Benkler on Wikileaks, media, distributed models of mutual criticism  23.3.11

Yokai Benkler, A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks And The Battle Over The Soul Of The Networked Fourth Estate, forthcoming Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 66 pages (

It forces us to ask us how comfortable we are with the actual shape of democratization created by the Internet. […]

Links 2011-02-15: HBGary, Anonymous  15.2.11

The saga of disruptive publication platforms vs. intelligence intelligentsia continues. And this latest HBGary chapter is stunning on so many dimension: “Security service” companies sitting on piles of 0-day exploits, US CoC hiring security companies to investigate union’s activities, security service company compromised by social hacking, Anonymous ad-hoc creating a leak website.

“Rarely in the history of the cybersecurity industry has a company become so toxic so quickly as HBGary Federal.” (Andy Greenberg, Forbes)

Nate Anderson, arstechnica, has the story. Spy games: Inside the convoluted plot to bring down WikiLeaks

“Barr was brought in from Northrup Grumman to launch the operation. …  Less than a year into the job, HBGary Federal looked like it might go bust. … And then, unexpectedly, came the hope of salvation. … That law firm was DC-based powerhouse Hunton & Williams,… [They] had a client who wanted to do a little corporate investigative work”

“But it soon became clear what this was about: the US Chamber of Commerce wanted to know if certain groups attacking them were “astroturf” groups funded by the large unions.”

“Palantir would provide its expensive link analysis software running on a hosted server, while Berico would “prime the contract supplying the project management, development resources, and process/methodology development.” HBGary Federal would come alongside to provide “digital intelligence collection” and “social media exploitation”—Barr’s strengths.”

“HBGary had long publicized to clients its cache of 0-day exploits—attacks for which there is no existing patch”

“Ironically, when Anonymous later commandeered Greg Hoglund’s separate security site, it did so through a spear phishing e-mail attack on Hoglund’s site administrator—who promptly turned off the site’s defenses and issued a new password (“Changeme123″) for a user he believed was Hoglund. Minutes later, the site was compromised.”

HBGary’s Barr involuntarily shares details on his intelligence successes, “Final – for me. – Sun, 6 Feb 2011 00:40:11 -0500”

“What I did using some custom developed collection and analytic tools and our developed social media analysis methodology was tie those IRC nicknames to real names and addresses and develop an clearly defined hierarchy within the group. Of the apparent 30 or so administrators and operators that manage the Anonymous group on a day to day basis I have identified to a real name over 80% of them.”

Hackers Reveal Offers to Spy on Corporate Rivals –

Forbes with an update Revenge Still Sweet As Anonymous Posts 27,000 More HBGary E-Mails – Parmy Olson

“Crowdleaks: HBGary wanted to suppress Stuxnet research”

“HBGary Email Viewer: Portal – AnonLeaks”

Stephen Walt,, embraces Wikileaks: “a good thing”  26.10.10

Stephen M. Walt, good-ol’ Realist with an almost Niebuhrish image of humanity, embraces Wikileaks:

Realist that I am, I believe that human beings are more likely to misbehave if they think they can shield what they are doing from public view. For that reason, I also believe that democratic societies are more likely to adopt better policies when information is plentiful and when government officials cannot determine which facts are available to the public and which are not. Because its primary function is to make more information available on issues that concern us all, I therefore conclude that what Wikileaks is doing is on balance a good thing.

The German liberal, internet-politics blogosphere and IT magazines still appear to have visions of transparent, democratically organised Wikileaks clones. I’m wondering how such an organisation would transparently and democratically deal with the spectre of their members being declared “enemy combatants”.

Pentagon’s point about harmfulness of openness  25.10.10

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the Pentagon doesn’t heartily embrace the leakage of some 400,000 classified records covering unfavourable Iraq incidents. The line is familiar among students of security institutions: Openness would be detrimental to security by creating new vulnerabilities. In the words of Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morell:

“Potentially what one could mine from a huge data base like this are vulnerabilities in terms of how we operate, our tactics, our techniques, our procedures, the capabilities of our equipment, how we respond in combat situations, response times — indeed how we cultivate sources,” Morrell said. “All of that, [given the] thinking and adaptive enemy we’ve been facing in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be used against us.”

(Source:; similar in an press conference early August)

Openness, i.e. sharing operational and tactical information with adversaries, can create opportunities for adversaries to mitigate attack or defence capabilities. Can. Potentially. But what are the real costs of openness? And how do they compare to societal, political, and humanitarian costs of closure?

26C3: internet politics 2010, defence of the digital habitat, internet utopia, decentralized technologies and implementing Cryptonomicon  6.1.10

“It seems like the Crypt is their worst nightmare.”
(Neil Stephenson, Cryptonomicon)

China spearheads the anything-goes movement of technology-based societal control, authoritarian countries worldwide follow suit, and we yet don’t know whether western democracies will manage to at least remain in their currently mediocre shape if one of the many ongoing global developments and crisis should ever have a major and disruptive societal impact. From the perspective of the freedom and unhindered flow of information, the internet makes a bad expression these days and things haven’t changed for the better in the last year and the naughties.
John Perry Barlow’s “fuck them” […]

Public knowledge brokering services vs. plutocratic demoracy  28.11.09

An interesting  development is currently happening in German politics. It’s still in its infancy, but it could well become an important social experiment. Hopes have been high that the Internet and social media will not only revolutionize business models and business processes but also boost individual influence on decisions that are more or less out of control of voters.

The legitimacy of the parliamentary democracy stems partly from the problem of aggregating individual interests into societally binding decisions. Technology might act as a game changer here. Moreover, the potentials of social technologies appear to be so enormous and presumably inline with majorities interest, that it is hard to envisage how the the currently predominant political system in western societies, representative liberal democracies, will remain unchanged. That is unless no massive backfiring by plutocratic interests—in opposite to democratic interests—will set in. Which will, dead certain, happen or better: does happening right now. Even mainstream media is starting to get it: Germany’s conservative daily FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) had an article today titled: „The state is reclaiming the net“ (in German, though). Baseline: There is a global trend driven by states to get the internet into their hands. Indeed. But that’s only one part of the story.

Wikileak has just published 10,000 pages of one of the best hidden secrets in German politics in the last couple of years: the contracts between the Federal Republic of Germany and Toll Collect, a joint-venture of Daimler-Chrysler, Deutsche Telekom and Cofiroute. Toll Collect had developed a fully automatized system to collect tolls payable for utility vehicles on the German autobahnen. The system consists of integral boxes with GPS receivers and obligatory for any utility vehicle driving on highways, a system of physical bridges receiving information from the boxes as well as holding cameras with OCR technology to identify potential free riders.

(In the Netherlands, there is currently a debate about a comparable toll-collect system for any vehicle. The early promises that the foto&OCR system would only and exclusively be used for toll-collection purposes have long been forgotten. By now, it also serves as a public surveillance technology.)

While the system by itself is a solid piece of engineering, it has been criticized for its non-pragmatical, overly ambitious and expensive approach. The biggest burden for federal finances however was caused by a delayed roll-out of Toll Collect’s solution, as billions of toll revenues didn’t made their way to federal accounts. While one would assume that a decently brokered contract would provide indemnifications by the service provide for the purchaser, this hasn’t allegedly been the case with Toll Collect. While politicians ranted about Toll Collect’s failure, the federal government acted as if it didn’t really want to get compensations from Daimler-Chrysler and Deutsche Telekom. In addition, the secrecy of the contracts for the operation of the toll collect system has aroused suspicion from the onset.

Wikileaks has become a major obstacle for those who are in favour of a plutocratic interpretation of democracy and it’s proneness to behind-the-curtain deals. Some private-public partnership and cross-border leasing deals would have had more difficulties in passing legislation if municipal, state or federal parliaments had known the contracts beforehand and been able to understand them. Regulatory capture precludes secrecy and intransparency of bureaucratic and managerial activities., a Bertelsmann subsidiary product, has called Wikileaks the „Robin Hood of the Internet“ (German). His popularity and his fate are legend.

While a lot has changed since those times, post-noble dukes still don’t like being ridiculed by mere peasants. These days, business interests feel plagued by flash-mobs and are weakened by the ability to organize labour interests by social technologies, maneuverability of national governments is reduced by the abililty to instant vet governmental activities (if public knowledge brokering services like Wikileak continue to grow), and mass media has suffered some dents in their credibility by their reduced use of investigational methods and easy alignment with business and government interests. These actors are those who a are set on a slippery slope, who are in descent. For them, the biggest problem is three-fold: technically enhanced trooping and rallying by like-minded interests, social motivation, the ease of achieving transparency by, say, Wikileak, and the ability of social investigation. But then, state institutions dominate the spheres of law and law enforcement. Laws and law enforcement are the tools for vested interests to make their wills publicly binding. We might very well see legislation upcoming that would go beyond some kind of Prohibition on the internet. Some vested interests would rather prefer thick digital walls and high barbicans.