Posted on June 26, 2020 at 7:05 PM
The U.S. government has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julan Assange for conspiring with hackers to obtain highly classified documents. The U.S. authority said Assange also collaborated with the infamous hacking syndicate known as the “Anonymous” hacking group.
Assange has been under the asylum protection of Ecuador, but last year he was arrested after the country suddenly withdrew his asylum. He was later sentenced to 50 weeks in U.K. prison for breach of his jail terms in 2012.
Assange is presently in the U.K. as he awaits potential extradition to the U.S. after the court sits on his case in September.
According to reports on the indictment by the DoJ, it doesn’t include any additional charges superseding the 18 previous count charges filed against Assange in May last year.
However, it “broadens the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged,” the DoJ revealed.
Assange involved in the illegal publication of classified documents
In May last year, Assange was indicted on 18 counts of espionage for illegally publishing classified diplomatic and military documents on popular WikiLeaks sites in 2010. According to the report, he obtained the classified information from Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst.
It was alleged that Assange collected those classified data by collaborating with Manning to hack into a system in the U.S. Department of Defense and cracking a password hack on the computer.
Based on the new superseding charges released on Wednesday, Assange, along with other conspirators at WikiLeaks, also employed hackers at conferences in Asia and Europe. They conspired with these hackers to hack into different targeted computer systems to benefit WikiLeaks.
A known history of hacking
Since when WikiLeaks was established, Assange has been supportive of the idea to hack into systems to obtain information. In conferences, he always reminds the audience about his hacking history since when he was a teenager in Australia. Assange has always encouraged his audience, including WikiLeaks employees to hack for the website.
For instance, in 2019, Assange explained to the community that WikiLeaks obtained private documents from the Congressional Research service. The firm obtained private data by exploiting the documentation system vulnerability. The vulnerability was found in the U.S. Congress system, according to Assange.
Multiple charges libeled against Assange
Apart from the indictment of conspiracy, Assange was also accused of gaining unlawful access to a government computer system from a NATO country in 2010. In 2012, Assange was in contact with the head of the LulzSec hacking syndicate and gave the group a list of hacking targets.
The DoJ revealed that Assange contacted the LulzSec leader to provide WikiLeaks pdfs, databases, emails, and documents concerning one target. In a subsequent communication, Assange revealed to LulzSec leader that the most important release of hacked documents would come from the New York Times, NSA, or the CIA.
Collaboration with Anonymous Hacker
Apart from his alliance with the leader of the LulzSec hacking group, Assange was believed to have related to the famous Anonymous Hacking group. The DoJ said there is strong evidence that Assange collected data and emails from a previous breach to publish on WikiLeaks. The report said the information was received after affiliating with the anonymous group. According to the hacker, Assange indirectly requested that he spam the victim’s company again.
Assange has been in the U.K since his arrest in 2019 for breaking bail terms. The same day, the United States also filed charges and extradition requests.
The press has criticized the United States for the prosecution of Assange, with many journalists claiming he wasn’t breaking any law to report leaked documents.
But the DoJ is clarifying the reasons for his indictment, stating it’s for more than merely reporting and publishing leaked documents. The DoJ said Assange’s charges also included getting involved in obtaining hacked data and other illegal activities which don’t warrant free press protection.
If he is charged and convicted for all conspiracy counts, he could be facing a maximum total of about 175 years in the United States prison for the role he played in one of the biggest data compromises of classified intelligence in United States’ history.