WASHINGTON — A fight between a group of pro-WikiLeaks hackers and a California-based Internet security business has opened a window onto the secretive world of private companies that offer to help corporations investigate and discredit their critics.
This week, hackers said they had penetrated the computers of HBGary Federal, a security company that sells investigative services to corporations, and posted tens of thousands of what appear to be its internal company e-mails on the Internet.
The documents appear to include pitches for unseemly ways to undermine adversaries of Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, like doing background research on their critics and then distributing fake documents to embarrass them.
The bank and the chamber do not appear to have directly solicited the spylike services of HBGary Federal. Rather, HBGary Federal offered to do the work for Hunton & Williams, a corporate law firm that has represented them.