Alex Constantine - February 19, 2011
Hunton & Williams Linked to Hacked E-Mail Affair
By Brian Baxter
The AmLaw Daily (Excerpt) | February 15, 2011
... After being approached by Hunton, HBGary and two other "data intelligence companies" crafted a plan to attack WikiLeaks's credibility and undermine the organization's supporters, according to a post on the whistle-blowing Web site last week. WikiLeaks and BoA have been at loggerheads since Novembe,r when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes, without identifying BoA specifically , that his next big disclosure bomb would involve a major U.S. bank.
Assange had revealed in an interview with Computer World in October 2009 that he possessed five gigabytes of information from an unidentified BoA executive's hard drive. That led BoA to scramble and start purchasing hundreds of abusive domain names to protect itself in the event that internal bank documents and e-mails were made available via WikiLeaks servers. (Charlotte-based BoA, one of the largest banks in the U.S., cut off third-party payments to WikiLeaks in December after the organization's mass release of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables.)
,,, BoA is a longtime Hunton client. The firm has handled litigation work for the bank, whose former deputy general counsel, Frank Murphy, Jr., works in Hunton's Charlotte office. (BoA recently reshuffled its outside counsel roster, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.) ...
The names of Hunton internal investigations partner John Woods, litigation cochair Richard Wyatt, Jr., and litigation partners David Lashway and Robert Quackenboss appear in e-mails between HBGary executives. The company appeared to be brainstorming ways to land a $2 million contract from the Chamber of Commerce and develop plans to thwart the impact of potentially embarrassing disclosures by WikiLeaks. ...
One presentation, a 24-page PowerPoint slideshow that can be downloaded from WikiLeaks's Web site, reveals a multipronged method for attacking the whistle-blowing group. The options presented include fomenting dissension within the WikiLeaks ranks, launching cyberattacks against the organization's servers, seeking potential court orders and injunctions in order to prevent the publication of certain data, and pursuing a public relations and social media campaign against the site and its perceived supporters.
"They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data," one e-mail between the three data security firms says, according to technology and science news site The Tech Herald, which also reviewed the e-mail archive. "They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak."
The Tech Herald reports that Hunton was to act as outside counsel to BoA, while Palantir managed BoA network and internal investigations and Berico and HBGary focused on WikiLeaks. (Forbes reported on Monday that Anonymous is establishing a mirror site to publish and allow users to search the HBGary e-mails in full.) ...
HBGary said in a statement on its Web site that it was the victim of "an international criminal cyberattack" perpetrated by Anonymous and was working closely with law enforcement authorities. The company also said that "any information in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data."
Berico executives told The New York Times that they had been asked to "develop a proposal to support a law firm" but that it was limited to "analyzing publicly available information." The company also announced it was launching an internal investigation into the matter and was severing all ties with HBGary.
Palantir has also sought to disassociate itself from HBGary, stating that it didn't condone the tactics proposed by the company and that they were never acted upon. ...