WikiLeaks Watch 12/18/2010

WikiLeaks Watch 12/18/2010

Global Domination Through Media Saturation
Cult of the Dead Cow

The day after being released from prison, Assange conducted a whirlwind of media interviews, NBC, ABC, CBS in the United States, BBC in the UK, among the many outlets. One of the objectives was to immediately counter the developing US Government narrative of the “conspiring, anarchist Mendax.” Assange was emphatic that WikiLeaks, by design, does not know the identities of its sources, and that he never conspired with Bradley Manning.

On ABC’s Good Morning America, Assange stated:

“I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press. Wikileaks’ technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material. That is, in the end, the only way the sources can be guaranteed that they remain anonymous, as far as we are concerned.”

Even if we assume Adrian Lamo’s chat logs to be authentic, Assange’s statements don’t conflict with the details of the transcripts. In them, it is clear that Manning submitted material to WikiLeaks before having any communication with Assange. The transcripts only reveal that Manning knew he was communicating with Assange , but only after spending a number of months verifying Assange’s identity. The transcripts do not reveal that Assange knew Manning’s identity or that he was even aware he was communicating with “the leaker.”

Given this, it would seem that reports that the US Government is seeking to offer a Manning “a deal” to “flip” on Assange are likely credible. They don’t have the hard evidence. Reports of Manning’s inhumane treatment and isolation may be means to “break” him.

Assange also used the media to vigorously deny he was “an anarchist,” telling George Stephanopoulo, “absolutely not.”

“We can look at my long-term endeavors, all the way to 1993, when I started piloting the Internet industry in Australia, bringing knowledge to the people. And that’s been a firm foundation for us to build credible and humane institutions.”

This is actually not any different form the Forbes interview when Assange cringed at the hacker/anarchist label and instead appealed to his entrepreneurial days of running an Australian ISP. The Forbes article made it clear that Assange thought himself as an “entrepreneur.” The British Anarchist Ian Bone recently deconstructed Assange’s anarchist tendencies from piece done by the British Newsnight and concluded that Assange was following in the tradition of German anarchist Gustav Landauer. This is all very consistent with a ideological sketch that views the role of WikiLeaks as using transparency to shrink political systems/institutions while expanding more cooperative, voluntary systems/institutions to serve as replacements.

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Spamhaus has released a malware warning for Wikileaks.org because the site redirects to a mirror hosted by Heihachi.net. As I reported last weekend, wikileaks.org was redirecting to mirror.wikileaks.info that was being hosted by Heihachi.net, a provider of “bullet-proof” hosting. Bullet-proof hosting refers to providers whose “terms of service contracts” are void of any jurisdictional legal compliance language. Bullet-proof providers are the primary source of malware infections on the internet. This is how it works: operators will host malware progs on their sites and will serve up web content in advertising campaigns that contain code that will exploit a browser or OS vulnerability to deliver this malicious payload to unpatched systems that are served up with this (malicious) advertising content. This results in the system being infected with malicious software, usually a trojan of some sort, that allows it to be remotely controlled by another system. In practice, what this means is that this infected system becomes part of a botnet. Operators will rent out of these botnets to spammers as a delivery network. Almost all email spam, for example, originates from botnets.

WikiLeaks, or the Wikileaks.info team, issued a press release disputing the claims that this mirror was a source of a malware, and that they were using a Bullet-proof provider to avoid being taken offline due to political pressure. WikiLeaks correctly notes that while Bullet-proof providers do host “malware sites,” they also host unpopular political protest sites.

Spamhaus responded in an update that despite whether wikileaks.info was hosting malware or not, wikileaks.info had no official relationship with WikiLeaks or Assange, and that it should be considered a rogue operation. However, this is simply factually incorrect. WikiLeaks.org redirects to wikileaks.info, meaning that someone with an authorized login at at the Dynadot Registrar updated the name server data for the wikileaks.org domain with Dynadot’s name servers, configured a dns zone record for wikileaks.org that pointed web requests to a Dynadot web host, and then configured that web host to redirect requests for wikileaks.org to wikileaks.info. This is basic stuff for anyone with a modicum of IT knowledge/experience. Spamhaus’ contention here is inexcusable. There’s obviously an “official” connection.

It also clear from examining the mirror.wikileaks.info site that this is running back on MediaWiki, although it is still quite a bit broken. The “mirrors” are just mirroring a static html version that replaced the MediaWiki CMS version in the immediate aftermath of “cablegate.”

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that WikiLeaks plays political games. They don’t exactly announce to the world in a “press release” what games they are playing. WikiLeaks could have easily updated the DNS name server data for the wikileaks.org domain as soon as EveryDNS terminated DNS service and and created a dns zone record in the new name servers that pointed it to their Swedish hosting provider. A little detective work implies that they are playing a game of testing political “free speech” on a distributed basis. Wikileaks.org has for a while now ceased being a mechanism for document submissions, and WikiLeaks primarily now relies on traditional journalistic organizations to distribute the “news” of leaked documents. The website part of it, at this point, primarily seems to serve a symbolic propaganda purpose.

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The Guardian has a profile of the hacker group, Anonymous, and it’s inside “hierarchy.”

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The Guardian has also obtained the full Swedish allegations against Julian Assange.

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