The contractor the NSA pays to help hack your cell phone has an interesting history woven within the larger story of the explosive growth of cyberwarfare companies in the Post 9/11 era. The massive growth of the cyberweapons industry has been driven by governments, principally the United States, who in the name of defense have instigated an arms race for offensive weapons.
The start of Engame begins at Internet Security Systems (ISS) which was started in 1994 and acquired by IBM in 2006 for $1.3 billion. ISS developed an array of products perhaps most notably a highly successful systems scanner that performs a vulnerability assessment on a computer system. In 2010 former executives from ISS and former executives at the CIA started Endgame, Inc. with investments from Bessemer Venture Partners, Columbia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and TechOperators totaling $29 million.
In an early email to [HB Gary CEO] Aaron Barr, Endgame Systems made it clear that they had “been very careful NOT to have public face on our company”. The CEO of Endgame Systems was clear: “Please let HBgary know we don’t ever want to see our name in a press release.”
So what exactly do the secretive Endgame Systems do? The company started by ex ISS and CIA executives promises (in private) “to provide our customers with the highest quality offensive CNA/CNE (Computer Network Attack/Computer Network Exploitation) software in the world”.
Notice the term offensive. The hundreds of billions of dollars that have flowed into the cybersecurity sector from the federal government – that Endgame gets a piece of – were supposed to be for defensive purposes. But it is not hard to understand why Endgame has such a belligerent and nefarious strategy when you look at who runs the company.
The Endgame Board of Directors is led by Christopher Darby of CIA backed In-Q-Tel and includes the former Director of the NSA, Kevin Minihan. Quite a well connected team. Methinks they may know a few people in the intelligence community who make recommendations for federal contracts.
Endgame is part of the new wave of cyberweapons firms making ridiculous amounts of money off the taxpayers while helping to instigate a war where they stand to benefit from increased business. Palantir Technologies is another firm doing well taking federal money to datamine the internet, though it recently expanded its operations to helping create license plate tracking technology. Due to the Anonymous hacking scandal HB Gary is now part of ManTech International, a firm that received a $300 million federal contract to support US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Business is good.
While the government is secretly interpreting the Patriot Act it is also outsourcing some of its lawbreaking to private firms – cashing in on their government connections with government contracts. What could go wrong?
fatster contributed to this report.