CEO David Sikora (May 2016–)
Number of employees 100 (2015)
Type of business Private
|Key people Dave Sikora (President and CEO)
Fred Burton (VP Intelligence)|
Products strategic intelligence, tactical intelligence, custom intelligence, written and multimedia analysis, corporate security analysis, risk mitigation
Headquarters Austin, Texas, United States
Founders George Friedman, Meredith Friedman, Matthew Baker
Strategic Forecasting, Inc., known as Stratfor, is an American publisher and global intelligence company founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas, by George Friedman, who was the company's chairman. Dave Sikora is president and chief executive officer. Fred Burton is Stratfor's vice president of intelligence.
- The eyeopener stratfor and the privatization of intelligence
- Books and media
- 2011 hacking incident
- 2012 leak
Other executives include Chief Operating Officer Mark Ozdarski, a retired Navy SEAL officer who has also worked as an investment portfolio manager; former U.S. Special Operations Command officer Bret Boyd, vice president of custom intelligence services; and Editor-in-Chief David Judson.
The eyeopener stratfor and the privatization of intelligence
Stratfor bills itself as a geopolitical intelligence and consulting firm, with revenues derived from subscriptions to its website and from corporate clients.
Stratfor has published a daily intelligence briefing since its inception in 1996. Its rise to prominence occurred with the release of its Kosovo Crisis Center during the 1999 NATO airstrikes over Kosovo, which led to publicity in Time magazine, Texas Monthly, and other publications. Before the end of 1999, however, Stratfor had introduced a subscription service through which it offered the majority of its analyses. At the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Stratfor made its "breaking news" paragraphs, as well as some notable analyses predicting likely actions to be taken by al-Qaeda and the Bush administration, available freely to the public.
Stratfor's publishing business includes written and multimedia analysis and an iPhone application. A monthly publication called Compass was launched in June 2014, adding a third tier to the company's subscription business model. In a public announcement, the company said Compass is designed specifically for global executives in strategic industries such as energy, trade, finance, and technology. Some of Stratfor's work remains available free to the public.
Books and media
Stratfor has published collections of analysis in paperback books on a variety of topics. Topics include user guides to personal security, the "devolution of jihadism," and the U.S. war in Afghanistan, according to a series of promotional videos on the company's YouTube channel. Apparently, at one point, the books were sold through a storefront on the company's website, which is no longer active.
A number of the company's top analysts have published books in their own name. Notable among these are founder George Friedman and vice president for intelligence Fred Burton. Kamran Bokhari, Stratfor's vice president for Middle East and South Asian affairs, is the author (with Farid Senzai) of Political Islam in the Age of Democratization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Reviewer Amani el Sehrawey called the book "an invaluable tool for those seeking to gain knowledge of the nuances of the political systems of the Muslim world from a historical perspective, as well as to understand the contemporary changes happening in the region."
Barron's once referred to Stratfor as "The Shadow CIA". Barrons' Jonathan Laing has called Friedman "one of our favorite experts on geopolitics," saying, "His judgments tend to be more nuanced and long-term than those of the press or Wall Street." More recently, The Atlantic's James Fallows referenced a Stratfor article on U.S. strategy in Iraq and Ukraine, following outbreaks of turmoil in those regions.
The subscribers list for Stratfor is confidential. The company's publicity list includes Fortune 500 companies and international government agencies. The hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec claimed to have made it public on December 24, 2011 as part of Operation AntiSec. However, Stratfor denied that the hack recovered the client list. Stratfor claimed that the group recovered only a list of news subscriptions.
In October 2015, Stratfor raised $12-million in funding through a growth equity investment by Dallas-based Teakwood Capital. Stratfor's plan for the funding includes expanding its intelligence networks, enhancing operational infrastructure and moving into frontier markets.
2011 hacking incident
It was reported on December 24, 2011 that members of Anonymous had stolen e-mail messages and credit card data from Stratfor's website. According to the one page that remained published at Stratfor's website, its status was reported as "Site is currently undergoing maintenance[:] Please check back soon". The hackers claimed to have retrieved the company's client list and used stolen credit card information to make donations to various charities exceeding one million dollars.
The hackers also claimed to have retrieved more than 200 gigabytes of data, and stated that Stratfor was "clueless...when it comes to database security". The credit card data was in plain text, and many of the passwords were simply the name of the company. The failure to encrypt the card data was called "an embarrassing mistake for a company specializing in security" by Zoe Fox of CNN. The list of the leaked accounts has been made available online for users to check if they are affected. Stratfor advised employees and clients not to state support for their company publicly, fearing additional attacks against those who did so. The group initially posted three sets of stolen credit card data, one containing 3,956 items and the other 13,191 items. Next, they posted a set of more than 30,000 items.
The hackers said they used the credit card data to make donations to various charities, including CARE, the Red Cross, and Save the Children.
In November 2013, computer hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for his role in the Anonymous attack. An FBI informant, Hector Xavier Monsegur (also known as "Sabu"), initially faced 124 years in prison for his role in the attack, but his sentence was reduced to time served plus one year's supervised release in May 2014.
WikiLeaks announced the initial publication of more than five million of Stratfor's e-mail messages on February 26, 2012. Anonymous claimed to have provided WikiLeaks with the data. George Friedman stated that third parties may have forged or altered the e-mail messages, but that Stratfor would not validate either alterations or authenticity. Stratfor condemned the release as "deplorable". Journalist Amy Goodman, writing in The Guardian, referred to the first published leaks of Stratfor material as peering into an "intelligence-industrial complex".