Posts tagged with ‘stratfor’

Can You Be Busted for Linking to Stolen Information?

Late last week Barrett Brown, a former Anonymous spokesman, was indicted over an Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence firm. Along with thousands of internal emails that Wikileaks has been publishing, Anonymous released credit card information of both Stratfor employees and its clients.

Brown is facing multiple charges but the very first is very odd: Brown posted a hyperlink to the stolen credit card information that was, by then, publicly available online.

In a press release, the FBI writes:

According to the indictment, Brown transferred a hyperlink from an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel to an IRC channel under his control. That hyperlink provided access to data stolen from the company Stratfor Global Intelligence (Stratfor), which included more than 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication features for the credit cards, known as the Card Verification Values (CVV). By transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders.

Here’s the rub for reporters. From Gawker’s Adrian Chen:

As a journalist who covers hackers and has “transferred and posted” many links to data stolen by hackers—in order to put them in stories about the hacks—this indictment is frightening because it seems to criminalize linking. Does this mean if a hacker posts a list of stolen passwords and usernames to Pastebin, the popular document-sharing site, and I link to them in a story or tweet I could be charged with “trafficking in stolen authentication features,” as Brown has been? (I wouldn’t typically do this, but I’ve seen plenty of other bloggers and journalists who have.) Links to the credit card number list were widely shared on Twitter in the wake of the Stratfor hack—are all the people who tweeted links going to be rounded up and arrested, too?

The question here isn’t whether its ethical to link to such information but whether it’s legal. The indictment against Brown claims no, no it’s not.

Remember, over five million emails were stolen, are now on Wikileaks and are being used by news organizations to report on global intelligence operations. By the indictment’s logic, linking directly to them is a crime.

WikiLeaks Releases "Global Intelligence Files" →

WikiLeaks released today what it’s calling “The Global Intelligence Files.” The document dump comes from over five million emails from STRATFOR, a Texas-based intelligence firm that offers subscription-based geopolitical analysis to its clients.

Via WikiLeaks:

The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example:

"[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase" – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

As usual, WikiLeaks is working with media partners around the world to amplify the materials’ release. Among the participants are Rolling Stone, McClatchy, L’Espresso, Al Akkhbar (Lebanon), Nawaat (Tunisia), The Hindu (India) and Dawn Media (Pakistan) among others.

Oddly, among the others are The Yes Men.