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Anonymous Leaks 50,000 E-Mails From Security Expert Who Planned to Rat Them Out

aaron barrOn Friday, the Financial Times published a story about the ongoing criminal investigation into Anonymous -- the notorious online collective of hacktivists that have orchestrated cyber-attacks on Visa, MasterCard, and a handful of authoritarian governments. In the article, the paper quoted a computer security expert named Aaron Barr, who claimed to have "penetrated" the group, and said that his findings could help authorities crack down on Anonymous. Upon hearing Barr's claims, Anonymous decided to retaliate, appropriately enough, by launching a devastating counter-attack.

On Sunday evening, members of the group hacked into Barr's e-mail account, and posted all 50,000 of his e-mails online in a 4.7-gigabyte file. They also trashed the site of HBGary Federal, the security firm for which Barr works, and took over the man's Twitter account, where they posted his social security number and a link to a file containing thousands of company e-mails. Reading through Barr's e-mails confirmed Anonymous's suspicions. The hackers discovered a document containing the real names and identifying information of Anonymous members, which Barr apparently had planned to sell to the FBI.

At first, they decided to confront him in a chat room, where they informed Barr that he'd been outed. "All your emails were dropped," one member wrote. "Meaning we know you were trying to sell your f---ing research to the FBI. And the sad thing is the names and info in that document//research [sic] is all f---ing fake... you could have gotten a lot of random innocent people arrested." In response, Barr insisted that the documents they found were an "old version of my research," and confirmed that "much has changed." Unconvinced, the group promptly posted the entire file, which, they claim, is riddled with inaccuracies.

In the Financial Times' article, Barr claimed to have figured out Anonymous's hierarchical structure. According to him, the group is comprised of a core group of 30 members, as well as ten who "are the most senior and co-ordinate and manage most of the decisions." Anonymous, however, says Barr's got it all wrong. "The article is complete crap. He's one of the millions of security tools who think they know what they're talking about," a source close to the group told Gawker. "There's really no hierarchy.... no one can tell anyone else what to do."

Unlike its previous operations, Anonymous's latest attack may only embolden authorities to take action. "Before this, what these guys were doing was technically illegal, but it was in direct support of a government whistle blower," HBGary co-founder Greg Hoglund told Brian Krebs. "But now, we have a situation where they're committing a federal crime, stealing private data and posting it on a torrent. They didn't just pick on any company, but we try to protect the U.S. government from hackers. They couldn't have chosen a worse company to pick on."

Tags: AaronBarr, anonymous, CyberAttack, e-mail, hack, hacker, hacktivists, leak, politics, security, top, Web