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February 15, 2011 11:11 AM

Hunton & Williams Linked to Hacked E-Mail Affair

Posted by Brian Baxter

Pro-WikiLeaks hackers have publicly exposed almost 70,000 e-mails from a private data security firm seeking to do business with Bank of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Hunton & Williams, as detailed in recent stories by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

Presentations and other memoranda obtained by the so-called hactivist group Anonymous, which broke into the e-mail accounts of executives at cybersecurity services company HBGary Federal, show that Hunton was in contact with HBGary about pitching HBGary's services to such firm clients as BoA and the Chamber of Commerce.

After being approached by Hunton, HBGary and two other "data intelligence companies" crafted a plan to attack WikiLeaks's credibility and undermine the organization's supporters, according to a post on the whistle-blowing Web site last week. WikiLeaks and BoA have been at loggerheads since November when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes, without identifying BoA specifically , that his next big disclosure bomb would involve a major U.S. bank.

Assange had revealed in an interview with Computer World in October 2009 that he possessed five gigabytes of information from an unidentified BoA executive's hard drive. That led BoA to scramble and start purchasing hundreds of abusive domain names to protect itself in the event that internal bank documents and e-mails were made available via WikiLeaks servers. (Charlotte-based BoA, one of the largest banks in the U.S., cut off third-party payments to WikiLeaks in December after the organization's mass release of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables.)

As noted by our sibling publication Corporate Counsel last week, the BoA documents that Assange and WikiLeaks allegedly possess may not be nearly as interesting as previously believed. BoA is a longtime Hunton client. The firm has handled litigation work for the bank, whose former deputy general counsel, Frank Murphy, Jr., works in Hunton's Charlotte office. (BoA recently reshuffled its outside counsel roster, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.)

Contacted about the HBGary and WikiLeaks matter, Hunton spokeswoman Eleanor Kerlow said that the firm currently has no comment on it.

The names of Hunton internal investigations partner John Woods, litigation cochair Richard Wyatt, Jr., and litigation partners David Lashway and Robert Quackenboss appear in e-mails between HBGary executives. The company appeared to be brainstorming ways to land a $2 million contract from the Chamber of Commerce and develop plans to thwart the impact of potentially embarrassing disclosures by WikiLeaks.

The three newspapers, which reviewed a copy of the archived e-mails, report that HBGary and the two other data security companies--Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies--were part of a crisis reponse team being put together by Hunton to aid both BoA and the Chamber of Commerce. There is no evidence to suggest that Hunton knew what strategies would be put forth, or that BoA or the Chamber of Commerce ever received or acted on the proposals.

One presentation, a 24-page PowerPoint slideshow that can be downloaded from WikiLeaks's Web site, reveals a multipronged method for attacking the whistle-blowing group.

The options presented include fomenting dissension within the WikiLeaks ranks, launching cyberattacks against the organization's servers, seeking potential court orders and injunctions in order to prevent the publication of certain data, and pursuing a public relations and social media campaign against the site and its perceived supporters.

"They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data," one e-mail between the three data security firms says, according to technology and science news site The Tech Herald, which also reviewed the e-mail archive. "They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak."

The Tech Herald reports that Hunton was to act as outside counsel to BoA, while Palantir managed BoA network and internal investigations and Berico and HBGary focused on WikiLeaks. (Forbes reported on Monday that Anonymous is establishing a mirror site to publish and allow users to search the HBGary e-mails in full.)

According to the PowerPoint presentation, one of those perceived WikiLeaks supporters singled out for scrutiny was Glenn Greenwald, a former Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz associate and current reporter for Salon.com, which defended its writer in an op-ed on Friday.

BoA general counsel Edward O'Keefe, who became the bank's full-time top in-house lawyer a year ago, did not respond to a request for comment. Scott Silvestri, a BoA spokesman, also did not respond to a request for comment. But Silvestri told the Charlotte Observer last week that neither the bank nor its vendors "have engaged HBGary in this matter."

HBGary said in a statement on its Web site that it was the victim of "an international criminal cyberattack" perpetrated by Anonymous and was working closely with law enforcement authorities. The company also said that "any information in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data."

Berico executives told The New York Times that they had been asked to "develop a proposal to support a law firm" but that it was limited to "analyzing publicly available information." The company also announced it was launching an internal investigation into the matter and was severing all ties with HBGary.

Palantir has also sought to disassociate itself from HBGary, stating that it didn't condone the tactics proposed by the company and that they were never acted upon.

"I have directed the company to sever any and all contacts with HBGary," Palantir CEO Alex Karp said in a statement to the press. "Palantir Technologies does not build software that is designed to allow private sector entities to obtain nonpublic information, engage in so-called cyber attacks, or take other offensive measures. I have made clear in no uncertain terms that Palantir Technologies will not be involved in such activities."

Anonymous took a different tone.

"Admittedly, HBGary, while we do what we feel is necessary and just, we do not deny that we enjoyed breaking your neck in the process," the mysterious group told Forbes. "You tried to play our game. You lost."

 

RELATED STORIES

E-Mail: Hunton & Williams Expected 'Huge Gains'
The National Law Journal, 2/15/11

 

 

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Read most of the article, but no mention of possible suits against this law firm/lawyers or having the Bar review this. Attorneys and their firms should not engage in promoting illegal schemes, let alone heinous ones to discredit and harass US Citizens (or those with a liberal bent).

Cheers and Bravos to anonymous. More power to forced and finagled autonomous clarity and transparency In relations between we the people and our Government.

Let's be clear about why this actually happened. Aaron Barr made a list of Facebook users based on the completely fallacious assumption and logic that he could catch Anonymous' "leaders" using IRC and Facebook simultaneously. His list was comprised of innocent Americans engaging in legal forms of activism that just happened to be online at the same time as, well... millions of other people.

His greed, arrogance, hubris, and complete disregard for simple common sense and logic are what got HBGary Federal into this mess. The data he collected was useless, much of it public record, and the rest of it clearly falsified through inference, assumptions, and outright flights of fancy. He's nothing more than a delusional gambling addict that was playing the odds that he may have found five our six REAL anons buried in his list of complete bullshit.

The IRC chatlogs of HBGary's CEO & Anonymous can be found all over the place. It's clear Anonymous had no plans of releasing the other information in the documents; they just wanted to protect the innocent people who had falsely been linked to cyber-terrorism based on Barr's unscrupulous greed. Until they got a good look at how "borderline" illegal and unethical they were and realized there was no way the information could be sat upon.

CyberSelf-defense is not a crime! They were attacked. Innocent people like me, who were identified as Anons for no other reason than having a facebook and an opinion were caught in the crossfire. They fought back. THEY made it right. I'm still waiting for MY apology from HBGary Fed for being dragged into this, however. I think I'll probably be waiting a long time.

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