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Why WikiLeaks' Spinoff OpenLeaks Failed 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the couldn't-facebook-assange's-myspace dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Wired has published an excerpt of the new WikiLeaks-related book This Machine Kills Secrets, which delves into the launch of the WikiLeaks spinoff OpenLeaks at the Chaos Communication Camp in Berlin last year. The detailed account of the site's debut, with German ex-WikiLeaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg at the helm, reveals that even before the dispute between WikiLeaks and OpenLeaks led to the controversial destruction of the decryption keys for 3,000 of WikiLeaks' encrypted leaks taken by Domscheit-Berg, OpenLeaks was already facing significant problems: Rumors that the group had been infiltrated by the German government, a lack of code open for public auditing and even a failure to get the site online in time for the penetration test it had invited the CCC hackers to perform. The book passage gives a peek into the infighting, bad luck, disorganization and personality problems that has left the world without a real sequel to WikiLeaks despite the dozens of leak-focused sites that have launched in the last two years."
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Why WikiLeaks' Spinoff OpenLeaks Failed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:17AM (#41334419)
    Destruction of the 3,000 keys was absurd given the risks people took to deliver those to Wikileaks, so Daniel Domscheit-Berg makes Julian Assange look like George Washington.
    • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:29AM (#41334535)

      That, plus OpenLeaks was vaporware and Daniel Domscheit-Berg was kicked out of CCC ('I Doubt Domscheit-Berg's Integrity' - Top German Hacker Slams OpenLeaks Founder [spiegel.de]) for his self serving behaviour.

      If your going to leak something anonymously, why settle for anyone who has not also demonstrated commitment to protecting you as a source in the face of overwhelming international pressure by powerful players [techcrunch.com], like Wikileaks has and continues to do?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The criticism of Wikileaks was that they're focusing on megaleaks and have become a news story themselves. They were at risk of becoming a cult of personality, lessso now since it's proven that it's not just Assange, but we're talking about a story which started more than 2 years ago.

        For run-of-the-mill whistle blowing (e.g., reporting municipal corruption, standards or safety violations etc.) Wikileaks was losing its touch.

        Today I mostly agree with you. It didn't look so simple two years ago though, and

      • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Friday September 14, 2012 @11:07AM (#41335669) Homepage
        Mod parent up.

        Assange may be a douchebag, but you can't deny he has the courage of his convictions.
    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:16AM (#41335083)

      A *lot* of people suspect that Domscheit-Berg is an intelligence plant. He spent most of his time at Wikileaks trying to sabotage the operation. He was apparently trying to identify contributors while he was their. And then he participated in an obvious effort to discredit Assange after he left.

      What's more OpenLeaks was/is planning to refuse Tor submissions, going instead with their own "secure" software (which they refuse to release the source code for openly). Smells a lot like a honeypot to me. I seriously doubt any submission will ever make it to a newspaper. But I do suspect the police/FBI/CIA will make it to the door of anyone submitting.

      • by elucido (870205)

        A *lot* of people suspect that Domscheit-Berg is an intelligence plant. He spent most of his time at Wikileaks trying to sabotage the operation. He was apparently trying to identify contributors while he was their. And then he participated in an obvious effort to discredit Assange after he left.

        What's more OpenLeaks was/is planning to refuse Tor submissions, going instead with their own "secure" software (which they refuse to release the source code for openly). Smells a lot like a honeypot to me. I seriously doubt any submission will ever make it to a newspaper. But I do suspect the police/FBI/CIA will make it to the door of anyone submitting.

        You make some good points. Until he releases the code we cannot rule out that it could be a honeypot. I don't think it would be an FBI/CIA thing though because he's a German and they have their own intelligence agencies in Europe. The code absolutely must be released and while I don't necessarily think we should pin all our faith in Tor or Wikileaks, at least we have the code for Tor and at least Wikileaks actually has leaked in the past.

    • This particular forum is filling up with lots of info that spy agencies don't like to see widely distributed. I predict that those (few) Slashdot admins who are forum spies will soon 'Slide' this forum off the front page. I.e. They will implement a Forum Slide [cryptome.org] to remove the offending discussion from sight. Watch as a bunch of 'junk' articles soon appear, and this thread becomes hidden. Note that I have exposed and correctly anticipated the actions of the Slashdot forum spies previously, and they have ag
  • by Anonymous Coward

    was utterly unforgivable. People risk their life and limb to make them available!

  • "Open" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:23AM (#41334467)

    The story of too many of the "open" projects :
    * someone creates something worthwhile
    * it becomes very popular
    * some douchebag says: "I'll make something exactly like this, except it will be better because it's OPEN."
    * nothing of value is produced
    * Lather, rinse, repeat

    • by elucido (870205)

      The story of too many of the "open" projects :
      * someone creates something worthwhile
      * it becomes very popular
      * some douchebag says: "I'll make something exactly like this, except it will be better because it's OPEN."
      * nothing of value is produced
      * Lather, rinse, repeat

      Only on paper Openleaks is better than Wikileaks in every way technologically. If you understand the technology behind Wikileaks then you understand that Julian Assange is the weakness in the technology behind Wikileaks. Remove Julian Assange and remove the publishing component and focus on making the best possible technology for actual journalists and on paper that makes sense and is probably the best route to take with regard to hackers, developers, programmers, technologists, but once again apparently Da

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Remove Julian Assange and remove the publishing component and focus on making the best possible technology for ...

        Publishing leaks was the only thing Wikileaks did. If you "remove the publishing component" there are no components left.

        • by elucido (870205)

          Remove Julian Assange and remove the publishing component and focus on making the best possible technology for ...

          Publishing leaks was the only thing Wikileaks did. If you "remove the publishing component" there are no components left.

          Journalist organizations are better set up for publishing leaks. Wikileaks just wasn't well designed as a journalist operation. They never had the critical mass of readership and the way Julian Assange was doing things he had to be in the center of everything and when you put the human in the center of everything it's not hard to corrupt any human and defeat the whole system.

          • by retep (108840)

            Journalist organizations are better set up for publishing leaks. Wikileaks just wasn't well designed as a journalist operation. They never had the critical mass of readership and the way Julian Assange was doing things he had to be in the center of everything and when you put the human in the center of everything it's not hard to corrupt any human and defeat the whole system.

            What makes you think they never had that "critical mass of readership"? I'd argue their most important readership was other journalists, and pretty much every leak they've ever published has been picked up by the press in some form or another. That the general public can read the leaks easily is a side-effect, necessitated by the fact that they want to keep the journalists honest, and by the fact that the term "journalist" should be interpreted fairly inclusively.

          • Wikileaks just wasn't well designed as a journalist operation.

            Wait, WikiLeaks was a journalist operation? I thought they just published leaked info.

          • The REASON Wikileaks was established in the first place was BECAUSE the various 'journalism' organizations have been infiltrated by intelligence agencies. It is IMPOSSIBLE to publish hyper-sensitive stuff! My first-hand exposure to this information began on 27 Nov. 2003, and continued for several years, so I'm not just making this up. See my previous Slashdot posts.

            I've told Slashdot about this before: The Plame/Wilson affair, and the unwillingness of ANY journalism organization ANYWHERE to publish the

            • by elucido (870205)

              The REASON Wikileaks was established in the first place was BECAUSE the various 'journalism' organizations have been infiltrated by intelligence agencies. It is IMPOSSIBLE to publish hyper-sensitive stuff! My first-hand exposure to this information began on 27 Nov. 2003, and continued for several years, so I'm not just making this up. See my previous Slashdot posts.

              I've told Slashdot about this before: The Plame/Wilson affair, and the unwillingness of ANY journalism organization ANYWHERE to publish their (true!) evidence indicating that G. W. Bush lied to the US public about the reason for going to war in Iraq, sparked Wikileaks. It had been considered before, but that was the impetus to make it happen.

              What is harder to infiltrate, one man or a team of men?

      • The dustbin of history is littered with "superior" solutions. Implementation is everything.

  • by clevershark (130296) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:29AM (#41334539) Homepage

    As soon as DDB split, stealing secrets on his way out, he basically said "hey, I've been working with these guys for years but now I'm deliberately stabbing them in the back for my own selfish benefit so from now on you should trust ME with your secrets!" Yeah right. It's like Sammy The Bull Gravano trying to start a big meth op while in the witness protection program. You literally have to be dumber than a 3rd grader in order to think that this is going to work.

    • I should have said, destroying secrets on his way out, not stealing them.

      • by cffrost (885375)

        I should have said, destroying secrets on his way out, not stealing them.

        Thank you for adding that. I think it's important to maintain this distinction... The copyright cartels already co-opt our culture; they shouldn't be given further dominion over the English language.

    • by elucido (870205)

      As soon as DDB split, stealing secrets on his way out, he basically said "hey, I've been working with these guys for years but now I'm deliberately stabbing them in the back for my own selfish benefit so from now on you should trust ME with your secrets!" Yeah right. It's like Sammy The Bull Gravano trying to start a big meth op while in the witness protection program. You literally have to be dumber than a 3rd grader in order to think that this is going to work.

      If you understand the Openleaks technology, the idea is you shouldn't have to trust Julian Assange or anyone else with your secrets. The hackers should build the technology not enter the spy war. Julian Assage has brought heat on hackers around the world because he's entering into the spy world and that makes it dangerous for everyone and anyone so Daniel has a point there.

      Unfortunately Openleaks is vaporware and no code has been released. Unless he releases the code he deserves the bad reputation hes earni

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you understand the Openleaks technology, the idea is you shouldn't have to trust Julian Assange or anyone else with your secrets.

        Looking at the openleaks website and the video presented there, openleaks "function, as much as possible, as a mere conduit (akin to the telephone exchange and the post) between the whistleblower and an organization".

        1. This means openleaks is attempting to perform a Man-in-the-middle attack using a social engineering attack.
        2. It means openleaks does not provide the needed se

        • by elucido (870205)

          If you understand the Openleaks technology, the idea is you shouldn't have to trust Julian Assange or anyone else with your secrets.

          Looking at the openleaks website and the video presented there, openleaks "function, as much as possible, as a mere conduit (akin to the telephone exchange and the post) between the whistleblower and an organization".

          1. This means openleaks is attempting to perform a Man-in-the-middle attack using a social engineering attack.
          2. It means openleaks does not provide the needed services. The conduits (post, telephone, email) are already there. The missing component is the publishing component, and that is what wikileaks provides.
          3. Trust. Assange is a walking pillar of trust, and the more the USA is trying to destroy him, the stronger that trust becomes.

          The founder of openleaks, DDB, has a track record of stealing information from the previous organisation he worked for. He has proven that he could not be trusted. The best prediction of future behaviour is past behaviour, so only a fool would trust DDB.

          No wonder openleaks fails to take off, in a business where trust is EVERYTHING.

          Clearly you don't know what you're talking about. While I'm skeptical of Openleaks for not releasing the code, what you're saying is that somehow it's a man in the middle attack automatically when you haven't even reviewed the code?

          So if the code is released and it works, and it simplifies the leaking process to the push of a button, isn't that great? Isn't it great if technology automates the process as much as possible and removes humans from the process as much as possible? As a technologist I can tell y

      • by retep (108840)

        If you understand the Openleaks technology, the idea is you shouldn't have to trust Julian Assange or anyone else with your secrets. The hackers should build the technology not enter the spy war. Julian Assage has brought heat on hackers around the world because he's entering into the spy world and that makes it dangerous for everyone and anyone so Daniel has a point there.

        Unfortunately Openleaks is vaporware and no code has been released. Unless he releases the code he deserves the bad reputation hes earning.

        You also gotta wonder, what exactly is that technology supposed to be anyway? Tor is readily available, as are file uploading sites and message boards accessible with tor. If you have the technical know-how to use the "Openleaks technology" to publish your leak, you probably already have the know-how to use Tor anyway. Wikileaks also offered "mail-your-leak" dropboxes, a very secure option that has nothing to do with source-code.

        The real thing Openleaks could add is vetted technology to remove things like e

        • by elucido (870205)

          If you understand the Openleaks technology, the idea is you shouldn't have to trust Julian Assange or anyone else with your secrets. The hackers should build the technology not enter the spy war. Julian Assage has brought heat on hackers around the world because he's entering into the spy world and that makes it dangerous for everyone and anyone so Daniel has a point there.

          Unfortunately Openleaks is vaporware and no code has been released. Unless he releases the code he deserves the bad reputation hes earning.

          You also gotta wonder, what exactly is that technology supposed to be anyway? Tor is readily available, as are file uploading sites and message boards accessible with tor. If you have the technical know-how to use the "Openleaks technology" to publish your leak, you probably already have the know-how to use Tor anyway. Wikileaks also offered "mail-your-leak" dropboxes, a very secure option that has nothing to do with source-code.

          The real thing Openleaks could add is vetted technology to remove things like embedded tracking of documents, for instance the metadata in jpegs and word documents, as well as technology to defeat stenographicly hidden per-file tracking codes. I haven't heard of anything from Openleaks even mentioning that stuff, yet defeating can be vital if a leaker wants to remain anonymous. It's a much harder problem than the actual publishing as well. It's also a problem more easily solved by human efforts, such as trusted individuals that re-word and summarize documents and publish the summaries rather than the originals directly.

          What Openleaks can't do with technology is vet the leaks to ensure authenticity. For that an organization like Wikileaks makes much more sense, as does traditional journalism.

          Tor isn't easy to use and doesn't interface well with the web. For example if someone wanted to post a TorButton on Slashdot to receive Anonymous leaks, is Tor secure enough or set up to do that? The other problem is Tor itself isn't perfect as a technology, it too can be compromised. And of course once again most people who are journalists want access to a Tor setup without having to be security experts. Tor is only accessible by security experts at this point and the problem is most journalists don't hav

          • by retep (108840)

            Tor isn't easy to use and doesn't interface well with the web. For example if someone wanted to post a TorButton on Slashdot to receive Anonymous leaks, is Tor secure enough or set up to do that? The other problem is Tor itself isn't perfect as a technology, it too can be compromised. And of course once again most people who are journalists want access to a Tor setup without having to be security experts. Tor is only accessible by security experts at this point and the problem is most journalists don't have the expertise to safely deal with it.

            If you go to the Tor website, you're presented with some software to download. Click on that, installed the software, and go. Sorry, but this is frankly very easy. There aren't solutions that "work better with the web"; HTML5 doesn't allow Javascript to open connections to arbitrary hosts on the internet, so any "web" solution would still require trusting a server run by people you don't know. Similarly the connection to that server can still be "man-in-the-middled" in a direct, but difficult to detect way.

  • It's designed better, the idea is better, it doesn't have the central personality cult of Assange weakness. So why didn't it get off the ground? Possibly because of the personality cult of Assange weakness poisoning the well. If it's not Julian Assange and Wikileaks then his cult of personality suspect it has to be a trap, the government, or that somehow it's traitorous.

    Openleaks is a good technology on paper, where is the code? Where is the technology in practice? At this point showing is better than telli

    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      Maybe it was the lack of cult around Domscheit-Berg who shows himself to be every bit an attention whore -- but far less skillful at it than Assange.

      And frankly, starting off by stealing then destroying submitted leaks that people went to lengths to procure might not have sent a very positive or encouraging message to the community at large.

    • within the same paragraph, can you use up all the oxygen in the room?

      The term is misused in much the same way as "conspiracy theorist" is used to denigrate anyone holding suspicions against the wealthy and the powerful (even while the latter have their professional conspiracy theory corps working full time to fill the prisons) no matter how well founded in fact.

      In this case, its a bias against individuals who become very reputable/trusted among a subgroup without any accompanying transition to society's inn

      • by elucido (870205)

        within the same paragraph, can you use up all the oxygen in the room?

        The term is misused in much the same way as "conspiracy theorist" is used to denigrate anyone holding suspicions against the wealthy and the powerful (even while the latter have their professional conspiracy theory corps working full time to fill the prisons) no matter how well founded in fact.

        In this case, its a bias against individuals who become very reputable/trusted among a subgroup without any accompanying transition to society's inner circles.

        Its also interesting to see who gets a pass in this regard, despite their cult-like behavior. Ayn Rand required ideological purity from her associates, and made pronouncements of excommunication of individuals from her Objectivist movement but I don't recall any persistent charges of personality cultism against her and her followers.

        Objectivists are a cult too. Any time you put a person above a mission it starts looking like a personality cult. Julian Assange has made many questionable and selfish decisions such as that decision to conduct the troll hoax operation.

        • by Xest (935314)

          What is the "troll hoax operation"?

          You're using a lot of loaded language as the GP pointed out, but at the same time not making much sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The detailed account of the site's debut, with German ex-WikiLeaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg at the helm

    With a name (Domscheit-Berg) that sounds dangerously close to "Dumb Shit Bag," they were doomed from the start.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:42AM (#41334723) Journal

    Domscheit-Berg is a spook, that's why.

    • by elucido (870205)

      Domscheit-Berg is a spook, that's why.

      How do you know Wikileaks isn't a false flag front? Anybody can claim someone is a spook with no evidence and how is that any better than the people who claim Julian Assange is a sex offender? Wrong is wrong. That said I am disappointed that Openleaks never got off the ground. Daniel it's time to release the code if you have any and get Openleaks built or let someone else build it.

      • Domscheit-Berg is a spook, that's why.

        How do you know Wikileaks isn't a false flag front?

        Because they have an actual track record of publishing leaks.

        Anybody can claim someone is a spook with no evidence

        There is evidence. You may not believe the evidence, but that doesn't mean there is none.

        how is that any better than the people who claim Julian Assange is a sex offender?

        It is completely different. Julian is being accused by people with guns who have the authority to imprison him. Daniel is being accused in the court of public opinion, which has a very different standard of proof.

        • by elucido (870205)

          Domscheit-Berg is a spook, that's why.

          How do you know Wikileaks isn't a false flag front?

          Because they have an actual track record of publishing leaks.

          Anybody can claim someone is a spook with no evidence

          There is evidence. You may not believe the evidence, but that doesn't mean there is none.

          how is that any better than the people who claim Julian Assange is a sex offender?

          It is completely different. Julian is being accused by people with guns who have the authority to imprison him. Daniel is being accused in the court of public opinion, which has a very different standard of proof.

          Evidence? How do you find evidence of someone being a spook? And even if somehow you believe he is, it doesn't mean he knows he's a spook being used by this or that government. It's not like the governments are going to admit to the spook that it's a government front. The spook could be just as much of a victim as everyone else in the process.

    • Domscheit-Berg is a spook, that's why.

      Hatta is a spook.

      See, I can make shit up too.

    • Really, there is no need for racial slurs here. Who modded this bigoted epithet up to +3?
      • Spook is another word for spy or secret agent, which is the most obvious definition from the context. I don't think anyone else but you instead thought of its other use as a racial epithet. It's also a term for a ghost or apparition, but again, from context, everyone seems to have figured that one out.

        • by elucido (870205)

          Spook is another word for spy or secret agent, which is the most obvious definition from the context. I don't think anyone else but you instead thought of its other use as a racial epithet. It's also a term for a ghost or apparition, but again, from context, everyone seems to have figured that one out.

          The problem with the term is that anyone can be labeled a spook and you can have people who are spooks who never know they are spooks. There are unwitting spooks who think they aren't.

          • Anyone can be labeled a spook and you can have people who are spooks who never know they are spooks. There are unwitting spooks who think they aren't.

            No there aren't. If you are unwittingly providing intelligence to a spy or other intelligence operative, that makes you an "asset" [wikipedia.org], not a spook. The spook would be whomever is exploiting you to get to the information.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "isn’t designed to actually make anything public. Instead, it aims to securely pass on leaked content to partnered media organizations and nonprofits"

    So it's a whistle-blower website that is designed to restrict and slow the dissemination of whistle-blower documents through a series of closed, moderated and heavily encrypted filters? I'm sure that will make the governments and corporations of the world happy(er) but is it really a "better" form of getting needed information to the public? While much

  • Am I the only one that read "Domscheit-Berg" as "DumbShit-Berg"?
  • Hippies, "burning man" and heavy storms (190mph - I can't remember a single storm of this strength in this area, ever. And I happen to live there.) I must have been to the wrong camp, last year. The camp that I remember was so full of arrogant wanna-be hackers and carreer hipsters desperately looking for someone to honour their self-importance that I left the second day. Somebody writing for Wired, however, might have fit in perfectly... The whole hackerspace hype and popularisation of the hacker myth IMHO
  • Wikileaks is based in Switzerland: I'm proud of my country ...

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