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. Mike In SA

    Anonymous is nothing but the Brown Shirt thugs of the internet.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hal

    Whether you agree with WikiLeaks and Anonymous or not, you have to admit that a merger of the two will create an organization that both distributes ill-gotten information and punishes those who disagree with it (as it punished PayPal). This verges on racketeering, and if you're afraid of Google's privacy policy, you should be doubly afraid of this.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    The truth will come out, whether our corrupt government wants it to or not. Good to see there are some people out there willing to stand up for what is right and take on our government.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Scottish Mama

    I want them to hack Koch bros. Murdock, Carlyle Group and audit the treasury department. hee hee

    February 28, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Lol, Mama...word!

      February 28, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Morning friend.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • P.Y.

      You forgot to put Soros on the list.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Morning, darlin'.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @P.Y. and Soros, lol.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous has many different sides, most of "us" do not affiliate with the "hackers." Everytime a hacker does something it is blamed on Anonymous.

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

      I find you, I'll kill you. I hate people that pry into others privacy. Wonder how many people have committed suicide because their privacy was released to the public? Recent news is the individual that had his gay actions released to anyone and everyone that wanted to see. His privacy was invaded. Which is all that you slime balls do, release to the public anything private about anyone you don’t like.

      You’re as bad as the bigots of the world. You deserve to die a slow and painful death

      February 28, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Dan, that's implying that the companies that these hackers are stealing from are people....

      February 28, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Dave, they released emails. Lets see, individuals send emails. Individuals = people

      Or what, are you biggoted against people that work for large cooperation’s?

      February 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      Dan, I don't think you know what any of those words mean.

      February 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin Williams

    Both groups are nothing but anarchists bent on the downfall of society, nothing less...

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

      Or partiots to the human race?

      February 28, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. coder

    stolen facts are still facts

    is it more illegal to hide the truth or to expose it

    February 28, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. FauxNewz

    Funny that he released Military and State information, but now, "he's in legal hot water" for company emails....what a joke. And quit trying to link WikiLeaks with Anonymous, they are fortunately separate organizations.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Scottish Mama

    @Joe you would think our government would let it go knowing other information may come forward that they would like to hide.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    Satan or Saint? Jesus cleared a temple or two, maybe cleaning out corrupt governments are in order?

    February 28, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. lolol


    February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • anon

      Nah, it's the alien grays. Or the reptillians.

      But seriously, so much for journalistic integrety

      February 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Crow

    "They constantly violate the rights of privacy in gathering information".

    The rights of privacy you mention are rights of individual persons, They were never intended to be interpreted as a "right" of the military industrial complex. Neither was the right of person-hood which was given to industry under King George II.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. Voltairine

    Keep up the good work Anonymous and WikiLeaks.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • anon

      You all aren't seriously this stupid, are you?

      Research what exactly anonymous is before you start ranting inanely.
      They are not a group of hackers.
      Visit the website and see for yourselves; whoever wrote this article is critically misinformed. Also, spokesperson for anonymous? What utter tripe. There is no such person.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Scottish Mama

    The governments and corporations violate us everyday by bombardment of ads of their select views and intrusion of private and personal information selected to entice your tastes.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. saywhat

    @ Scottish Mama

    Rightly said. What & where is privacy now? When the govt. starts snooping on citizenry, isolate them from the truth, use propaganda and half truths to further an agenda, Anonymous & Wikileaks would appear to be doing the good work.

    February 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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