WikiLeaks releases Stratfor emails and CEO resigns

27.02.2012 - 13:13

WikiLeaks has begun releasing data gathered from the corporate intelligence company Stratfor by Anonymous activists in December 2011, forcing the resignation of the company's CEO and founder George Friedman.

The profitable intelligence company, which provides services to many corporations and governments, was hacked by Anonymous in late December 2011. Anonymous announced that it has gathered more than 200 gigabytes of data and 5 million internal Stratfor company emails, outlining the unethical tactics and an insider-trading scheme.

Anonymous said that Stratfor was "clueless […] when it comes to database security", that passwords were not encrypted and often they were simply the name of the company.

Anonymous accessed the data of more than 17,000 credit cards and used them to make donations to various charities, including the Red Cross, Save the Children and CARE, but these are likely to be reimbursed to credit-card owners under reports of fraudulent transactions, costing those charities serious amounts of money.

The emails gathered from Stratfor date from between July 2004 and late December 2011 and reveal that the company provided confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, as well as government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

WikiLeaks also provided written exchanges between the Stratfor CEO George Friedman and his employees which uncovered the unscrupulous nature of company's modus operandi, including suggested sexual favours.

It was also exposed that governmental and diplomatic sources and informants who were paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards provided Stratfor with advance information in exchange for money. According to data exposed, in August 2011 Stratfor CEO confidentially told his employees that the company is "retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either."

In addition, emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Friedman came up with an idea to "utilise the intelligence" from insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. Friedman wrote in August 2011 "What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like". Morenz, for his part, invested more than $4 million to join Stratfor’s board of directors in 2011. StratCap should be official put in business this year.

Stratfor had secret deals with a myriad of media organisations and journalists which are also included in the released data.

Company's CEO George Friedman resigned on 27 February in an email sent to all clients and subscribers of Stratfor. “In the light of the recent events, especially the release of our company emails by WikiLeaks, I have decided that stepping down is in the best interest of Stratfor and its customer base,” he wrote.

Friedman added: “We [Stratfor] certainly do not condone any criminal activities by groups like Anonymous or other hackers. This is theft and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

Stratfor boss made no reference to any of allegations and suspicious practices of his and his company's, instead explaining his resignation as a consequence of failure to ensure full data protection in his firm. “While I played no role in our technical operations, as the company's CEO I do accept full responsibility thus will resign from my position effective immediately,” Friedman concluded.

List of released data is available here.