Former HBGary Federal CEO Withdraws from DEFCON Panel

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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Aaron Barr, the former HBGary Federal CEO, has withdrawn from participation in a panel discussion slated for the DEFCON security conference next week in Las Vegas.

SC Magazine reports Barr's decision was hastened by the threat of legal action by his former employer for a potential breach of his separation agreement with the company.

Barr had resigned from HBGary Federal in the wake of a devastating breach and subsequent criticism regarding some of the company's business practices.

The DEFCON session, titled “‘Whoever Fights Monsters...' Aaron Barr, Anonymous, and Ourselves," will examine the impact hacktivism is having on the security industry.

The session, which is still scheduled to occur, will be moderated by ThreatPost editor Paul Roberts and will include and Attrition.org's 'Jericho' - an Infosec Island contributor - and The 451 Group's Joshua Corman.

"Barr withdrawing from the panel is an obvious disappointment to the other panelists. It is especially unfortunate, as he had worked out issues with speaking on the topics with his new employer, only to get hit with an injunction from his former employer, HBGary," 'Jericho' told Infosec Island via email.

"HBGary's choice to go the legal route to block Aaron from speaking in general about topics that are relevant to our industry is sad, and demonstrates that HBGary is not committed to advancing the information security field."

Organizers indicate that they are contacting other viable candidates for participation in the session. According to SC Magazine's report, HBGary Federal's attorney Tanya Forsheit of The Information Law Group - also Infosec Island contributors - could not be reached for comment,

In January of this year, HBGary Federal's systems were breached in an operation conducted by the rogue movement Anonymous, and the subsequent release of tens-of-thousands of company emails revealed multiple instances of ethically questionable covert operations involving the security company.

The leaked emails showed that HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies were involved in developing WikiLeaks counter-operations strategies for Bank of America and proposed disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks against network systems, and strong-arming journalists.

Other information released in the breach show the companies were engaged in developing strategies to infiltrate other civil activist groups, and plans to use social media for distributing government propaganda. There was also evidence that HBGary Federal was involved in developing an undetectable, full command and control cyber offensive weapon called Magenta.

In April, HBGary, Inc., sister company to HBGary Federal, released an open letter addressed to their customers and the defense marketplace in an effort to set the record straight in the wake of the devastating breach.

While some details in the brief letter correspoded to the information contained in the leaked emails, the letter for the most part came off as a generic attempt to rewrite the record and further distance HBGary Inc. from the activities of Aaron Barr and HBGary Federal.

The letter, which was widely covered in the press, has subsequently been removed from the company's website, although a Google search of the defunct URL (http://www.hbgary.com/open-letter-from-hbgary) reveals it's distribution.

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Headlines Anonymous Hacktivist HBGary Federal Conferences Aaron Barr Magenta Attrition.org DEFCON
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Vulcan Mindm3ld That's too bad. I think we could learn A LOT from the discussion with Mr. Barr. I hope they find a suitable replacement.
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