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Stratfor relaunches site; CEO accuses attackers of censorship

Internet anonymity a security problem, George Friedman says

\\Strafor Global Intelligence CEO George Friedman on Wednesday blasted those responsible for a December attack on the global intelligence firm's website that compromised credit card information and emails belonging to thousands of subscribers.

In a YouTube video linked to the company's freshly relaunched site, Friedman accepted responsibility for Stratfor's failure to properly protect customer data while accusing the attackers of imposing a new censorship regime on the Internet.

"We are now in a world in which anonymous judges, jurors and executioners can silence whom they want," Friedman said in the video. "This is a new censorship that doesn't come openly from governments but from people hiding behind masks."

Strafor provides intelligence on global business, security and economic issues. The company has a worldwide client base, including many from within the government and military.

The company's website was breached Dec. 24 by unknown hackers who later posted the names and credit card numbers of 75,000 people who had subscribed to or paid for Stratfor's research. The hackers also posted hundreds of thousands of names and email addresses of those who had registered on Stratfor's website.

The site was taken offline after the attack and relaunched Wednesday. However, visitors to the new site were greeted with a page informing them of a service interruption -- apparently due to a high volume of interest in the site.

Hackers who said they belonged to the Anonymous hacking collective claimed responsibility for the December attack . They claimed that the real target of the attack was not credit card data but the millions of emails stored on Statfor's servers.

Others, who also claimed to be speaking on behalf of Anonymous, distanced themselves from the attack and said it was not the work of Anonymous.

According to Friedman, Strafor first learned about the attack in early December after the FBI warned the company about credit card information and customer data being stolen.

Friedman said he was prepared for the hackers to publicly disclose the breach and for the ensuing criticism that was sure to follow. "We knew our reputation would be damaged, all the more so because we had not encrypted the credit card files," he said. "This was a failure on our part. As the CEO of Stratfor, I take responsibility."

On Dec. 24, the attackers again broke into Stratfor's site and posted a note on its home page announcing the credit card and email thefts. The hackers also disclosed that they had destroyed four Stratfor servers, along with all data and backups on it, Friedman said.

"We were shocked at the destruction of our servers. This was not your typical hack attack. The intent here was clearly to silence us by destroying our records, our archives and our websites," he said.

He said that portrayals of his firm as the "hub of a global conspiracy" are offbase. He said the hackers would find little of any value from the emails beyond the fact that the company has sources within various governments and corporations. "We are what we said we are -- a publishing organization focused on geo-politics."

He criticized the hackers for taking advantage of the Internet's anonymity to attack companies and lamented the lack of accountability on the Net. "The attempt to silence us has failed," a defiant Friedman said. "Our website is back, our email is working [and] we are restoring our archives," he said. "We will continue to publish our analysis."

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com .

Read more about cybercrime and hacking in Computerworld's Cybercrime and Hacking Topic Center.


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