HBGary Federal was just one of many low-profile security contractors peddling its wares to clients with secrets to protect - until earlier this year when the US firm drew the attention of hackers.
British police made arrests last week of two young men believed to have been involved in the theft and online publication of some 60,000 confidential emails from HBGary Federal is part of an ongoing investigation into computer break-ins and distributed denial of service attacks by hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec.
The HBGary data breach exposed dirty deeds and the CEO of the company subsidiary that chased government contracts resigned his post in disgrace.
That CEO, Aaron Barr, stirred up Anonymous by bragging how his company had infiltrated the group by using, among other things, fake Facebook profiles. Feeling slighted, Anonymous hacked into his personal accounts and his company's servers, from which they "liberated" thousands of emails.
Some of those emails exposed some embarrassing activity in which the company was involved. For example, an effort to launch a "dirty tricks" campaign to discredit opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was revealed. That prompted one member of Congress to call for an investigation into the matter.
"We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests," Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said in his plea for a probe.
Probably one of the wackiest plans disclosed in the purloined emails was a proposal for the military to infiltrate social networks, like Facebook, with phony cyber personalities with the intent to gather information for arresting dissidents and activists who operate anonymously online.