A vast amount of data at US-based intelligence and research organisation, Stratfor, has been stolen by the group styling itself “Anonymous”. As reported today, WikiLeaks has, or is in the process of, publishing millions of emails written by persons at that organisation over a 7-year period.
“I like hearing when companies pay the price for lax security, but in the case of Stratfor, proving that someone’s security is weak by spilling everyone’s details is like peeing your pants to prove your parents aren’t supervising you. It might feel good and warm at first, but you ultimately end up being the loser.”
So writes a person called Michael Lee. His article focuses on Anonymous’ actions. He continues:
“Stratfor is one of the latest companies allegedly targeted by Anonymous. The breach, which began to make headlines on Christmas day in the US, resulted in the loss of 200GB worth of data and ultimately the publication of its customers’ emails, credit card numbers, and corresponding verification numbers and addresses.”
“The hackers wanted to release the credit card details because they belonged to “rich and powerful oppressors”. But even the author behind the release stated that of the 860,000, just 50,000 email accounts were from military or government domains. How many of those 50,000 were even responsible for oppressing anyone? And even if all 50,000 were, was it really worth ruining the privacy of 810,000 other likely innocent bystanders?”
Publishing the details of housands of credit card details, addresses and other important information has nothing to do with holding the rich and powerful to account. And in any event, being rich is not, in and of itself, a legitimate reason for a bunch of hackers to claim that wholesale theft of data is somehow in the “public interest”.
Now WikiLeaks, run by Julian Assange, is involved. As some regulars might know, unlike some other Samizdata contributors, I consider WikiLeaks, and those who aid and abet its publication of such private data, to be near-criminal in its recklessness. It has put journalists’ sources in jeopardy, or it least is careless about them in some cases, which is hardly grounds for celebration by anyone who takes freedom of expression seriously. This story from Africa is particularly troubling.
This item by the BBC shows how WikiLeaks does not give a damn about the damage it does so long as it can claim to be striking a blow against organisations it dislikes:
“Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the US government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Reuters news agency. “What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organisations fighting for a just cause.”
Well it may be that the final sentence has some basis in truth, but as Assange surely knows, a lot of journalists get sources inside large organisations for their stories, be they government civil servants or company types. An investigative journalist looking into corporate or government activities could not operate without such contacts, even in a world where Freedom of Information legislation operates. And there is a real risk that serious sources will be blown and their careers ruined by indiscriminate publication of such vast amounts of information. The key word here is “indiscriminate” – there is no sign of any attempt to filter, let alone consider how some of this data could fall into the wrong hands and cause harm to innocents.
In case anyone brings up the matter, the leak of such a vast number of emails, and hacking of data about hundreds of thousands of credit card details, is hardly the same as say, the discovery of emails at the University of East Anglia that confirmed suspicions that AGW alarmists were playing fast and loose with the evidence. In that case, a Freedom of Information Act request was used to find out about the emails. In other words, a proper process was insisted upon. And I am not aware that global warming skeptics have tried to hack Al Gore’s bank account details.
And now it appears, in an update, that some pranksters are trying to claim that a person has resigned from his job when he hasn’t. This is all getting very juvenile.