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. svann

    Unless its a trade secret I dont see what law would cover unauthorized c o p y i n g of files. Its not t h e f t.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Yer right. Todays releases are probably gossip similar to State's leaked emails!

      February 27, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • b

      Well, isn't it illegal to hack into a computer. Steal information, the oublish them? Even if using a third party?

      February 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • sean

      gaining unauthorized access to another person's or campany's computer is the first crime committed here. the crimes start to add up depending on hat you do once you are in. and, yes, it is illegal to copy data that is not shared with the public if you do not have proper permissions to do so.

      February 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      It doesn't matter anyway. These guys are dreaming. The whole point of WikiLeaks is that the sources remain anonymous. Unless there is a compelling reason to believe that the e-mails were obtained through a hacking attempt rather than by a whistleblower, then nothing will happen. I seriously doubt that there is even an e-mail in the Wikileaks e-mail account that says "we stole these, have fun".

      February 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moronmor Gadfly

      oops, I meant Svann. Doug just had disturbing pictures of his sister. 🙂

      February 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Sean though it is illegal to hack someone's computer, the legal definition of receiving stolen "property" doesnt cover copied data. The member of anonymous could be charged, but I dont see what law would allow charges against wikileaks. Charging someone with breaking a law requires strict adherence to that particular written law.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandyman

      Svann, seriously do you really think laws like ndaa were set up for any other reason? I think you have to be moronic or live in a box to still think is all a conspiracy ( not that you were stating this – unfortunately others have though ). That being said, they will apply whatever laws however they see fit to make their point. I believe we are all pretty guilty of pushing things too far in life at some point. It is not surprising that many are destroying this country under the false pretense of trying to save it. My point being they will shutdown and punish assange if he becomes more of a pain. Right now he has been little impact. That is beginning to change though. In order to assassinate him though they have to gain public support. I say only a matter of time before e terrorist connection is made to justify.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Today is

    Looks like Robert and Mahhn are on to something. Surprised to "see" "awake" faces on this site ! Oh yea you may want to check out the other "boogie men" similarly portrayed by the media. I'll give you a hint : also starts with A and has been brought to the attention of americans since the second week in sept. 01.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikemo

      Apples! Those damned apples are giving American citizens the runs!

      February 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. citizen

    Does it feel like these are the folks who will save us from the matrix?

    February 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcaudilllg

      Indeed! People who are not only living IN the Matrix - but actual Agents of it - are all around us. You see them cheering this article. It could possibly be that we need to take arms against them to defend America, but let's let them get in more hot water first. At the end of the day, most people - in America and around the world - support Assange. If ever America does try to lay hands on him, it will be the beginning of the most tumultuous violence since the 1960s - with similarly favorable results for our cause. 😉

      February 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Angela

    wikileaks isn't telling us what we don't know. we are controlled and nothing can happen to them. if Julian Assange WAS A THREAT TO OUR GOVERNMENT HE WOULD HAVE BEEN DEAD BY NOW.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • DDM

      Really? Look how long it took to get Osama.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Relax. We got this.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mark

    What a load. There is no difference between this "leak" and any other that wikileaks has been involved with. In fact this is even less likely to have been a crime commited by Assange since both parties involved are computer literate and understand the need to go through the proper channels making the transmission completely anonymous.
    I didn't read a single piece of evidence that Assange had teamed up with Anonymous but somehow that's the main theme of the article. How does that happen?

    February 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    "....Anonymous was making its first international headlines by disabling the Web sites of MasterCard, PayPal and Visa..." Anonymous first brought down the Scientology website following censorship of the Tom Cruise interview. That was the first international headlines...Funny because I recall CNN writing about it.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • QAnon

      And Anon used Wikileaks to publish Scientology's internal "religious" documents, so this isn't the first time that Anon and Wikileaks have "worked together". Fact checking, CNN, fact checking...

      February 28, 2012 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    Could they *find* a creepier picture of Assange?
    Silence Of The Lambs, anyone?

    February 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. reader10

    Is hacking not the same as stealing mail from your mail box.These people should be hanged.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      lol wut? Hanged for stealing mail?

      February 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cnnsucks

    So I just read through all the comments on this article. CNN, you try and spin it like Wiki and Anonymous are teaming up to do "bad things." When it is companies like Stratfor that are the real bandits. I am proud of my fellow Americans. 80% of the commentators saw straight through your spin routine and propaganda CNN. The game is up, people are aware and are getting their information from much more trust worthy online sources or actually read the leaks themselves. Duh! In my lifetime We will see things change, but I'm afraid it may be costly. Be vigilant and careful everyone!

    February 27, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chinatown

    WikiLeaks, Occupy and Anonymous are the only ones on the front line combatting the Megamaniacal Military-Corporate Complex, about to become Police State, that America is morphing into that preys and monitors it's citizens.....good job guys. But they should also target China, too....

    February 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Today is

    "If you kill one person your a murderer if you kill 1000 your a king"

    February 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JJ

    If Anonymous wants to impress me, they should hack Karl Rove's American Crossroads and publish their entire donor list.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      You aren't impressed by the couple thousand communications between him and stratfor?

      Fickle, ain'tcha?

      February 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FayeMuss

    Wikileaks, Chewstroke, Anonymous.....ugh.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Up the Rebels

    If we all really knew the "inside" story we couldn't or wouldn't believe it. The Game is complex with multiple and changing participants; the rules are flexible and have a range of enforcement opportunities. The goals at the start may not be the goals at the end of this Game. Today it may seem to those involved that the Challenge is the goal, where the trail may be more important than the destination. Jakkers what a grand Game it is,..... 😉

    February 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mark

    People should notice that this article contains nothing but spin designed to make it appear as if Assange has finally crossed the line into illegal acts. There is nothing different about this leak then any other and everything written in the article is nothing more then personal opinion.
    Someone stole emails and donated them to wikileaks. Same issue as before. Nothing new here at all!!
    The bottom line is that they were "anonymously" sent to Wikileaks. In fact these people are actually CALLED Anonymous and nobody knows who they are making this case even less questionable for Assange!
    Don't believe the hype!

    February 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
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