The chief executive at data security firm HBGary Federal has resigned his job following a high-profile hack staged by online protest group “Anonymous.”
Aaron Barr, the embattled CEO, made the disclosure yesterday speaking to ThreatPost, an online security blog.
“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” he reportedly said. “It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of the bad press, I hope that, by leaving, HBGary and HBGary Federal can get away from some of that. I’m confident they’ll be able to weather this storm.”
The website of Washington DC-based HBGary Federal was hijacked earlier this month, along with Barr’s Twitter account. The company’s website was defaced with a message that read, “This domain seized by Anonymous under section #14 of the rules of the Internet.”
“Your recent claims of ‘infiltrating’ Anonymous amuse us, and so do your attempts at using Anonymous as a means to garner press attention for yourself,” the messaged continued. “How’s this for attention?”
He went on to complain that even at home, hackers were trying to break into his personal router, leaving him no choice but to drop offline entirely.
Barr later told the Financial Times that he’d identified the “core leaders” of the group and had information that could lead to their arrest. He even claimed to have infiltrated “Anonymous” to demonstrate social media security risks.
In addition to hacking the company’s website and Twitter account, “Anonymous” gained access to more than 44,000 company e-mails, which were released to the public in a 4.71 gigabyte Torrent file. The group also gained access to the report that was allegedly going to be sold to the FBI and posted it online (PDF).
“Anonymous” also claimed that most of the information he gathered was either publicly available or inaccurate.
“The lack of quality in Aaron Barr’s undertaken research is worth noting,” the group said in a statement. “Aaron Barr missed a great deal of information that has been available online, and in fact failed to identify some of those whose identities were never intended to be hidden. People such as DailyKos’ diarist blogger Barrett Brown, and the administrator of anonnews.org, joepie91, whose identities could have been found in under a minute with a simple Google search.”
“Anonymous does not have leaders,” the statement added. “We are not a group, we are not an organization. We are just an idea. What we have done today will appear harsh. It is harsh. We will respond to those who seek to threaten us. We understand that our participants have been concerned about recent FBI raids and companies such as HBGary Federal lurking and logging our chats, so we’ve given all of Anonymous a message: we will fight back.”
Burr reportedly talked to members of “Anonymous” in an IRC chatroom, claiming he never intended to sell the information he gathered to the FBI.
“Ok I am going to say this one more time,” he told the room. “I did this for research. The FBI called me because of my research. The email you are referring to about selling data was about a model built on this type of research. It was not to sell specifically this data. I was going to use it to describe the process of how social media exploitation works.”
Barr’s emails would later reveal the firm was working on a plan to attack and discredit progressive critics of the US Chamber of Commerce, and had worked on ideas to take down secrets outlet WikiLeaks on behalf of Bank of America. The Chamber denies knowing about their proposals.
A collection of congressional Democrats said Tuesday that the company’s actions warranted a federal investigation. House Republicans, however, were seen as unlikely to be responsive to such a request.