.

A month after the proposal for the initial December meeting on WikiLeaks was created, email messages from HBGary Federal show plans for a meeting with Booz Allen Hamilton. The meeting was set after Barr emailed Hunton and Williams about information he was gathering on WikiLeaks and Anonymous. Later, this information would be the direct cause of Anonymous’ attack on HBGary.

On page two you will find an overview of the proposal developed by the three data intelligence firms.

____________________________________________________________________________

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