Embattled CEO Aaron Barr says he is stepping down from his post at HBGary Federal to allow the company to move on after an embarassing data breach.
The announcement comes three weeks after Barr became the target of a coordinated attack by members of the online mischief making group Anonymous, which hacked into HBGary Federal’s computer network and published tens of thousands of company e-mail messages on the Internet. HBGary did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comments on Barr’s resignation.
In an interview with Threatpost, Barr said that he is stepping down to allow himself and the company he ran to move on in the wake of the high profile hack.
“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” Barr said 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 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.”
Anonymous conducted a preemptive strike on HBGary after Barr was quoted in a published article saying that he had identified the leadership of the group and planned to disclose their identities at the B-Sides Security Conference in San Francisco. By combining a SQL injection attack on HBGary’s Web site with sophisticated social engineering attacks, the group gained access to the company’s Web- and e-mail servers as well as the Rootkit.com Web site, a site also launched by HBGary founder Greg Hoglund. Ultimately, the group defaced HBGary’s Web site and disgorged the full contents of e-mail accounts belonging to Barr, Hoglund and other company executives.
Though Barr and HBGary were the victims of the hack, the contents of the e-mail messages divulged plans that cast both in an unflattering light. HBGary counted many U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, CIA and NSA as customers. The disclosure of e-mail messages from the company poses a major security risk to those organizations, as well as individuals who had corresponded with the firm. The breach also raises troubling questions about the direction that HBGary and other Beltway firms have taken. Email exchanges published online revealed the firm to be at work on a variety of plans to do data mining and information operations on U.S. organizations and journalists on behalf of clients including law firms representing a large U.S. bank and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, the incident spilled into the mainstream, with comedian Stephen Colbert devoting a segment of his Colbert Report program on February 24 to the HBGary hack.