WikiLeaks Stratfor Disclosure Highlights Email Encryption FailureHacktivist group Anonymous said it obtained the intelligence contractor's clear-text emails, and shared them with whistleblower and information-release website WikiLeaks, as part of a new working relationship.
Anonymous: 10 Facts About The Hacktivist Group (click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The hacktivist collective Anonymous Sunday announced a new partnership with whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, followed by the release Monday of a collection of 5 million emails from Texas-based Stratfor (aka Strategic Forecasting), which bills itself as "a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis."
Stratfor Monday released a statement denouncing the email release as "a deplorable, unfortunate--and illegal--breach of privacy" and launched a damage-control campaign seeking to discredit the emails, saying they could have been altered by Anonymous. But Stratfor refused to confirm or deny any of the emails' contents. "Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them," it said.
Stratfor appears to have run afoul of Anonymous and WikiLeaks on account of its intelligence-gathering activities. A blog post published Sunday on the AnonOps Communications blog, a reliable source of Anonymous-related information, accused Stratfor of being "a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency."
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The new leak represents a homecoming for WikiLeaks, which has released few documents after publishing a massive trove of sensitive, unredacted government cables. But the site's operations had apparently been hobbled after MasterCard and PayPal ceased allowing people to donate to the site. Meanwhile, the site's founder, Julian Assange, remains under house arrest in England as he fights extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual misconduct.
With the Stratfor emails, WikiLeaks said that it was working with more than 25 media organizations--including Rolling Stone, La Repubblica in Italy, and Russia Reporter--as well as activist groups to analyze and publicize the contents of the emails. Interestingly, that list didn't appear to include any of the media organizations that had participated in the analysis of the government cables that WikiLeaks obtained, perhaps owing to the whistleblowing website's decision to release the cables itself, in unredacted form, after Assange apparently lost control of a BitTorrent archive containing a copy of every cable.
Given that misstep, why might Anonymous suddenly be sharing information with WikiLeaks? "WikiLeaks has great means to publish and disclose," a described member of Anonymous told Wired. "Also, they work together with media in a way we don't." Members of Anonymous and its AntiSec branch have reportedly said that the working relationship could continue, with future leaks being made on a regular basis.
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