Aaron Barr, Cybersecurity Analyst Who Was Hacked By Anonymous And Infiltrated Occupy Wall Street, Gets Fired
NEW YORK -- Just last week Aaron Barr, the former HBGary Federal CEO whose email was hacked by Anonymous in February, was "schooling" the FBI on security and social media. Now he's been let go from his new job at another federal contractor, Sayres and Associates. His former boss at Sayres told HuffPost it was because Barr was acting like a "cowboy" on the company dime.
Barr's strange year in the public eye began in early 2011. At the time he was the CEO at HBGary Federal, an information security contractor working with both federal government agencies and with outside firms. In a Feb. 4 article, he claimed to the Financial Times that he was on the cusp of exposing the leaders behind the loose-knit confederation of hackers and activists known as Anonymous.
The Anons struck back, releasing thousands of internal emails from HBGary Federal -- emails that showed that HBGary Federal was working for a law firm, which was in turn working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to hurt Wikileaks by feeding it false information and discrediting its supporters in the media.
As the plot was exposed, Barr was forced to step down at HBGary Federal. Months later, he had moved on to a new job at Sayres and Associates, which does contracting work with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Homeland Security.
"When I hired Aaron about eight months ago, it was under the perception that we were going to be able to help the NSA with some things relating to national security, not with Anonymous and social groups," said John Sayres, the company's founder.
According to Sayres, what he got instead was a series of headaches.
"When I brought him on I said, hey, we'll give him six months and see how he can help our company -- and I saw no help, all I saw was things I didn't want to see," Sayres said.
Those may have included a mention on Threatpost about Barr's "strange trip" to visit Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, where he dyed his hair blue in an attempt to fit in with protesters and see what they were up to. Barr's name also appeared in a set of emails mistakenly released by another cybersecurity analyst he is friends with, Thomas Ryan. Ryan snuck his way onto an Occupy Wall Street email organizing list, forwarding some of those messages to FBI agents and then releasing a batch of them onto the web.
At the time, Barr told HuffPost he was simply dropping in on Occupy Wall Street out of curiosity, hoping to see how Anonymous was interacting with the movement. Barr said he played no part in Ryan's efforts to "snitch" on Occupy Wall Street -- even though he was copied on one of the emails between Ryan and an FBI employee.
Following it all is a little bit complicated -- a vertigo-inducing trip into the shady border zone between feds, security consultants and hackers. But after Barr popped up in the news again last week, presenting at an FBI-sponsored cybersecurity conference with a speech called “How I learned to stop worrying and love social media," his boss decided he'd had enough.
"I never got a copy of what he was presenting at the conferences," said Sayres. "He was kind of like a cowboy, off on his own and doing his own thing, and that's not how I run the company."
Sayres said he never expected Barr to be back at it again, talking in public about Anonymous, or collaborating with the FBI, which he said his company has no business with.
"It looks to me like he's back in the same old playground," Sayres said. The conference speech was on Jan. 11, and Barr was let go a week later.
For his part, Barr described his parting with Sayres and Associates as "amicable." He added that he has already found a new job, but declined to tell HuffPost where.
"Lol," he emailed. "Let me settle in first."