The founder of WikiLeaks is not only a wanted man by the American authorities, his now infamous Web site WikiLeaks is also under attack by notorious hackers, while its services are being cut-off by Amazon and EveryDNS.net. Although not officially announced, Julian Assange might be considered today's public enemy number-one, taking the place of the illusive Osama bin Laden. Not since 9/11 has any one figure reached such notoriety due to what many consider acts against a state.
Like bin Laden, Assange has no permanent address, does not maintain a headquarters, employs only a select few confidants and has taken to hiding in covert areas. Younger than bin Laden, Assange at 39 years-old may be a little more mobile than the 53 year-old, choosing to hopscotch the globe versus hibernating in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While his face resides on the covers of magazines and newspapers around the world, similar to a Wild West 'Wanted' poster, little is known about his day-to-day activities. Like bin Laden's video addresses, while the CIA and other mercenaries are seeking his where-a-bouts, it's amazing that he still finds ways to release updates justifying his actions.
Differing from bin Laden, as a self-trained computer hacker, he has been able to keep his WikiLeaks' site operational on the Web even while it's besieged by attacks from a multitude of sources. The old saying, "there is no honor amongst thieves," may apply here, as reports come in about famous hackers and even the notion that a government body made have spearheaded a lot of the disruptions to his Web site.
In a NY Times report, a hacker who calls himself "The Jester" -- or "th3j35t3r," has claimed responsibility for some of the initial disruptions on his Twitter account, portraying his actions as patriotic efforts to prevent classified secrets from reaching the public. A former defense operative with military Intel said the hacker was a onetime military contractor who had worked in projects for the U.S. Special Operations Command.
In regards to his Web site, it appears that computers in eastern Europe, Russia and Thailand have bombarded WikiLeaks’s Web sites with huge volumes of requests through a network of computers known as a botnet. Also known as DDoS attacks (or defense against denial-of-service), this activity is typically the result of hackers commanding a whole army of computers to a single site at once, to paralyze the server and ultimately bringing down the site.
According to the NY Times' report, creating and controlling a botnet does not require great amounts of expertise, so the people controlling the systems going after WikiLeaks could range from teenagers having fun to disgruntled technophiles to political states. “There are plenty of possible actors out there, including mercenaries for hire,” said Tom Kellermann, a vice president at Core Security Technologies, which advises organizations on how to find and fix security problems.
Similar to the threats to his own personal safety, Assange had to also seek asylum for his Web site when this past week, Amazon.com kicked WikiLeaks off its systems after inquiries were made from an aide to Senator Joe Lieberman. Amazon apparently feeling governmental pressures cut-off Wikileaks claiming it had violated its terms of service.
The following day, EveryDNS.net, a company that manages the underlying domain name system of the Internet, and provides domain names for about 500,000 Web sites, including WikiLeaks, said the mass influx of traffic coming from the hackers had put its operations at risk and subsequently terminated WikiLeaks' service.
In a mad dash to keep the site alive, Assange directed users to Web addresses in a number of European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. The Swiss domain - WikiLeaks.ch - is registered to the Swiss branch of the Swedish Pirate Party, a political organization that has previously worked with Assange. Wikileaks.ch is where Web surfers can find WikiLeaks today.
So under attacks from all fronts, the wiry Australian iconoclast has not appeared in public for over a month. Some say he is currently in Britain. And if the man wasn't incurring a "perfect storm" of calamities, in addition to the U.S. in hot pursuit, Assange is also the subject of a European arrest warrant issued by authorities in Sweden, where he is accused of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.
Current speculation is if and when he is apprehended - will WikiLeaks' Web site be curtailed as well? Many similar organizations say they will fill the void if WikiLeaks is sequestered, and believe the virtues of transparency and governmental accountability are the true mainstays under the microscope here.
Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Lab keenly summarized what might be at play when the dust settles. He suggested governments will have to develop a response beyond condemnation and legal threats. He compared it to music file-sharing, which was greeted with hostility by a music industry that soon realized it had to develop new ways to make money from downloads. "They can't think this is an opponent we need to defeat," he said. "They have to think about how they are going to deal with it (in the future)," said Benton.
But until then, Assange like his bin Laden counterpart continue to stay one step ahead of the law, while continuing their nefarious activities. However in the case of WikiLeaks, the jury is still out whether or not the lines crossed needed to see the light of day, or whether it should have been kept under wraps by the government.
Ironically, these two 'wanted' men are intrinsically connected to each other in a very peculiar interdependent way. If the one had never been the cause for the War in Afghanistan, the other would have had no reason to leak any classified Intel about it. What the Chinese call Ying-Yang or how seemingly contrary forces are interconnected in the natural world, and how one gives cause for the other - underscores how both men are now existing outside the boundaries of the laws together - yet separate!
UPDATE: USA Today -December 7 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to London police on Tuesday as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation, the latest blow to his organization.