Assange: ‘We Have to Survive This Leak’

Three weeks before WikiLeaks and several media outlets began publishing a massive trove of U.S. diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expressed fear that the content of the cables was too explosive for his organization to withstand.
“We have to survive this leak,” he told newspaper editors during a tense meeting in London prior to publication […]

Three weeks before WikiLeaks and several media outlets began publishing a massive trove of U.S. diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange expressed fear that the content of the cables was too explosive for his organization to withstand.

“We have to survive this leak,” he told newspaper editors during a tense meeting in London prior to publication of “Project 8,” WikiLeaks’ code word for the cables.

The account comes from an excerpt of a new book published by journalists at the German newsweekly Der Spiegel, one of three newspapers that were the primary media outlets that obtained exclusive access to the cables and other WikiLeaks leaks prior to publication.

During the meeting, which involved editors from Der Spiegel and the London-based Guardian newspaper, Assange insisted the cables be doled out over time, instead of being published at once, and asserted that he would take a public back seat this time. To avoid taking heat for the disclosures, for example, there would be no press conference like the ones he had convened after publishing two previous troves of documents from the Iraq and Afghan wars.

The primary reason for the meeting, however, was Assange’s anger at the Guardian. Assange accused the Guardian of “theft” and “criminal” activity for passing a copy of the cable database to The New York Times, the third media outlet in on the publishing agreement. Assange wanted to cut the Times out, after the U.S. paper had published a critical front-page article about him. But the Guardian was having none of his demands and passed the cables to the Times anyway.

Assange now insisted, without irony, that the copy the Guardian gave the Times was “illegal.”

The original database, of course, had been obtained by Assange from a source believed to be Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was charged last year with illegally downloading them from a classified U.S. network.

Holger Stark and Marcel Rosenbach, authors of the German book, write:

Assange was using terms like “theft” and “criminal activities,” against which he said he would take legal action, because the copy was, as he claimed, “illegal.” At that moment, he was apparently unaware of the dual meaning of what he had just said. [Der Spiegel’s Georg] Mascolo replied: “There are nothing but illegal copies of this material.”

These revelations represent the third behind-the-scenes account from media organizations that worked with WikiLeaks to simultaneously publish its most high-profile leaks over the last year.

The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy piece by Editor-in-Chief Bill Keller on Wednesday about that paper’s volatile relationship with Assange. A Vanity Fair article earlier this month depicted a similar rocky relationship between Assange and the Guardian. That piece was the first to describe the tense standoff between Assange and the Guardian, after Assange learned the paper had passed a copy of the cable database to the New York Times.

The Guardian said it needed the Times to be involved as insurance against political pressure it might receive in Britain to halt publication of the cables. The paper’s editors also insisted that Assange had already violated his exclusivity agreement with them, when he began negotiations with other media outlets to give them advance access to the leaks.

Assange stood firm. He wanted the Times to publish a retraction of its profile or publish a prominently placed opinion piece from him to counter the negative article. But the Times, contacted by phone during the meeting, refused. Editor-in-Chief Keller said only that Assange was free to write a letter to the editor about his complaints. Assange, however, also wanted assurances that the Times would never publish an unflattering piece about him again.

Unhappy with the way the discussion was going, he threatened to cut out the Guardian from the publication deal as well unless he got what he wanted.

But Der Spiegel Editor-in-Chief Georg Mascolo told Assange, “There will be no deal with us without the Guardian.”

The authors write that Assange simply shrugged his shoulders and said: “We don’t need to have Spiegel in on the deal.”

Eventually, the parties reached an amicably strained agreement and proceeded with the project.

Photo: Julian Assange (Lily Mihalik/Wired.com)

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Big Brother Brasil Bait is Back

In 2010, Symantec reported phishing sites that were spoofing a popular social networking brand. The phishing sites claimed to have a Web application with which end users could watch “Big Brother Brasil” online. This phishing attack was laun…

In 2010, Symantec reported phishing sites that were spoofing a popular social networking brand. The phishing sites claimed to have a Web application with which end users could watch “Big Brother Brasil” online. This phishing attack was launched during the 10th season of the television show that was on air from January to March of 2010. On January 11, 2011, the 11th season of the show began and phishers are back again with the same bait to try their luck at harvesting user credentials. The latest phishing site was hosted on a free webhosting domain.


 
On certain legitimate Web sites, live video feeds of the show are available around the clock from multiple cameras in the Big Brother house. Some of these videos are suitable only for adult viewing. On the other hand, no live video feeds are available on the phishing site and the claim of having such a Web application is only a ploy to lure end users. The message in the displayed image of the phishing site was in Portuguese and translates to “In ***** [Brand name removed] Big Brother Brazil is live. Attention: Login to the side and check”. If users fell victim to the bait by entering their login credentials, phishers will have succeeded in stealing their information for identity theft.

In the past few months, the motive of phishers has been to improve their chances of tempting end users by increasing the appeal of the baits. It has been observed that pornography or adult content comprised of majority of the utilized baits. Here, though pornography was not involved in the phishing site, the strategy of phishers was to give users the hope of viewing adult videos of the participant celebrities in the television show.

Internet users are advised to follow best practices to avoid phishing attacks, such as:
•    Do not click on suspicious links in email messages.    
•    Avoid providing any personal information when answering an email.
•    Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen.
•    Frequently update your security software, such as Norton Internet Security 2011, which protects you from online phishing.

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Note: My thanks to the co-author of this blog, Avdhoot Patil.

Internet Down in Egypt, Tens of Thousands Protest In ‘Friday of Wrath’

(Updates with fresh reports from Egypt)
Mobile-phone texting, Blackberry messaging and internet service are suffering a major outage in Egypt as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated across the country to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in what was billed as a “Friday of Wrath.”
Reuters reported that police were using rubber bullets, water cannon […]

(Updates with fresh reports from Egypt)

Mobile-phone texting, Blackberry messaging and internet service are suffering a major outage in Egypt as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated across the country to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in what was billed as a “Friday of Wrath.”

Reuters reported that police were using rubber bullets, water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters, some of whom were gathered in a neighborhood near a residential palace belonging to Mubarak.

Vodafone said mobile operators in Egypt had been instructed to suspend services in selected areas, internet access was blocked shortly after midnight and mobile phone and text messaging services also appeared to be disabled or working sporadically, Reuters reported.

E-mails Threat Level sent to sources in Cairo went unanswered. And links to Egyptian-based blogs we’ve been following are not available.

Internet monitoring firm Renesys said that as of 12:34 am ET: “Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide.”

“This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow,” Jim Cowie of Renesys, said in a blog post. “The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map.

Many activists inside and out of the country suspect the Mubarak regime had locked up access, as Twitter and Facebook have been organizing tools for Friday’s anti-government revolt and for other protests earlier in the week. Egyptian service provider Seabone, based in Italy, said internet in and out of the volatile nation ceased shortly after midnight local time, the AP said.

See our earlier Danger Room story Thursday for a closer look at the causes of the protests, and how social-media is fomenting the firestorm.

You can follow the Arab world protests through a new Wired Wiki.

Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

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FBI Knocks Down 40 Doors in Probe of Pro-WikiLeaks Attackers

The FBI has joined in the hunt for those who participated in the retaliation attacks against companies that cut off services to Wikileaks, executing more than 40 search warrants across the United States on Thursday, the bureau announced.
In what seem to be timed raids, British police arrested five men Thursday morning who allegedly participated in […]

The FBI has joined in the hunt for those who participated in the retaliation attacks against companies that cut off services to Wikileaks, executing more than 40 search warrants across the United States on Thursday, the bureau announced.

In what seem to be timed raids, British police arrested five men Thursday morning who allegedly participated in the Anonymous group’s denial of service attacks on Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Amazon in mid-December. Anonymous was seeking to bring attention to — and punish — the financial-service companies’ decisions to prohibit donations to Wikileaks. Amazon was targeted after it kicked Wikileaks off its web-hosting service.

The attacks caused no permanent damage, as they simply temporarily overloaded a website with more traffic than the server could handle. They were, for the most part, really nothing more than the cyber equivalent of a campus sit-in.

But the FBI warned it did not see it that way.

“The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability,” the FBI said in a press release. The FBI did not announce any arrests in conjunction with the searches.

The attacks were conducted by the loosely organized ‘Anonymous’ group to show displeasure with the financial-service companies that cut off donations to Wikileaks.

In the attacks on the financial-service companies, thousands downloaded a tool called LOIC — or Low Orbit Ion Cannon — that joined their computer to the group attack on the target of the moment. However, the tool did nothing to hide a user’s IP address, making it possible for the target website to hand its server logs over to the authorities to track users down by their IP addresses.

The denial-of-service attacks attempted to shut down the websites of Visa and Mastercard — which would have had little effect on the credit card giants. since few people ever visit their homepages. However the attack on PayPal focused on the interface used by online merchants, and reportedly caused some slowness, though no outages, to merchants for several hours.

The companies, along with Amazon, turned their backs on Wikileaks after the site began releasing U.S. diplomatic cables in conjunction with newspapers, saying the organization violated their terms-of-service agreements. However, none of the companies have cut off services to newspapers such as The New York Times that have extensively reported on and reproduced many of the cables. Wikileaks has not been charged with any crimes related to the leaked documents.

Photo: The Anonymous group adopted the Guy Fawkes mask, a la V for Vendetta. Courtesy Stian Eikeland/Flickr.