Earlier this year, ThinkProgress obtained 75,000 private emails from the defense contractor HBGary Federal via the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The emails led to two shocking revelations. First, that an assortment of private military firms collectively called “Team Themis” had been tapped by Bank of America to conduct a cyber war against reporters sympathetically covering the Wikileaks revelations. And second, that late in 2010, the same set of firms began work separately for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Republican-aligned corporate lobbying group, to develop a similar campaign of sabotage against progressive organizations, including the SEIU and ThinkProgress.
In presentations obtained by ThinkProgress from the e-mail dump detailing the tactics potentially used against progressives, HBGary Federal floated the idea of using “fake insider personas” to infiltrate left-leaning groups critical of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s policies. As HBGary Federal executive Aaron Barr described in several emails, his firm could work with partner companies Palantir and Berico Technologies to manipulate fake online identities, using networks like Facebook, to gain access to private information from his targets. Other presentations are more specific and describe efforts to use social media to hack computers and find vulnerabilities among even the families of people who work at organizations critical of the Chamber.
In one email from the dump, Barr discusses a fake persona he created called “Holly Weber.” She would be born in Portland in 1984, attend Reynolds High School, and work for Lockheed Martin after a stint in the Air Force. Earlier this week, Twitter users actually identified the phony account. Before it was taken down, ThinkProgress snagged screen shots of the fake persona’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. (Barr also described his strategy for pretending to be teenagers online). View a screenshot of the fake account above:
Barr, who sold his illicit talents to the highest bidder, appears to be drawing on Maxim for inspiration. A Maxim covergirl named Holly Weber was also born in 1984. Unlike Barr’s creation, the Maxim one is real.
Hunton and Williams, the law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had been immersed in talks with HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico to deliver on a $2 million deal to move forward with the hacking plot against the Chamber’s critics. However, after Anonymous leaked HBGary’s emails and a few reporters picked up on the story, the Chamber distanced itself from the deal. The emails show that HBGary Federal had also worked to sell “persona management” solutions to the U.S. government for cyber intelligence work.