The rape of Stratfor

One of the 5 million e-mails and documents stolen from Austin-based Stratfor in December, a two-page Word document titled “STRATFOR Security Information and Instructions,” states:

“To be recognized and respected as the most credible, truthful and definitive global intelligence organization in the world, STRATFOR must practice stringent security in accordance with industry standards.

These practices have three goals:

1. Protecting our customers’ identities, interests, intellectual property and reputation. As they require.

2. Protecting STRATFOR’s sources and methods from exposure.

3. Protecting STRATFOR’s public image and reputation.

STRATFOR is obliged to protect our customers’ privacy. As in other businesses, we must protect our company’s trade secrets. Finally, we must protect our reputation, which is our livelihood. If you think of security in these terms, you will understand what is expected of you. (…) Failure to follow these rules could result in termination.”

Reading 1, 2 and 3 above, my mind’s eye visualized an umpire behind home plate hollering, “Striiiiiiiiiike Three! You’re out!”

Apparently no senior heads have been lopped off at Stratfor yet, but then it’s no one’s business outside Stratfor what goes on inside the company that since shortly after its launch in 1996 has called itself “The Shadow CIA” around the globe, a descriptive phrase first used either by Forbes or Investor’s Business Daily (curious readers can look online for the original source of the phrase on their own).

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are drip-feeding the world a Himalayan-sized pile of bullshit allegations that Stratfor is some kind of private espionage agency involved in all sorts of corrupt black operations. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Stratfor is a privately-owned, Internet-based information intelligence business that has been remarkably successful at generating a steady and growing revenue stream without selling commercial advertisement space.

Stratfor calls itself a global geopolitical intelligence firm. But during my time there I used the same research, analytical and writing skills that I’ve used throughout my professional career.

That said, what I did learn at Stratfor helped me become a better overall analyst in the work I’ve done since.

Google Stratfor in all languages and you’ll find literally thousands of news articles since Wikileaks started posting the company’s stolen e-mails and other internal documents.

The international news reports mainly have the story wrong, but that could be because they’re too lazy to challenge the meme being spread by Assange’s Wikileaks.

The US news media’s response so far has been way more muted than the international press. But at least 99% of the English articles on Stratfor that I’ve read in the past week have tended to follow the stench of Assange’s wildly false bullshit allegations about Stratfor.

Don’t mistake what I’ve written here so far as constituting some kind of defense of George Friedman and Stratfor. I enjoyed working for George, though we parted ways on less than amicable terms…but that’s water under the bridge.

However, there are some very bright, hardworking analysts and editors at Stratfor who love what they do, working in the 24/7 fast-paced, high-pressure environment that prevails inside the company’s strategic and tactical analytical groups.

These women and men deserved much better from their senior honchos.

If I were (still) a senior analyst with Stratfor, I’d be in a red f***ing rage with senior management, which obviously did not practice what it preached in terms of security.

This isn’t my opinion.

It’s a fact confirmed by 5 million stolen e-mails and documents plus the entire client base, all of it pilfered by Anonymous hackers not in one or two days last December, but very steadily during a period of over three weeks before Stratfor’s IT experts figured out that the global intelligence company’s nearly complete database going back to at least 2004 had been stolen as easily as my year-old Beagle pup Buzz snags chocolate chip muffins on the run out of my three-year-old son’s hands.

The very early e-mail traffic posted during the last week of December and first two weeks of January by the still unknown hackers via Twitter, Pastebin and other Internet sites showed very clearly that Stratfor’s IT people knew something potentially very bad was happening to their servers, but they couldn’t pinpoint the problem…until the rape was consummated and announced on the Web.

The critical need for security is hammered into everyone’s head at Stratfor from their very first job interview.

But the stolen e-mail traffic shows that as recently as 2011 Friedman rejected multiple requests for good encryption software because at a cost of $40,000 it was just too expensive for the company to digest – at a time when Stratfor’s shareholders were in the process of launching an assets management fund called StratCap with an initial portfolio of at least $200 million.

Reminds me of the nursery rhyme my late father used to croon when I was a small child:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

A $40,000 investment made in time might have prevented this rape, or maybe not. But we’ll never know what might have been.

Meanwhile, the hackers have exposed Stratfor’s sources and methods. As a result, Stratfor has lost, perhaps forever, the mystique it enjoyed as a private intelligence company. That could hurt its marketing.

The stolen e-mails spell out the company’s intelligence (i.e. information) gathering methods, and the strategic and tactical thinking formulated by Friedman, very clearly to anyone who takes some time to read the material posted so far by Wikileaks.

Stratfor’s public image and reputation likely will suffer long-lasting damage as a result.

What made Stratfor unique outside the company’s walls has been stripped away.

No one can guess at the thoughts of Stratfor’s 292,000 clients (a number given by Friedman in one of the stolen e-mails), but many very likely are not happy campers.

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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One Response to The rape of Stratfor

  1. ElGocho says:

    My dear gringo…”En casa de herrero, asador de palo”… Almost like the break in in Symantec… Its an embarrassment for Stratfor, and I am sure it’s customers will think twice before ordering “kinky research”….

    Like

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