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What The World Has Been Waiting For: Greater Transparency

by on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

WikiLeaksWikiLeaks has provided the people of the world with something they have sought since the existence of omnipotent empires: greater transparency.  The group has succeeded in creating a replicable model that utilizes encryption technologies and the world wide web to expose the inner-workings of the world’s most powerful governments and their corporate bedfellows.

In pulling the curtain aside on these highly-secretive, entrenched, and formidable power elites, WikiLeaks has revealed a world of lies, corruption, illegalities, cronyism, and a deliberate subversion of our judicial systems.  No less important, has been the revelation that our mainstream press acts more as a guardian for these entrenched power entities, than as an independent check on their power.

In retaliation to WikiLeaks’ publishing of these documents, the power entities have unleashed a whirlwind of slander, propaganda, frivolous arrest warrants, calls for assassination, unlawful reprisals, and corporate sabotage — all against this fledgling whistleblower group.

The world watches intently as this David and Goliath battle plays out before our very eyes, leaving us to wonder whether the end result will be a world with greater transparency, or one with greater authoritarianism.  For one thing is all but certain: transparency and authoritarianism cannot coexist.

The good news is that, despite its egregious efforts to smother WikiLeaks, the establishment has now discovered ‘copycat’ groups popping up around the world — all determined to carry WikiLeaks’ torch.

OpenLeaksDaniel Domscheit-Berg — WikiLeaks’ former second-in-command, behind Julian Assange — recently left the group to form OpenLeaks.  Believing WikiLeaks made some crucial strategic errors, the new group plans to promote transparency in a much different way.  For one, they plan on decentralizing the group’s power structure away from a single figurehead.  They believe this will help them to avoid some of the pitfalls WikiLeaks has endured in recent months.

For example, by making Julian Assange the face of WikiLeaks, the group has found itself in a rather vicarious predicament.  Seemingly frivolous charges of rape have been leveled against Assange, and used in a massive vilification effort against him.  This has helped — at least in part — to divert public attention away from the leaked documents themselves, and onto its accused leader.  WikiLeaks’ viability appears to be inextricably linked to the allegations against Julian Assange.

Another difference between OpenLeaks and WikiLeaks, is the former’s decision not to “publish or verify material; leaving that role to newspapers, ‘NGOs, labour unions and other interested entities’.”  Domscheit-Berg explains the logic behind this strategy:

… the decision to be a “conduit” rather than publisher was made because of the team’s experience at Wikileaks.

“That was another constraint we saw – if your website becomes too popular then you need a lot of resources to process submissions,” he said.

Basically, he intends to provide the technology — “supplying Anonymous online drop-boxes” — to organization and entities around the world (including newspapers), so that they themselves can independently “accept Anonymous submissions in the forms of documents or other information”.

Whistleblowers would anonymously submit their documents directly to the publishers and interested parties of their choice, while removing OpenLeaks entirely from the equation.

Other new whistleblower groups have also emerged from around the world — all intent on ensuring that the transparency movement remains alive and well:

  • BrusselLeaks, formed by former European Union officials and journalists, intends to focus on “obtaining and publishing leaked internal information about the backroom dealings and secrets of the E.U.”.
  • BalkanLeaks, set up by Bulgarian expatriate Atanas Chobanov — now based in Paris — states the group’s goal is the “[promotion of] transparency and [the fighting of] the nexus of organized crime and political corruption in the Balkan states”
  • IndoLeaks, an Indonesian-based WikiLeaks copycat, has “reportedly generated 50,000 downloads of the documents it published, from investigations into the murder of activist Munir Said Thalib to the disastrous Sidoarjo mudflow and a transcribed conversation between former presidents Suharto and Richard Nixon.”  It appears their site has been brought down due to technical problems or DDoS attacks.

So what’s to become of this new populist movement — hellbent on opening up governments and corporations?

It appears that the entrenched power interests have two options before them:

  1. They resign themselves to the fact they are living in a new interconnected world where transparency will continue to thrive.  With this choice, they will be forced to voluntarily curtail their egregious abuses of power, if only for the risk of exposure.
  2. They try and infringe on our 1st Amendment rights by tightening control over the internet and the free flow of information.  In addition, they aggressively target whistleblower groups, publishers, and journalists — and hold them accountable for publishing information provided to them by their whistleblower sources.  This would be tantamount to subjecting the U.S. to a degree of authoritarianism that many of us have never before experienced.

Those journalists who have reflexively jumped the government’s propaganda bandwagon in vilifying WikiLeaks should consider that their very efforts are in fact strengthening the government’s resolve in making a case for option two.

Watch: First Interview With Mastermind Of ‘Anonymous’ Hacker Group

by on Friday, December 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

RT just released an exclusive interview with the mastermind of the ‘Anonymous’ hacker group.  The group has for some time been conducting something of a cyber war using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against anti-piracy groups — including Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  They refer to their organized efforts as Operation:Payback, since the anti-piracy groups are themselves using software security companies to launch DDoS attacks against file-sharing sites.

‘Anonymous’ has most recently been in the spotlight for targeting corporations that have been complicit in trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to sabotage the unaffiliated whistleblower group, WikiLeaks.

Anonymous’s mastermind reveals how the group operates and how they coordinate their activities.  He states that the group uses volunteers, comprised of thousands of anonymous people from all over the world.  These volunteers are the ones who actually participate in the DDoS attacks:

The chances of getting caught in this are basically zero, I mean there are thousands and thousands of computers attacking at once, and there’s no way to distinguish them, and they’re voluntary attacks.  The administration isn’t directly attacking.  We simply coordinate them and direct the attacks.

Like I said the computers actually doing the attacking — the DDoSing — are volunteers who actually offer up their bandwidth to our cause.  This could be anyone, this could be people listening now, this could be you, it could be anyone.  We simply offer the means of doing it.  Everyone involved is aware of the risks.

Twitter and Facebook recently took down the accounts for ‘Anonymous’.  The RT interviewer asks the ‘Anonymous’ mastermind if that has in any way disrupted the groups’ ability to communicate with people and to garner more support:

[Laughing]  Not really.  None whatsoever, basically.  Those Facebook and Twitter accounts were made for updates and support rather than the coordination of the attacks.

We made them to update, and if they take them down we’ll put ten more up, and if they take ten down, then we’ll put one hundred more up.  I don’t think they feel like playing whack-a-mole with us.  They’re not going to stop the Facebook and Twitter accounts.

He goes on to discusses whether the term ‘Cyber War’ fairly represents the description of the group’s activities:

Figuratively, at worst.  Or it could be considered between two states.  Anonymous is not a state.  It would be expressed as more of a revolution or protest, as it is the public standing against agencies that would silence them.   But war does sound a bit better in the media, so I guess you could push war, but it’s more a protest or even a revolution.

On whether Anonymous attacked Sara Palin’s site:

We don’t really care about Sara Palin that much, to be honest.   I don’t really know what she’s trying to accomplish, or what attention she’s trying to gain, but we personally don’t really care about Sara Palin.  It might have been a member, or a group of members that have tried to do this, but not a major attack that was planned, not a major movement that was planned.  No.

WATCH the full interview:

YouTube Preview Image

Cyber Wars: ‘Anonymous’ Hacker Group Declares War On WikiLeaks’ Censorers

by on Monday, December 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

A hacker collective, identified as ‘Anonymous’, has declared war on WikiLeaks’ censorers.  The group has earned itself a reputation in the tech world for targeting the entertainment and software security industries who lobby for pro-Copyright (anti-piracy) laws.

The controversial UK Digital Economy Act, passed June 8, 2010, which liberal critics claim is “too heavily weighted in favour of the big corporations and those who are worried about too much information becoming available,” stoked the ire of the hacker group.  ZDNet reports the group’s attacks only began after an Indian security group called AiPlex Software launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assaults on file-sharing sites:

Anonymous responded with its own DDoS attacks in a campaign called ‘Operation Payback’, first targeting the websites of US rights holder groups the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), then turning to smaller companies such as AiPlex and UK law firms who act on behalf of rights holders.

With all the recent DDoS attacks and corporate complicity in bringing down WikiLeaks, the hacker collective decided to take a little break from their usual activities to lend a hand to WikiLeaks.  They redirected their angst towards those companies assisting the US government in shutting WikiLeaks down.  The group claimed in a tweet, thirty minutes ago:

I should probably clarify something. I’m not anti-government, anti-establishment, or anything of that sort. I’m just anti-…anti-Wikileaks.

WikiLeaks was dealt a crucial blow on Friday when online payment service provider PayPal terminated WikiLeaks’ account, thereby closing its principal method for receiving financial donations from supporters.  PayPal additionally froze 61K EUR held by the whistle blower group.  Meanwhile, in Switzerland, The Swiss Bank Post Finance announced today that it has frozen “Julian Assange’s defense fund and personal assets (31K EUR) after reviewing him as a ‘high profile’ individual.”

‘Anonymous’ immediately set its sites on PayPal, and in particular its PayPal blog.  Their DDoS attack on PayPal’s blog “lasted for 8 hours (not including the time where the website resolved to a 403 error) and caused the blog to experience 75 service interruptions.”  The groups insists that ‘Operation Payback’ still remains in effect, despite their recent shift in attacks in support of WikiLeaks.

The ‘Anonymous’ organizers explained their rationale for lending a helping hand to WikiLeaks:

“While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same: we want transparency (in our case in copyright) and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and not express how we feel. We can not let this happen, that is why we will find out who is attacking WikiLeaks and with that find out who tries to control our world. What we are going to do when we found them? Except for the usual DDoSing, word will be spread that whoever tries to silence or discourage WikiLeaks, favors world domination rather than freedom and democracy.”

Amazon Web Services and EveryDNS.net — both companies who dropped WikiLeaks as a customer last week — are thought to be the next prime targets for ‘Anonymous’.

Meanwhile WikiLeaks has announced their servers in Sweden are once again under DDoS attack, and that the UK has now received a new warrant for Julian Assange’s arrest, and may issue it shortly.  ZDNet UK reports:

The Press Association said that Scotland Yard had received the paperwork for Assange’s arrest under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) from Sweden. Assange is believed to be in the south-east of England.

The arrest warrant was first issued in November, but was rejected by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which processes EAWs on legal grounds. A second was sent on Friday, according to the BBC. Assange is wanted under charges of ‘sex by surprise’ with two Swedish women, a charge which only seems to exist in Sweden.

A Soca spokesman declined to say whether the agency had passed an arrest warrant to the Metropolitan Police.

“We cannot confirm or deny whether an arrest warrant has been received, or sent on to Scotland Yard,” said the spokesman.

In the event Assange is arrested, he has promised a ‘poison pill’ in retaliation:

Julian Assange has distributed to fellow hackers an encrypted ‘poison pill’ of damaging secrets, thought to include details on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

He believes the file is his ‘insurance’ in case he is killed, arrested or the whistleblowing website is removed permanently from the internet.

Mr Assange – understood to be lying low in Britain – could be arrested by Scotland Yard officers as early as tomorrow.

Stay tuned …

UPDATE:

I found the ‘Anonymous’ hacker group’s website entitled Operation:Payback for those interested in learning more about what they advocate for:

AnonOps: Fighting for freedom on the Internet!

We are an anonymous, decentralized movement which fights against censorship and copywrong. […]

Here is the group’s: Operation Avenge Assange manifesto.

UPDATE 2:

The Guardian:  Julian Assange To Be Questioned By British Police

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is expected to appear in a UK court tomorrow after his lawyers said he would meet police to discuss a European extradition warrant from Sweden relating to alleged sexual assaults. […]

Mark Stephens, attorney for Julian Assange, told NBC that “No representation from Sweden will be in that meeting”.

UPDATE 3:

The Guardian:  Julian Assange Is Arrested And Due To Appear In Court

  • WikiLeaks will continue releasing the leaked US embassy cables in spite of his arrest this morning. […]
  • Assange has also pre-recorded a video message, which WikiLeaks is due to release today. But the Guardian understands the organisation has no plans to release the insurance file of the remaining cables, which number more than 200,000. It has sent copies of the encrypted file to supporters around the world. These can be accessed only by using a 256-digit code. […]