Firm targeting WikiLeaks cuts ties with HBGary - apologizes to reporter

Firm targeting WikiLeaks cuts ties with HBGary.

Update 3:

 

[Note: Due to privacy concerns, Mathew Steckman's name was witheld in the original story. The following statement however was provided to The Tech Herald Monday evening, and is being posted in it's entirety due to the nature of the statement. - Steve]

Palantir is a data integration software company based in Silicon Valley.  We make data integration software that is as useful for fighting food borne illness as it is to fighting fraud and terrorism. Palantir does not make software that has the capability to carry out the offensive tactics proposed by HBGARY.   Palantir never has and never will condone the sort of activities recommended by HBGARY. As we have previously stated, Palantir has severed all ties with HBGARY going forward.  To ensure that we are in complete compliance with our company’s ethics and standards we have decided to place Matthew Steckman, 26 year old engineer, on leave pending a thorough review of his actions. Palantir was not retained by any party to develop such recommendations and indeed it would be contrary to Palantir’s ethics, culture and policies to do so.

Update 2:

Palantir sent us some additional information. The blow points were emailed to us on Sunday.

Palantir never has and never will condone the sort of activities that HBGary recommended.

Specifically:

Palantir does not condone the recommendations in HBGary's presentations, proposals and emails. Moreover, the tactics proposed by HBGary were never accepted and never acted upon.

  • Palantir did not participate in the development of the recommendations that Palantir and others find offensive.
  • Palantir was NOT retained by any party to develop such recommendations and indeed it would be contrary to Palantir ethics, culture and policies to do so.
  • As we have previously stated, Palantir has severed all ties with HBGary going forward.

As you have probably already discovered in your research, there are two items we want to make very clear:

  • Palantir did not participate in any activities involving HBGary's proposed tactics.
  • The slide entitled 'Potential Proactive Tactics' was authored solely by HBGary.
  • The Palantir logo on the slide is the result of a collated deck and does not represent Palantir's position.
  • Content can be found verbatim in HBGary's email / powerpoint.

Update:

Berico Technologies has cut ties as well. More information is here.

The original article begins on page two.

Dr. Alex Karp, the Co-Founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies, one of three data intelligence firms who worked to develop a systematic plan of attack against WikiLeaks and their supporters, has severed all ties with HBGary Federal and issued an apology to reporter Glenn Greenwald.

 

The move comes just twenty-four hours after The Tech Herald reported on the plans, thanks to a tip from Crowdleaks.org

 

After the tip from Crowdleaks.org, The Tech Herald learned that Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies, worked together with law firm Hunton and Williams to develop a proposal for Bank of America in order to deal with the “WikiLeaks Threat.”

Hunton and Williams were recommended to Bank of America’s general counsel by the Department of Justice, according to the email chain viewed by The Tech Herald. The law firm was using the meeting to pitch Bank of America on retaining them for an internal investigation surrounding WikiLeaks.

“They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data,” an email between the three data intelligence firms said. “They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak.”

Hunton and Williams would act as outside counsel on retainer, while Palantir would take care of network and insider threat investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal would analyze WikiLeaks.

Some of the things mentioned as potential proactive tactics against WikiLeaks include feeding the fuel between the feuding groups, disinformation, creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization, and submitting fake documents to WikiLeaks and then calling out the error.

“Create concern over the security of the infrastructure. Create exposure stories. If the process is believed to not be secure they are done. Cyber attacks against the infrastructure to get data on document submitters. This would kill the project. Since the servers are now in Sweden and France putting a team together to get access is more straightforward,” the proposal said.

Moreover, reporter Glenn Greenwald, who writes for Salon.com, was singled out in the proposal as a person offering a level of support to WikiLeaks that needed to be disrupted. This disruption would include making Greenwald, and others in similar situations, choose between professional preservation and cause.

Our original coverage on this topic can be viewed here.

On Thursday evening, Dr. Alex Karp sent The Tech Herald a statement on the events and information presented in the story.

“As the Co-Founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies, I have directed the company to sever any and all contacts with HB Gary,” the statement starts.

Dr. Karp explains that Palantir Technologies provides a software analytic platform for the analysis of data. They do not provide – “nor do we have any plans to develop” – offensive cyber capabilities.

In addition, the statement says that Palantir does not build software that is designed to allow private sector entities to obtain non-public 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. Moreover, we as a company, and I as an individual, always have been deeply involved in supporting progressive values and causes. We plan to continue these efforts in the future,” Dr. Karp added.

“The right to free speech and the right to privacy are critical to a flourishing democracy. From its inception, Palantir Technologies has supported these ideals and demonstrated a commitment to building software that protects privacy and civil liberties. Furthermore, personally and on behalf of the entire company, I want to publicly apologize to progressive organizations in general, and Mr. Greenwald in particular, for any involvement that we may have had in these matters.”

Palantir Technologies’ statement comes at a time when HBGary has refused to talk about the WikiLeaks proposal, or any other topic for that matter, related to the security incident caused by Anonymous after HBGary Federal’s Aaron Barr went to the press claiming he had infiltrated the loosely associative group.

The only statement from the company on the incident appeared on their website before it was fully restored.

“HBGary, Inc and HBGary Federal, a separate but related company, have been the victims of an intentional criminal cyberattack. We are taking this crime seriously and are working with federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities and redirecting internal resources to investigate and respond appropriately,” the statement said at the time.

“To the extent that any client information may have been affected by this event, we will provide the affected clients with complete and accurate information as soon as it becomes available. Meanwhile, please be aware that any information currently in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data.”

It is unlikely that Anonymous would forge thousands and thousands of emails or attachments. Yet, the complete severance of ties by Palantir Technologies, and the public apology to Greenwald, leaves little room for doubt that the information seen by The Tech Herald, Crowdleaks.org, and many others is legitimate.

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