Did WikiLeaks Use File Sharing to Obtain Classified Documents?

January 25, 2011

WikiLeaks, condemned by the U.S. government for posting secret data leaked by insiders, may have used music and photo sharing networks to obtain and publish classified documents, according to a computer security firm.

Tiversa Inc., a company based in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, has evidence that WikiLeaks, which has said it doesn’t know who provides it with information, may seek out secret data itself, using so-called “peer-to-peer” networks, Chief Executive Officer Robert Boback claimed. He said the government is examining evidence that Tiversa has turned over.

The company, which has done investigative searches on behalf of U.S. agencies including the FBI, said it discovered that computers in Sweden were trolling through hard drives accessed from popular peer-to-peer networks such as LimeWire and Kazaa. The same information obtained in those searches later appeared on WikiLeaks, Boback said. WikiLeaks bases its most important servers in Sweden.

The London attorney for WikiLeaks, Mark Stephens, has stated Tiversa’s claim is completely false.

According to Tiversa, in a 60-minute period on Feb. 7, 2009, using so-called Internet protocol addresses that every computer, server or similar equipment has, Tiversa’s monitors detected four Swedish computers engaged in searching and downloading information on peer-to-peer networks. The four computers issued 413 searches, crafted to find Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and other information-rich documents among some of the 18 million users the company estimates are on such file-sharing networks at any given moment.

Those searches led to a computer in Hawaii that held a survey of the Pentagon’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in that state. Tiversa captured the download of the PDF file by one of the Swedish computers. The document was renamed and posted on the WikiLeaks website two months later, on April 29, 2009, according to a mirror image of the site.

However, it is debatable whether U.S. State Department cables would be accessible on a peer-to-peer website. Although many government agencies configure computers so that employees cannot install or access P2P software on them, it is possible for file sharing to occur if an employee transfers work documents to a personal computer with file sharing software.

To view the Bloomberg article in its entirety, please click here.

For additional reading on WikiLeaks and file sharing, please click here.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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