Sunday, January 23, 2011

Did Wikileaks Exploit Music and Photo-Sharing Networks to Grab Classified Data?

“There is a difference between being given information that may have been obtained in violation of some agreement or law versus the media itself violating the law or an agreement in order to obtain information,” said Sandra Baron, the executive director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York. “The media is not allowed to steal.”---Bloomberg News (1-20-11)

Michael Riley, a journalist at Bloomberg News (1-20-11), is reporting that Wikileaks' Julian Assange, who is being guarded by the Norfolk Constabulary in the U.K., may have exploited music and photo-sharing networks to grab classified data. This article is very complicated, but the video Bloomberg includes with the article explains this complicated type of computer crime for an ordinary audience. The same story is carried by Business Week (1-20-11).

Bloomberg News (1-20-11) reports:

WikiLeaks, condemned by the U.S. government for posting secret data leaked by insiders, may have used music- and photo-sharing networks to obtain and publish classified documents, according to a computer security firm.

Tiversa Inc., a company based in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, has evidence that WikiLeaks, which has said it doesn’t know who provides it with information, may seek out secret data itself, using so-called “peer-to-peer” networks, Chief Executive Officer Robert Boback claimed. He said the government is examining evidence that Tiversa has turned over.

The company, which has done investigative searches on behalf of U.S. agencies including the FBI, said it discovered that computers in Sweden were trolling through hard drives accessed from popular peer-to-peer networks such as LimeWire and Kazaa. The same information obtained in those searches later appeared on WikiLeaks, Boback said. WikiLeaks bases its most important servers in Sweden.

“WikiLeaks is doing searches themselves on file-sharing networks,” Boback said in an interview, summing up his firm’s deductions from the search evidence it gathered. “It would be highly unlikely that someone else from Sweden is issuing those same types of searches resulting in that same type of information.”

...Tiversa declined to say who its client was when it noticed the Swedish downloads. Howard Schmidt, a former Tiversa adviser, is cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Tiversa researchers said the data-mining operation in Sweden is both systematic and highly successful.

In a 60-minute period on Feb. 7, 2009, using so-called Internet protocol addresses that every computer, server or similar equipment has, Tiversa’s monitors detected four Swedish computers engaged in searching and downloading information on peer-to-peer networks...

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Warma in Seattle, who successfully prosecuted similar cases of unintended searching, said the systematic pillaging of computer contents through peer- to-peer networks could be pursued under federal anti-hacking statutes.

Even if not criminal, such conduct, if traced to WikiLeaks, would contradict its stated mission as a facilitator of leaked material by insiders, whose identities, Assange has said, the group takes measures not to know. The group provides an encrypted drop box on its website that it said prevents any tracing back to the source of documents.

Receptacle for Leaks

“If their information gathering doesn’t consist simply of being a receptacle for leaks but of this more aggressive effort to go out and cull this information, then you’re moving a clear step further from anything that resembles traditional journalistic practice,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director for the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The evidence could also be used by congressional committees, which Boback said are pursuing a separate inquiry to undermine WikiLeaks’ claim that it’s a legitimate media organization with protections under the First Amendment.

“There is a difference between being given information that may have been obtained in violation of some agreement or law versus the media itself violating the law or an agreement in order to obtain information,” said Sandra Baron, the executive director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York. “The media is not allowed to steal.” [Read the full article.]

1 Comments:

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12:57 PM  

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