WikiLeaks reveals massive surveillance effort, crippled by DDoS attack

By on August 13, 2012, 3:00 PM

Last week, Wikileaks released internal documents and emails obtained by hackers regarding TrapWire, a privately-owned surveillance technology utilized by various private and public agencies. It appears TrapWire works by collecting surveillance data from participating private and public sources (CCTV cameras, in particular). Once this data is funneled into the system, TrapWire is then able to analyze this input, detecting changes in patterns -- like discovering a particular vehicle is not on its usual morning commute to work -- which in turn can be used to identify suspicious behavior.

The technology used to be owned by Abraxas, but that company was eventually purchased by Cubic. In this 2005 interview, Abraxas Corp. CEO Richard Hollis had this to say about TrapWire:

TrapWire can help do that without infringing anyone’s civil liberties. It can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists. The application can do things like “type” individuals so if people say “medium build,” you know exactly what that means from that observer.

Source: nvtc.org interview

Not much time passed before WikiLeaks was hit by a crippling DDoS attack afterward, making the site inaccessible for 10 days and counting. WikiLeaks directly attributes the DDoS to its TrapWire leak while AntiLeaks, an organization anathema to WikiLeaks, has claimed responsibility. WikiLeaks is certainly no stranger to DDoS and hacking attempts. Following major leaks, the whistle-blowing organization has often been the target of such nefarious efforts.

TrapWire, according to previous information and leaked documents, is currently being utilized by -- but probably not limited to -- the Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington D.C. police departments. It has also found a home at the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and dozens of Vegas casinos.

Out of TrapWire's four founders, three of them are ex-CIA operatives. Company head Dan Botsch was a CIA officer for 11 years while Business Development lead Michael Maness was employed by the iconic agency for 20 years. Curiously, since the debacle began to unfold last week, the "Management" section of TrapWire's website throws up a 404 error -- "File or directory not found". It seems likely the is the result of unfavorable scrutiny brought upon the service by WikiLeaks.

There has been a ton of buzz regarding TrapWire's Big Brother-like features, such as its purported use of facial recognition. Readers are encouraged to check out this detailed article which attempts to extract what is actually known about TrapWire, versus what may be conspiratorial hype.

It is unknown when WikiLeaks will return. Meanwhile, Public Intelligence shares some of the information it learned while the site was still in operation.




User Comments: 9

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amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Hopefully that rat website of wikileaks get's permenently taken down. Everyone knows Uncle Sam breaks all rules, regulations and boundaries to get any information he wants. No, your password protected cloud data and text messages aren't private.

But hey, maybe I am just a crazy conspiracy theorist...hahaha.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The only, and most salient question here is how long Wikileaks had this information.

If they only got it, with a few days, maybe week or two prior to the disclosure, that's one thing.

But if they've been sitting on this for months, then why is everyone kissing his rear?

We say the gov't is bad, but an egomaniac who decides when and what will be released? How is he better than any other corrupted source of power? How about he disclose his personal finances and those of Wikileaks. He keeps complaining that he's getting cut off from sources of donations, what has he been using them for?

He wants to be a power broker. How do we know he's not selling stuff that he has to interested parties, or withholding other information because he's being paid to?

Nobody knows, but he's the internet's darling.

psycros psycros said:

He's the Internet's darling for the same reason that the press frames Anonymous as just a pack of mischievous kids: both of them are incredibly selective about who they try to attack, defame and endanger. As long as their agenda more or less coincides with that of the liberals who control the Western media, they'll keep getting a pass. The day after Wikileaks posts Obama's Kenyan birth certificate, the site will be gone and Assange will be found in a ditch outside Amsterdam.

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

We say the gov't is bad, but an egomaniac who decides when and what will be released?

In Wikileaks' defense, it may not be an arbitrary decision.

The Wikileaks staff has, in the past, redacted sensitive personal information from big leaks like those of informants, civilians etc.. This practice has been attributed to the significant delay of particularly big leaks. [link]

Agree with the practice or not -- and it may or may not be the reason in this case -- but I imagine it takes a great deal of time to comb through documents like these and make those kinds of choices.

The total sum of information surrounding TrapWire has been slowly leaked since the beginning of this year.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The Wikileaks staff has, in the past, redacted sensitive personal information from big leaks like those of informants, civilians etc.. This practice has been attributed to the significant delay of particularly big leaks. [link]

Agree with the practice or not -- and it may or may not be the reason in this case -- but I imagine it takes a great deal of time to comb through documents like these and make those kinds of choices.

Oh agree with the practice, although redacting information from e-mails from an American security company kinda pales in comparison to failing to redact names when it comes to informers and covert operatives in Afghanistan...

When we read about this five or ten years down the line, I think people will find a lot of their faith in this guy misplaced.

Like I've said, if this really was about information, it would have all been released to media organizations worldwide who have a legal and ethical obligation to redact info, not gradually released by someone with neither, whose agenda is completely unknown.

As far as TrapWire, from what I've read other places, the information about what they do has been somewhat readily available for years. But if WL releases it, it becomes controversial. If this stuff has been going on in the UK for decades, why would Americans assume that their own gov't is not doing it?

Guardian31756 said:

I've been wondering if Hollywood knows something about this and it presents it to the public through Movies and TV.

This bears a close resemblance to the TV series called " Person Of Interest ".

Maybe Hollywood is the real WIKI LEAKS !

TJGeezer said:

The only, and most salient question here is how long Wikileaks had this information.

If they only got it, with a few days, maybe week or two prior to the disclosure, that's one thing.

But if they've been sitting on this for months, then why is everyone kissing his rear?

We say the gov't is bad, but an egomaniac who decides when and what will be released? How is he better than any other corrupted source of power? How about he disclose his personal finances and those of Wikileaks. He keeps complaining that he's getting cut off from sources of donations, what has he been using them for?

He wants to be a power broker. How do we know he's not selling stuff that he has to interested parties, or withholding other information because he's being paid to?

Nobody knows, but he's the internet's darling.

Jeez, that's a really old political tactic. If you don't like what someone reveals (such as the fact-checking done by Snopes.com) you can attack the character of the person who revealed it. "You can't fool all the people all the time but you can generally fool enough of them to get by. "

If you're accusing the WikiLeaks guy of doing these terrible things, cite some actual evidence, please.

1 person liked this | gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Jeez, that's a really old political tactic. If you don't like what someone reveals (such as the fact-checking done by Snopes.com) you can attack the character of the person who revealed it. "You can't fool all the people all the time but you can generally fool enough of them to get by. "

If you're accusing the WikiLeaks guy of doing these terrible things, cite some actual evidence, please.

Yeah, here you go: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=wikileaks criticism

And his character is key here, because he holds the information.

But whatever, you agree with him cause you hate the US, hate authority, whatever. You do your own digging, I'm not going to waste my time providing citations for some meaningless internet stranger. I did my research, you want to know more, you do your own. You want to blindly believe him, go right ahead.

Doctor John Doctor John said:

Should be enough reading there to go on with, saves all the time & trouble of typing too!

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