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. Michael

    Nice – hope more truth gets revealed to the public. Enough of this behind the scenes crap for all of these corporations feeling like they can get away with everything. Not sure how all the comments on gas prices pertain to this story but just to set the record straight, the President can't control gas prices. The oil market global meaning global demand drives prices. Oil production in the US is higher than it's ever been and our nation is actually in an export position for the first time in our history. Speculators and big investment banks are messing this process up as well. Legislation that was passed to get banks out of the process is not being enforced. Read up on Dodd-Frank. Bush, Obama and whoever our next President will be can't control gas prices period.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mann

      I have not seen anyone here describe what it is that STRATCOR does that is wrong, just accusations that what they do is criminal. STRATCOR is a subscription service, available to anyone, that analyzes open source data with an intelligence perspective. This isn't much different than what a newspaper does.

      As for what Wikileaks has done? How about receiving stolen property –
      knowingly receiving stolen property.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      Policies and control are two diff things. Whose policies are directly making the price Of gas go up? Do you have Any idea what a strangle hold this admin had put on the oil industry? It all flows down hill

      February 28, 2012 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Tell that to the Federal Government that listens to all our phone calls, tracks all our movements and reads our email all in the name of "security". Tell that to the corporations that illegally sell my personal data to the highest bidder. Turn about is fair play.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      U.S. production of oil has increased dramatically under the current administration. The price is going up because of anticipated war in Iran. If Israel drops the gloves first and takes an aggressive approach, we'll see $7.00 per gallon gas this Summer. This has nothing to do with Obama or by that matter, as much as I hate to say it, Bush. Neither have control over the price of gas.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Takara

      Mann, they didn't have any property to steal. That only goes for tangible property. Nice try.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Hal

      Carter, Nixon, and Ford tried to fix oil prices. Thank goodness rationing is gone.

      But on a serious note, why are so many people up on arms about Google's privacy policy when you think it's okay for Anonymous and WikiLeaks to hack e-mails you write at work and publish them? Looks like most people have a double-standard.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The only people who want the gas price to go up are Republican's & oil companies. Republican's benefit because it makes them more likely to win the White House, and oil companies make more money. Republican's are rooting for high gas prices, which is one of the reasons my vote is for Obama.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Reed

      So, Takara, if someone hacks into your computer, steals the info stored there, and sells/gives it to someone else, it's okay because information isn't tangible? Really?

      February 28, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      Last I heard, WikiLeaks does not make a profit from publishing 'whistle blowers' docs. If that is true, there is no theft and no legal case whatsoever.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      really? the president can't control gas prices? your right the president can't DIRECTLY control them but the actions of said president can determine gas/oil prices as well... Look at the mess with Iran as an example

      February 28, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Anyone who approves of letting secrets out in the open needs to stop and think for two seconds what they are really saying. Do you like telemarketers calling you at 9pm? What about bill collectors? So you want to keep you phone # private but isn't that a form of secrecy as well?

      A good example in the US would be when we kept the secret from the British, as a young set of colonies, before we went to war to gain our independence.

      I'm not saying whats right or wrong I'm saying think before you speak because if some secrets aren't kept this country where morons spout rhetoric wouldn't exist so they could.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      @Mac <~ LOL where did you pull that logic from? You don't need to make a profit for it to be considered theft... somebody should google "theft" and/or go back to highschool

      February 28, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I think wikileaks is informative to have whistleblowers about governments or we would not know what they are up to or capable of. As far as the legal theft of my information and selling of my personal information the only difference is the lobbyist whom decided they could make money from our names made it legal by passing a law. It is only by people doing the right thing in history that exposes the injustices of governments that makes us understand what our true history is. Because only the victors write history, right? So whistleblowers are the common mans friend?

      February 28, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Satt

    The time of Mr Assange celebrating himself and wikileaks will hopefully becoming to end soon. Assange is not a rainmaker or game changer or whatever the hell people call it these days. He's a little punk who's paranoia has gotten the better of him. He's convinced everyone is out to get him. I wonder if he sleeps with a tin foil helmet over his head so the government cant read his thoughts. I find it funny that Bradley Manning could be facing 25 to life and Julie has been sitting pretty in the English country side , house arrest looks pretty good to me. Manning sits a cell Assange is free to have unprotected sex has much has he likes.

    However I would be amused if they do get sued though the question is who do they sue. Also it would be nice if these freedom fighters would print some news about Iran, China and Russia or are they too scared.

    February 28, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      just cuz your paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you..

      February 28, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      @leeintulsa <~ time to take your meds

      February 28, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • KeithTexas

      They do release information about others when they can get it. There are just not many countries creating as many secrets as America. If they would do their jobs and start telling us the truth we wouldn't need Wiki-Leaks and Anonymous. Until then I am glad they are there protecting our freedom.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      They've DISCLOSED RUSSIAN. Where were you? in a cave?

      February 28, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @lee so true, they seem to have him don't they. They are a threat to someone evidently.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Sandyman

    Funny.. Does anyone actually believe this propaganda?

    February 28, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      what propaganda? a team of hackers stealing information from unprotected servers and sending it to wikileaks to get published? yeah... sounds so fake to me.. LOL... you sound like one of those "know it all" conspiracy theorist. go back to fairytale land now simpleton

      February 28, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. ♔Mmmmm♕


    February 28, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. nkolvek

    Not to condone what their doing but it makes more sense that either one or the other will still do it. Speaking from understanding on both sides of the fence I could say it's probably because Anon believes in what wikileaks does. Probably believes that if one goes down the other should continue. If you don't wan't to get caught, don't do the wrong. I'm not sure what part of that concept really makes it hard for people to understand but yet here we are. So fingers get pointed in all directions, the government blames hackers, hacktivists blame corporations and governments and the people end up suffering the results no matter the side that caused it.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Stefan

    How funny that Stratffor says some of the messages "may have been tampered". Tell us which one was tampered. This is a paper thin defense to justify anything negative found in those messages by claiming well.... maybe it wasn't us!

    The more information that goes to the public, the better. This has held true throughout history. The creation of the printing press revolutionized the world in that it brought literature to the masses, not filtered through the Church. The internet should, and will, have a similar effect on knowledge – it's just that the old guard isn't giving up easily.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Smokingman

      "The more information that goes to the public, the better. This has held true throughout history."
      It is also true through out history that if you control information, you control people.....
      Why are Anonymous and Wikileaks hiding behind veils of secrecy? Why do they decide what information is made public and which information is not?
      These organizations have an agenda and it's not for the good of anyone but themselves.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Snazzy appears you assume much. If I were a betting man, I would wager that you possess nothing other than a opinion regarding the agenda of Wiki or Anonymous. Considering that there are those that would love nothing more than to lock these people up, I would say their "secrecy" stands to reason.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek James

      If that's true then you should send us your credit card information, social security number, address and telephone number, oh and your date of birth while we're at it. Because the more we know, the more free and just society is, right? Or do you admit that information needs to be filtered to protect all of us?

      February 28, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Darius

      How about the one that states Mr. Friedman resigned over the hacking incident? This patently false.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. iamdeadlyserious

    I'm always a little bewildered when I hear people attacking Assange for treason. Nothing he's revealed has put American lives in danger. It's just embarrassed our government. And it occurs to me that if the government didn't want to be embarrassed by these things, they shouldn't have done them in the first place.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @iamdeadlyserious: you'd have to be an american citizen to commit treason against the us.. they're reaching..

      February 28, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Smokingman

      When did Saint Julian get proclaimed the judge of what the world should know?
      This self-proclaimed arbitrator of information is dangerous, who is he responsible to?

      February 28, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • KeithTexas

      You are right

      February 28, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. dan

    stratfor- a source of high quality news and analysis. I respect them the same way I respect NPR. so what? is NPR next? they are an organization too. Oh and how about universities? high schools may be next. god knows what kind of secrets they may be hiding.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      PBS has already been attacked by Anonymous. Nothing is sacred to these folks.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Speaking of "nothing is sacred", maybe they should do the catholic church. See how many perverts they are hiding still.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Excellent point, svann!

      February 28, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. jeremiah

    anonymous has an official spokesperson named gregg hosch?

    February 28, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. SixDegrees

    Heh. If I worked for a 3-letter agency, I'd be loving WL's antics. It means I could put whatever information I wanted out on a poorly-secured server somewhere, wait for it to be stolen and published, then sit back and let everyone think the info was legitimate because it had been vetted by a bunch of script kiddies. I might even salt it with some tidbits like mild diplomatic insults, just to add to its validity. But the opportunity for misinformation management is astounding, unlike anything that has existed prior.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • KeithTexas

      Don't you think a lot of that is already going on. Manning is a set up patsy, he didn’t' reveal anything that they didn't want revealed. No one is stupid enough to give a Army private access to top security files.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Pete

    Want to see dancing in the streets? Let some hacker group totally erase irrevocably ALL the computer records of all mortgage companies and instruct the hard copy holders to shred and pulverize all paper records.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • KeithTexas

      Wouldn't that be a fun thing.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. KeithTexas

    There are just not many countries creating as many secrets as America. If they would do their jobs and start telling us the truth we wouldn't need Wiki-Leaks and Anonymous. Until then I am glad they are there protecting our freedom.

    There are shadow organizations doing what our Government can't do legally, the law does not mean anything to some of the most powerful in the world.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. George

    Why doesn't Wiki leaks hack Russia, Iran, China, N.Korea, Venezulea, Syria and Pakistan? Or am I mistaken and they are the good guys.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. S1N

    It would be really nice if someone were to systematically track down and kill every person in the Anonymous IRC. Send them a message. Kill them all (hypothetically, of course).

    February 28, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. CC

    Anonymous is nothing more than a terrorist group that should be treated as such!! Cyber terrorist should be sitting in Guantanamo Bay with the rest of the terrorist!!
    As for WikiLeaks Assange should be put to death for treason and costing American lives!!!!
    Both are pathetic groups and will be eliminated!!!!!!!

    February 28, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Khaleb7

      Whereas the banks and other corporate thugs that help themselves to all the taxpayer funds they need whenever they need are true heroes to be respected?
      Anonymous may not be a saintly 'organization' but they are needed, as is wikileaks to counter these increasingly unchecked abuses of power.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • lolol

      your loving government would like to thank you for such a beautiful answer. you shall be rewarded......

      February 28, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Maybe we shouldn't have gone to war in the first place (at least not with Iraq)? It wasn't Wikileaks which caused the deaths of the soldiers. It was their blatant following of orders they KNEW were against the various articles of war that the US has agreed to abide by. And no, "I was just following orders" is NOT a valid excuse.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
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