Julian Assange: From hacker to Wikileaks founder

julian assange wikileaks

Julian Assange has become a famous figure in the worlds of journalism and hacking.

As the son of anti-war activists, and a founding member of ethical hacking group the International Subversives in his teens, maybe it was inevitable he would go on to become Editor-in-Chief of an organization like Wikileaks.

Besides leaking classified military documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Wikileaks has released documents from intelligence contractors that develop surveillance and hacking projects used by government agencies to spy on its citizens.

Staying out of reach

Assange didn’t become well known until 2010, when US soldier Chelsea Manning used Wikileaks to leak the largest set of classified documents ever released to the public.

But he helped found Wikileaks four years before, in 2006. And as early as 1999, Assange set up ‘leaks.org’ and publicized an NSA patent for voice-data harvesting technology.

After setting up Wikileaks, Assange is said to have lived a nomadic lifestyle during which he travelled all over Asia, Africa and Europe. By staying mobile, he made Wikileaks harder to track down.

How Wikileaks keeps sources anonymous

Wikileaks uses “high-end security technologies” to keep its sources anonymous and beat censorship. They include:

  • Encrypted electronic drop boxes that allow sources to submit information anonymously
  • Submission from neutral locations like net cafes and wireless hot spots, so sources can’t be traced even if Wikileaks is infiltrated by an external agency
  • Cover domains that get past government blocks on websites that include the Wikileaks name and defend against denial of service (DoS) attacks
  • Hosting on multiple servers owned by hosting companies that support Wikileaks
  • Use of Tor and PGP anonymity software

Enlightening

Lots of people see Julian Assange as a heroic figure, who has defended the freedom of the press and our right to know the truth at great personal cost. In 2010, Time magazine readers voted him Person of the Year. In his home country of Australia, Assange was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for Peace with Justice.

Live from the embassy

At the moment Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, to avoid extradition to Sweden as Assange also believes that Sweden would extradite him to the US on false charges.

But he continues to make public appearances and to run Wikileaks from the embassy. Whatever you might think of him, Assange is certainly a man who knows how to keep his Internet connection secure.

Public Wi-Fi networks are known for their poor security. Other users can hijack your browsing sessions and see what you’re doing, or the Wi-Fi provider itself might snoop on your activities.

As a business traveller, you should definitely consider using a VPN to encrypt your Internet traffic and keep out spies. Especially in foreign lands, and when using networks you can’t really trust.

Expensive data roaming charges

Once you’ve finally reached your destination, you could use your mobile network’s data roaming service to connect to the Internet – and probably pay through the nose for it. You could also rely on your hotel’s Wi-Fi, but you probably won’t be there that often.

A cheap and convenient way to stay online abroad is to get a local pre-pay SIM card. In many countries, these SIMs are easy to buy. In Europe, you can often get 1GB of mobile data for less than $20. Prices and services obviously vary quite a bit between countries.

Connecting your phone and computer

What if you want to use both your smartphone and computer, but you’re in a place where you can only connect one device at a time – like with some paid Wi-Fi services?

In these situations, always connect your phone. Then you can use iPhone’s Personal Hotspot, or devices running Android v2.2 or later, to tether your computer to the same connection. Two connections for the price of one!

Keeping confidential files secure

Whatever type of connection you manage to find on your business travels, you really need to keep it secure. It’s not just Wi-Fi that’s vulnerable to snooping – 3G and 4G have their security holes too.

Use a VPN on your phone, tablet and computer. Hopefully your company has its own VPN. But if not, choose one that’s fast, uses the latest 256-bit encryption had provides apps for your computer and your phone. It’s the only way to know your confidential documents stay that way.

 

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