Frustrated by the lack of impact from WikiLeaks, participants in the Anonymous collective have launched a Leak site called Paranoia.
This article originally appeared on Threat Level.
By Quinn Norton - Frustrated by the lack of impact from Anonymous’ otherwise famous hacks and data dumps, and the slow pace of material coming out of WikiLeaks, participants in the Anonymous collective have launched a WikiLeaks-like site called Par:AnoIA (Potentially Alarming Research: Anonymous Intelligence Agency).
Paranoia, which debuted in March, is a new publishing platform built by Anonymous to host Anonymous data leaks that’s trying to find a solution to a problem that plagues news sites, government transparency advocates, and large-website owners everywhere: how to organize more data than any human could possibly read.
The site marks a departure from the groups’ previous modus operandi, where it would publicly drop the documents, make them available in a torrent — usually as a zip file, and then move on. By contrast, the goal of Paranoia is to curate and present content to a hopefully interested public.
Paranoia anons say they don’t gather the data themselves; like WikiLeaks, they take submissions, but from the Anonymous community. The project was created as a response to a year of Anonymous releases where the announcement of document dumps generated plenty of media, but the documents’ content got little coverage.
“The reason no one cares about these leaks, as a general rule of thumb, is that they can’t do anything with [them],” said a Paranoia anon volunteering on document processing for the project in an online chat with Wired. “Basically, [we're] making it accessible to anyone that wants to do something with it, in a proper usable format.”
Part of the motivation to build the leak site, the Paranoia volunteer said, was to get material out faster than WikiLeaks’ long lead times. “I’m pretty sick by these 20-year-plans,” said the founding anon.
In 2012, WikiLeaks, which no longer has a way to publicly upload documents, has leaned on the anarchic collective for its major releases, including Stratfor and the recent Syrian emails. Could Paranoia represent a threat to the beleaguered leaking site’s recent lifeline?
“I don’t know. Guess that… depends on WikiLeaks.” said founding anon, who went on to say that the leaks site has recently contacted Paranoia. “(It) will be interesting to see what they have to say.”
On Friday, WikiLeaks accused one of the main Anonymous Twitter accounts of promoting insecure proxies, hinting that the account was being run at the direction of law enforcement. AnonymousIRC slapped back, including a Tweet alluding to WikiLeaks being dependent on Anonymous for its relevance:
Wikileaks, didn’t your mother teach you to not shit where you eat? It seems not, so you have to be shown why it isn’t a good idea. #Anonyous
Other efforts at dealing with leaked data, including WikiLeaks, have been built on a similar ideal of citizen participation. The “wiki” in WikiLeaks signaled the project’s intention to leak documents, and have a crowd-sourced equivalent of the CIA analyze the documents. That notion was abandoned after the founders discovered that only themselves, academics and journalists took the time to delve into data sets. (WikiLeaks subsequently began partnering with media organizations, which it soon found came with a different set of complications.)
Even Anonymous’ own Operation Leakspin tried to get organizing and analysis done by engaging crowds with relatively raw data. It too was abandoned for lack of interest.
Paranoia isn’t exactly replicating these experiments, but they are assuming that, with better tools and organization, journalists, researchers, and the interested public in general will eventually engage with leaks in much deeper ways.
There are exceptions where leaks have spawned reference tools. After the dump of HBGary emails by Anonymous in February 2011, Anonymous-affiliated Barrett Brown created an intelligence/surveillance contractor wiki called Project PM, which extensively catalogs background and relationships based largely on the mail data. There’s also Blue Cabinet, a wiki of surveillance/censorware companies was created by hacker collective Telecomix based on their work in Syria uncovering illegal Blue Coat deep packet inspection machines.
But there’s no science to how and when big data leaks make an impact. The very idea is so new, no one even knows yet how to study it. With Paranoia, Anonymous joins much more established projects like IBM’s Many Eyes, the Associated Press’s Overview, and the consortium of journalistic entities behind Document Cloud testing the proposition that building tools and specialized hosting can solve the problem with data engagement.
Currently Paranoia is hosting Austrian Scientology emails, an anonymous arrest tracker, a browsable archive of the HBGary mails, a proxy for the Pirate Bay (to bypass filters) and a pirated copy of Parmy Olson’s book, We Are Anonymous. They’ve just gotten their first sizable leak from an Anonymous breach of Innodata, an outsourcing company that handles document processing and IT. “Anonymous got into Innodata, and Paranoia is publishing (the data),” said one of the project’s founding anons.
The generic nature of Innodata’s data presents a painful challenge to the nascent leak site’s coders, who are trying to make sense of the largely unrelated documents. At this point they’re still working on basic infrastructure and databases to support what they already have, and struggling long days to organize the 40 gigs of Innodata material they report having, of which 1.1 gb of data sorted by document type and (somewhat) by category have been released as a torrent on the Pirate Bay. Specific Innodata documents relating to Fukushima and the Vietnamese plan to build a nuclear power infrastructure have also been featured on the site.
During a spot check, Wired found some of the hosted documents are already available online in one form or another, from the IAEA website to Scribd.
“For now (Par:AnoIA is) a simple, quick leak platform with direct download access and browsable files. Also some conveniences like an email viewer are already done. We’ll add a full text search and more features. In the little longer run we want to extend our research & analytics department, so we can actually provide background/analysis on stored documents,” said the founder anon.
Thus far there’s no plan to redact anything in any of their material – the plan is everything they get will be released in full, and without too much delay. They hope to in time grow to the point where they could actively build relationships with sources that have information they want to release. But for now, that’s a long way away for a site still working on getting a search engine for the HBGary mails.
The Paranoia anons say they aren’t worried about law enforcement or any of the many problems that have plagued WikiLeaks, from a court-ordered takedown over corporate documents to a potential prosecution under U.S. espionage laws.
“So far we publish images and texts… which is absolutely legal. Unless someone says it isn’t. We are behind Cloudflare and the servers and domains are hosted in a way that they are DMCA-proof. We have experience in doing that,” said an anon.
The anon pointed out that Anonleaks.ch and lulzsecurity.com used a similar set up to avoid take downs.
“Our shit is also hosted anonymously, and we obviously do not use our real IPs,” the anon added.
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