Extremely hacked and incredibly dense

Stratfor Global, Heartland Institute learn what happens when emails describing your plans for world domination hit the Web

Here's some advice to intelligence agencies and think tanks worldwide: Next time you decide to have a little chat about your plans for world domination, skip the email, find a cozy little conference room somewhere, and demand the Cone of Silence.

Otherwise, you're likely to get spanked when those emails go public. Today's instructive examples: Stratfor Global Intelligence and Heartland Institute.

[ The hacking game isn't what it used to be, as Cringely explains in "Bow down to your new hacker overlords." | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

This morning WikiLeaks began publishing 5 million email messages stolen from Stratfor Global, the shadow spook organization that operates without government oversight at the behest of private corporations and occasionally Uncle Sam.

Stratfor got hacked by Anonymous twice last December, thanks in part to dubious password management. Anonymous then sent out a bogus email pretending to come from the now-former CEO George Friedman to more than 860,000 Stratfor subscribers, urging them to share their feelings about "the recent intrusion by those deranged, sexually deviant criminal hacker terrorist masterminds."

The initial batch of 200 emails reveal that Stratfor had fingers in many dirty corporate pies across the globe, including plots against WikiLeaks and other social activists. My favorite part: Stratfor even tried to cash in on the fear generated by WikiLeaks itself, following the site's disclosures of secret U.S. military files. This internal Stratfor message asks:

[Is it] possible for us to get some of that "leak-focused" gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that's a good thing. ...... Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused' network security that focuses on preventing one's own employees from leaking sensitive information... [?].

Good idea. Tell other organizations how to keep their emails from being published on WikiLeaks, lest they turn into a public punch line. Let us know how that works out for you.

A few hours after the emails went public, Friedman resigned as CEO. Maybe he can apply for a job at HBGary Federal -- I understand it has an opening for someone with his qualifications. [Apparently that was a false rumor. My apologies. Still, I think he'd fit in nicely at HBGF.]

Example two concerns Heartland, a Chicago-based "think tank" that routinely publishes research challenging the concept of global warming and the dangers of secondhand smoke. Thanks to some leaked emails, the world now knows that Heartland is funded by -- wait for it -- the oil and tobacco industries.

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