Bank of America blamed a data breach on another company that revealed internal emails related to monitoring of hacktivist groups including Anonymous.
A group affiliated with Anonymous, which calls itself the "Anonymous Intelligence Agency: Par:AnoIA" released what it claims is 14GB of data belonging to the bank and other organisations, including Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg and TEKsystems.
Email correspondence in the data suggests that TEKsystems was a contractor working for Bank of America and charged with monitoring public activity by hacker networks targeting the bank.
In a statement, Bank of America did not confirm it was working with TEKsystems, an IT consultancy that is part of the Allegis Group. But it said the source of the data came from a third party. Bank of America said its own systems were not compromised.
"In this instance, a third-party company was compromised," Bank of America said Wednesday. "This company was working on a pilot program for monitoring publicly available information to identify information security threats."
Officials with TEKsystems and Allegis group could not be immediately reached.
In a news release, Par:AnoIA said the data came from an unsecured server in Tel Aviv. "The source of this release has confirmed that the data was not acquired by a hack but because it was stored on a misconfigured server and basically open for grabs," the group said.
Large corporations have become increasingly interested in monitoring social networks and hacker forums for indications that they may come under attack. Companies that specialise in that kind of monitoring have also been targeted by groups such as Anonymous.
HB Gary Federal, a California security consultancy, was compromised by Anonymous in 2011 after the company had researched the real identities of some Anonymous members. That breach disclosed emails describing a proposal to help Bank of America's law firm, Hunton and Williams, discredit the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks.
For its part, the banking industry has drawn the ire of Anonymous since it cut off payment processing of donations to WikiLeaks.
Par:AnoIA's data dump includes a batch of more than 500 emails with brief reports on the Occupy Wall Street movement and hacking groups such as TeaMp0isoN and UGNazi. It also contained briefings on public releases of credit-card numbers. The sources for the information were public sources, including Twitter, Pastebin and The Pirate Bay, according to the emails.
The data also included a special file listing of four intelligence analysts who authored some of the emails, including three who work for TEKsystems and one who formerly worked for Bank of America.
All four have deleted their LinkedIn profiles, but the profiles still appear in Google's cache. One analyst's profile was live as recently as three days ago.
Par:AnoIA said its release also includes the application OneCalais, which collects unstructured information from news stories, blogs and research reports. The software is made by ClearForest, an Israeli company owned by Thomson Reuters. Officials with Thomson Reuters and ClearForest could not be immediately reached.
The compromised data also contained salary information on executives, although much of it appears to be publicly available.