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. coderjones

    i think the point about Stratfor is pretty clear
    their business is a criminal conduct that should fall under the rico act as a criminal enterprise

    February 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      Take notice how the CNN blog crew will not do a story about high gas prices. Back when bush was prez that's all you heard. But nooo. Let's make every excuse in the world for a failing democratic president who insists on doing everything in his power to block oil production at home. CNN prove me wrong...

      February 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj - You're A Sad Sack

      Get over it, Jj. Admit, for once and for all, that Bush was a failure, a homicidal maniac and should be brought to justice through a war crimes tribunal. Hurricane W was the worst natural disaster to ever hit the United States.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ARLindsay

      Jj Thanks for pointing out how high gas prices rose under Bush. He should get credit for the plan that finally brought down the price of gas. A recession of unprecedented proportions does that. Economic recovery always leads to higher gas prices as more folks have the money to travel. We could elect Newt. He can lower gas prices. Just like Bush.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les


      The president is not failing. It is the party of NO that controls the House that is "failing" to send him legislation he can ethically and morally sign. So long as the Repugnantcans control the legislature there will be only destruction of the environment and the ens-lave-ment of the working class at substandard wages and no benefits. Get a clue!

      February 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • AK3ith

      So when the the GOP controls the house and becomes the "Party of No" its not Obama's fault, but when the Dems controlled the house and the senate, it was all W's fault? Convenient that the logic only goes one way. "Checks and Balances" exist to protect the country, but both side have shown us how little they can accomplish. It's time stop making us versus them arguments and start finding a middle ground before we end up like Greece. "A divided house cannot stand"

      February 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les


      Thanks for the reality check. You're absolutely correct. A middle ground is our only salvation. I didn't mean to make light of that fact. All good Americans of whatever persuasion need to out aside their differences and come together to elect a government that is sensitive to the need of all its citizens.

      February 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sharoom

    I don't understand why this article is trying to partner Wikileaks and Anonymous as some sort of consensual team. Here's my spin: Anonymous hacks and finds the Stratfor e-mails. Not wanting to compromise their own anonymity they dump it on Wikileaks in hopes they'll host it on their servers. Wikileaks obliges since they'll post anything marked confidential.

    If someone wants to mark this as a "team job" then it's really a 3-part team: Anonymous hacks it, Wikileaks distributes it, the public combs through it.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • isitrigged

      It doesn't matter if the two groups cooperated together on hacking the servers or not. WikiLeaks joint forces with Anonymous when publishing the e-mails in which they knew to be stolen private property because Anonymous are a bunch of loudmouths searching for fame and announced their involvement. This implicates WikiLeaks and makes them an accomplice.

      February 27, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "On The Lunatic Fringe"

    Isn't Assange still vonted in Sveeden?

    February 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les

      I 'd like to know where Cheney and King George I and II are hiding. They still have a lot of explaining to do to the American people.

      As for the Frenchman and Anonymous, I wish them a lot of luck in their ongoing battle to reveal to us who the real criminals are in the world. The 1% is filled with foul creeps and cruel men. We need more of their dirty laundry aired.

      February 27, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ardath

    "a host of criminal statues???" REALLY? Does CNN have even ONE proofreader left on staff, or is that what you use us for now?

    February 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • moribundman

      I want to see those criminal statues. Maybe I'll buy one and keep in my backyard to annoy my neighbor.

      CNN dus knot knead proofreeder's. iReaporters doent buther with proppar spelinng. Weir on hour oh'n!

      February 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. valkyries

    A bit ironic. The anarchists who complain about the government snooping into peoples privates lives spend their lives hacking into other peoples computers and then making that information public despite potential adverse consequences. They have no legal right to do these things, yet they feel they are better/smarter than everyone else, so whatever they decide is justified. Sounds just like the big government that they claim to hate. Making the internet unsafe isn't helping the world. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel and Facebook create products and employee people. Taxes are paid. Roads, schools and hospitals get built. Harness your creativity towards something postive instead of whining about how messed up things are and then proceeding to make them more messed up.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • stoopkid

      they expose big business, and the wrong that they do to this government you love. the internet isn't unsafe because of them, but rather the companies you list make it very viable for hackers and other groups to collect your information. they're proving a point by acting instead of writing about it. i wouldn't look at their hacks as whining...its activism in it's purest sense.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      You're making the "intolerant of intolerance" argument. It's like when minorities are accused of being guilty of intolerance because they won't tolerate the racially intolerant. Snooping around and uncovering the deeps of those who snoop around, does not make you guilty of the same thing.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Don't you just love it?

      February 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Accountability. Someone must watch the watchers.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. / Through a Scanner, Darkly /

    @ valkyries , So true !!

    February 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Superman

    I would like the federal government exposed for there wrongs and wasting OUR HARD EARNED MONEY, and if found to be true, than smoke everyone of the current guilty parties, and make dam sure it does not happen again ,how? With stiff sentences.

    February 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EdNV

    Since Stratfor is a Federal c-o-n-t-r-a-c-t-o-r the data that they have belongs to the taxpayers who paid them their wages, no?

    February 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Terry

    Through a glass darkly, we see a world that is far different from the world the spin doctors describe. As light shines on those dark places that sound more like the back rooms in fictional spy novels than the real world, some people are shocked, while others just smile. Tom Clancy must be loving this latest revelation.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. oneSTARman

    IT is a Sad Sick World which ONLY Punishes those who EXPOSE Wrong-Doing and Corruption and NOT the Wrong-Doers

    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. / Through A Jazzymare, Darkly /

    What Terry said!!!

    February 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bryan P

    Why to people keep bringing up George W. Bush?

    February 27, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crow

      Because the bills he passed were made to take effect under the current administration's watch. Also the draconian (un)patriot act, the DHS was created by him, he lied through his teeth about Iraq having WMDs to get us in a war, he caused strained relationships between our southern neighbors, etc.

      Most of all he was a conservative Repugnantcan who gave industry more rights than the common man. A decision that has allowed the natural gas industry to pollute with impunity. There are many more reasons why but these come to mind immediately.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. be Wildered

    a blessed union.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ARMYofONE

    The World will end in December supposedly. Who cares about Wikileaks and what they publish. Nothing will come of it, so why bother.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ghandigee

    Stratfor is an excellent source for global intelligence and reporting which is available to the public as well as corporations and governments through subscription. I recommend subscribing to Stratfor if one wants a sane and rational perspective on global events. Stratfor reports are done openly and present unique perspectives on events which you would not find in the media. Wikileaks is a dangerous joke. They constantly violate the rights of privacy in gathering information while accusing governments of the same behavior. Personally, most of what Wikileaks publishes is pure crap. Everything they publish is of low quality and any revelations are common knowledge for anyone who can think. Wikileaks is
    doing the bidding of an egomaniacal Julian Assange who is living out his own "Bond" fantasy and is not worthy of press coverage.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
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