Monday, December 13, 2010

The Wikileaks Drama Continues

In recent news of this drama-riffic story, hackers have been attacking any organization or individual who has been deemed "unsupportive" of Wikileaks. This includes Swedish prosecutors, MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and the Swiss Postal system. Largely these attacks have been ineffectual and meaningless, or, as one writer put it, "More like a cybermob than cyberwarfare".

As for the 1337 hackers, I have to say I'm not really following the call to arms. Because the scorecard as I see it is:
  • Someone stole raw data that was not theirs to steal. (Which, as the NY Times put it, "The Pentagon Papers this is not.")
  • These data were leaked it to Julian Assange.
  • Instead of caring about, well, anything, Assange acts like a megalomaniac drama queen pretending to be a journalist. So he dumps this raw data out on to the Internet. He encrypts some of it. Some of it he doesn't.
  • The guvvies try to get their data back, but, well, we know how that worked out
  • Assange carries on the drama by saying, "boy-o-boy, watch out guvvies, touch me and I release the key to my insurance file!!111!!" 
  • And all the bozos on Slashdot and Digg and elsewhere keep up their battle cry of this ludicrous Save Assange! Hack the Planet! Swiper No Swiping! 
This whole thing is like a teenage romance novel, except without the vampires to keep me entertained.

Frankly, I wish the black hats would actually come together to do some useful vigilanteism, like, say, help prevent child trafficking, or use computing tools to help find missing children. Assange just isn't worth it.


  1. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more.

  2. Just to point out that there is another side of this story:

    - Someone stole raw data that was not their to steal. These data reveal the lies, deception and hypocrisy of the governments.

    - These data were leaked to Julian Assange.

    - Assange cares about the values of democracy and transparency and is bold enough to dump this raw data out on the internet.

    - The guvvies try to get their data back, but, well, we know how that worked out. They declare Assange's activities illegal, as if they had any authority to judge that, although no court has decided on that yet and not even a single law has been named which he is supposed to have broken. They openly call for him to be assassinated, disregarding any basic principle of justice in the 21st century of a supposedly democratic society. They put pressure on companies to withdraw their services to Julian Assange's organization, trying to silence someone just because they don't like what he does.

    - Assange knows that he is dealing with super-powers who would do anything to get him, and tries to protect himself with a so-called insurance file.

    - In another development, a group of hackers that are not associated with Assange and have nothing to do with the goals of his organization, get angry about this sneaky and unjust way of trying to silence a voice on the internet, and launch web attacks.

    The whole thing is like a horror film and sounds disconcerting to anyone who cares about the health of our society.

    In the meantime, the leaks continue and their impact keeps growing as people keep getting disillusioned about the world they live in...

  3. Actually, these data reveal... data. Data is not information.

    And anyway of course "the governments" lie, deceive, and commit hypocrisy. It's what they're elected to do. So do you, I'm sure. "Oh yeah, that haircut looks great."

    If Assange cared about the values of democracy and transparency why didn't he leak the whole thing at one time? Why all this drama? Because this isn't about government transparency, and ensuring whistleblowers are protected, and freedom of speech. This whole thing is about Assange's ego.

    As for assassination calls, that was mostly Fox News Pundits (not US government officials) who will, too, say anything for attention. Last I checked, neither Sarah Palin nor Mike Huckabee are representatives of the US federal government. (Thank god).

    Why don't these hackers get upset about the unjust actions happening by "the governments" in Darfur? Kashmir? Burma? China? If these hackers truly want to make a difference in the world and fight governments "repressing voices", fight a fight worth fighting. This one just isn't worth it.

  4. I agree with pretty much everything you said except the sentiment. You are factually correct, and I personally think Assange is a jerk (to put it mildly). But even jerks can do useful things, and I honestly think that Wikileaks is a much needed reprieve from the overly secretive status quo that was developed under the Bush administration. The government can deceive other governments and I expect that to happen to some extent. But the tactics that the US has been using on its own citizens is far more 1984ish than it should be. The calls to cut off freedom of the press only underscore that point. I guess I still believe in a Jeffersonian type of democracy and what we've been seeing reminds me far more of McCarthyism than anything. That's wrong, and Wikileaks is one way to move toward correcting the issue.

  5. My post is not about the existence or non-existence of Wikileaks so much as it's about "Operation Payback". It just seems ridiculous to me. "Let's attack anyone who ever did anything bad to Wikileaks ever! DOWN WITH THE SWISS POSTAL SYSTEM AND PAY PAL!!111!!" I just don't get it. It's not helping anything, and seems to be a very juvenile response.

    Hacking websites, banks, and governments is unlikely to ever be viewed as civil disobedience - it's just plain lawlessness that will likely result in jail time. What's the point? Like I said, if you're going to go to jail go because you're protesting actions in Darfur or Child Trafficking. It's a much, much, MUCH, more worthy cause than a DoS at amazon.

    Electronic civil disobedience is writing a script to send hundreds of letters to one's senator -- not taking down It's organizing a petition and getting thousands of signatures to take to the board of directors at Visa, not completely locking up all of their transactions.

    It's possible to protest the actions of governments lawfully and cleverly. But this got mixed up in the message. Operation Payback is not clever. It is rash and juvenile.

  6. I agree with much of the discussion above, and I certainly think the DDoS attacks are immature at best and making their own cause hypocritical at worst; but people having these discussions should be clear that there was not in fact the indiscriminate data dump that everyone is using to back up their gut feelings. See point 1 here, for example:

  7. Thank you for the link to the Glenn Greenwald article, it's really interesting!