WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?
Julian Assange could be in legal hot water over the release of e-mails belonging to a private company, an expert says.
February 27th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?

Though it's nothing new for WikiLeaks to publish information belonging to a private company, Monday's release of Stratfor e-mails might be an indication that for the first time, Anonymous and WikiLeaks have worked together. And that could have legal consequences for WikiLeaks' editor Julian Assange, experts say.

In December, Anonymous claimed it had hacked Stratfor, the Austin, Texas-based private company that produces intelligence reports for clients. On Monday, WikiLeaks began releasing 5 million e-mails it said belonged to Stratfor that reveal, WikiLeaks says, a litany of injustices by the company. WikiLeaks is calling the leak The Global Intelligence Files.

WikiLeaks has not said where it got the e-mails. Anonymous, an amorphous group of hackers worldwide,  is claiming on Twitter and on other social media that they gave it to the site. Numerous media outlets such as the Washington Post and Wired are reporting the partnership.

"Their [WikiLeaks and Anonymous] working together made sense. Anonymous did the hack, had the stuff and in the end decided that someone else would be better-suited to comb through this and release it," said Gregg Housh, who acts as a spokesperson for Anonymous. "Anonymous just didn't have the ability to go through all the e-mails themselves. This was a happy partnership. WikiLeaks did such an awesome job categorizing the [State Department] cables."

WikiLeaks became megawatt famous in 2010 with the Iraq and Afghanistan war leaks, and then followed up by leaking nearly a quarter million State Department cables. Meanwhile, Anonymous was making its first international headlines by disabling the Web sites of MasterCard, PayPal and Visa when the corporations stopped doing business with WikiLeaks. With intense attention on WikiLeaks and Assange's subsequent legal woes, it seemed that Anonymous might take over if WikiLeaks couldn't survive. Assange last year said that he had nothing to do with the site disabling of the companies.

Housh is a web developer in Boston and says that he observes Anonymous' IRC chat portal and communicates with anons but he doesn't participate in any hacks. Through Housh, CNN has requested phone interviews with anons, people who associate themselves with Anonymous. On Monday those requests were rebuffed –  although across the Web, anons claimed credit for the Stratfor hack. The hackers behind the Stratfor hack may be part of an Anonymous sect called "Anti-Sec," which Wired reports is known for hacking into servers.

Stratfor confirmed Monday that company e-mails had been stolen, but said in a statement that some of the messages may have been altered.

Because the Global Intelligence Files are allegedly stolen from a private company, WikiLeaks could likely be held liable for that theft, said Hemu Nigam who has worked for two decades in computer security.

"There's a huge difference between publishing information and publishing information you know to be stolen," said Nigam, who has collaborated with the U.S. Secret Service, Interpol and the FBI to implement a hacker identification program for Microsoft. He now runs SSP Blue, an advisory firm that tells major corporations how to protect against hackers and insiders looking to leak. "There are a host of criminal statues that I have no doubt Stratfor's attorneys are going over thinking about how best to sue WikiLeaks. Information that is privately owned is not the same as information that is public, that essentially belongs to the public."

Hemu says that it appears to him that the 5 million e-mails were taken by a hacker who penetrated an unprotected server and copied the entire server. "Any company that's keeping valuable or confidential information has to take a multilayered approach to Internet security," Nigam said. "There are so many ways to access a system, and a company has to stay several steps ahead of all of them."

The Stratfor leak isn't the first time that WikiLeaks has published information from a private company, said Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and online privacy. In 2008, Swiss bank Julius Baer filed suit in federal district court in California against WikiLeaks for hosting 14 allegedly leaked documents regarding personal banking transactions of bank customers. According to Jeschke, Baer ultimately moved to dismiss the case.

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Filed under: Anonymous • Julian Assange • WikiLeaks
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. unretired05

    I wish Anonymous would go after the telemarketers who call with their recording of lower interest rates. The Do Not Call List means nothing to them.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      That is a great idea. We shut off our phone line because we kept getting calls from them.

      March 1, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. anon

    Protip: anonymous are not hackers, despite shady excuses for journalists continually saying that they are.
    Visit the site 4chan and see for yourself.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • sage

      disgusting, i rmember when people like you had no idea what it was about, why dont you just wear a shirt around town with /b/ on the back....

      March 1, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Bret B.

      absolutely cororect. Honestly Anon and Wikileaks are just pointing out the laws that are being violated by members of congress. Interestingly enough though, not a single one is being prosocuted for their crimes. Holder is a good example. I hope that the house of congress craps all over him and his attempts at getting an executive order. He needs to be held in contempt. There is a lack of transparency in the branches of the US government and if this is the only way to have any form of real oversight of their actions, then so be it.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. anon

    Rules 1 & 2!

    February 29, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ben

    Partnership? If Assange wants to openly admit his Wikileaks is an evil organization a la Chaos or Specter. By the way, nice comb-over Julian.

    February 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lol

    why sue him it's their fault for not having secure servers?

    February 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      That's the most asininely, stupid, ignorant thinking I've ever heard! You broke into my house, so if it's my fault!! Never mind they broke the law! You must be one of those freakin Socialist liberal m0r0ns.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Ad hominem at its finest.

      February 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    OK but the real story please ....... what do Strafer do? And what did Wikileaks and Anonymous discover? I'd like to know please. Guess Ill google it seeing as you dont give any indication of it and, knowing Wikileaks and Anonymous, it's probably really good info about how the freedom and rights of Americans and citizens of other countries are being being abused. That's why they do it after all. So let's look at Strafer. I will post the URL's of any more info I find out.......

    February 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. enkephalin07

    It's not a partnership if they aren't coordinating.

    February 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tom5310

    Good for Anon and Wiki. What's missing is why our Govn't hired Strat in the first place. Maybe to do something our Govn't considers illegal? Think of the irony. Our govn't gets info illegally from a second party hired to get the illegal info and Wiki might be in trouble for using info that was obtained (maybe) illegally. I'm confused.

    February 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Balanced99

      You're definitely confused – all I had to read to determine that was "good for Anan and Wiki".

      Please don't vote or breed.

      March 1, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. DallasMarine

    Our govt also violates the laws, just like WikiLeaks. It's called using spies. Surprise!

    March 1, 2012 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bacon

    It's their fault for having an unprotected server.

    March 1, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Balanced99

      Another moronic comment. Please let me know when you forget to lock your domicile or auto.

      March 1, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Balanced99

    I find it remarkable that people on this site are blaming the victim. The security oversight was unquestionably irresponsible and people at the company should be fired for it.

    To the morons who say it's completely the company's fault – please feel free to leave your domicile and autos unlocked – just don't be Hippocrates and call the police after your property is stolen and all your personal information has been posted on the internet.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
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