Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Anonymous, Wikileaks partner to release eye-opening Stratfor emails

In December, hacker group Anonymous broke into think tank Stratfor's systems at least twice, making off with thousands of credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information, along with Stratfor's confidential client list. Anonymous also made off with a huge cache of emails which whistleblower site Wikileaks began releasing on Sunday night.

It's an unprecedented partnership between the vigilante hacker group, which is often viewed as being on the wrong side of the law, and Wikileaks, which has been under fire since releasing information related to the Afghan War as well as U.S. State department diplomatic cables.

Wikileaks called the cache of data the "Global Intelligence Files," based on Stratfor calling itself a "global intelligence" company. More than five million emails from between July 2004 and late December 2011 will be published.

Among the examples of Stratfor's less-than-pristine email records were the following:

For Dow Chemical, Stratfor monitored and analyzed the online activities of activists seeking redress for the 1984 Bhopal disaster, including the political imposter group the "Yes Men".

Stratfor CEO George Friedman and then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz discussed an idea back in 2009 to "utilize the intelligence" Stratfor obtained from its network to create a "captive strategic investment fund."

Ironically, Stratfor even tried to get in on the "gravy train" fear generated after Wikileaks' disclosures, with an email saying:

"[Is it] possible for us to get some of that 'leak-focused' gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that's a good thing. ...... Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of 'leak-focused' network security that focuses on preventing one's own employees from leaking sensitive information... [?]."

Stratfor had been aware that the e-mails would likely be published by Anonymous in one form or another. Anonymous leaked some of the emails itself in January. However, also that month, Friedman blustered, saying "Obviously, we were not happy to see our emails taken. God knows what a hundred employees writing endless emails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation. [...] As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed." That said, the company's CEO George Friedman resigned shortly after the emails went public. He sent the following message to all clients and subscribers of Stratfor. “In the light of the recent events, especially the release of our company emails by WikiLeaks, I have decided that stepping down is in the best interest of Stratfor and its customer base." Andy Bichlbaum, a member of The Yes Men, said the following: "What is significant is the picture it helps to paint of the way corporations operate. They operate with complete disregard for rule of law and human decency." Update: It was later reported that Friedman did not, in fact, resign.

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