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HBGary chief exec resigns over Anon hack

Barr falls on sword

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HBGary Federal chief exec Aaron Barr has resigned in a bid to allow the firm to draw a line under the continuing revelations from the Anonymous hack attack.

Barr was the prime mover in plans to out senior members of Anonymous at the B-Sides security conference last month. But hunter became hunted after the more skilled members of Anonymous hacked into HBGary Federal's computer network before publishing its email database.

The emails included the revelation that Morgan Stanley, a HBGary client, was hit by the Operation Aurora attacks of late 2009, as well as messages that purported to show HBGary was planning a dirty tricks campaign against WikiLeaks.

HBGary, while admitting it was hacked and not denying the authenticity of any particular message, has said that the notorious mischief maker at Anonymous had plenty of opportunity to alter the published emails. Nonetheless the hack itself, to say nothing of the range of circumstances that allowed the breach (insecure web apps, weak passwords and social engineering) would be hugely embarrassing for any firm, much less a small outfit that sells its white hat hacker expertise to government agencies and banks.

Adding insult to injury, HBGary has become the topic of comedy sketches, with comedian Stephen Colbert devoting a segment of the Colbert Report to the hack on 24 January. The sketch mocked both Barr ("master of counter-hacking" and World of Warcraft "level 90 night-elf druid") and "global hacker nerd brigade" Anonymous. According to Colbert: "Anonymous is a hornets' nest and Barr said I'm gonna stick my penis in that thing."

With such unwanted and high-profile media attention, to say nothing of the doubtless awkward private exchanges between HBGary and its client in private, it comes as little surprise that Barr has decided to fall on his sword.

"I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation," Barr told Threatpost in a phone interview. "It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of 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."

HBGary is yet to comment officially on the resignation, which renews questions about its plans to move on from the hugely embarrassing Anonymous hack. We've put in a query to the firm and will update this story as and when we hear more. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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