WikiLeaks obtains much secret data from P2P nets, not leaks, firm claims

Whistleblower site denies Tiversa claim that WikiLeaks depends as much on peer-to-peer networks as leaks to get sensitive data

Not all of the sensitive documents published by WikiLeaks over the past few years have come from anonymous whistleblowers, as the site has claimed, contends security firm Tiversa.

Rather, Tiversa claims that evidence suggests that at least some of the documents were obtained by WikiLeaks via its own searches on peer-to-peer networks.

Tiversa's claims were dismissed outright by Mark Stephens, WikiLeaks' attorney, who told Bloomberg News that they are "completely false in every regard."

Tiversa, whose clients include the FBI, helps organizations monitor P2P networks for leaked data.

Over the past few years, the company has served up several sensational examples of highly sensitive information accidentally posted on file-sharing networks.

In 2009, for example, Tiversa disclosed to Congress that it had found U.S. Secret Service details on a safe house for the U.S. First Family, along with presidential motorcade routes, on a LimeWire file-sharing network. Earlier that same year, Tiversa disclosed that it had found classified data about the President's Marine One helicopter floating on a P2P network.

Scott Harrer, brand director at Tiversa, said the security company has unearthed numerous sensitive documents on P2P networks that were later posted on WikiLeaks. The whistleblower Web site said all the documents had been anonymously leaked to it.

Bloomberg published some examples of Tiversa's latest claims.

For instance, WikiLeaks in 2009 published a document that exposed sensitive information about infrastructure upgrades at the Pentagon's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. WikiLeaks claimed to have obtained the document from a source, though it had been available on a P2P network at least two months earlier, according to the Bloomberg report.

Bloomberg also cited WikiLeaks' posting posting of what it called a leaked spreadsheet containing detailed information on potential terrorist targets in Fresno County, Calif. The report said the the data was in fact inadvertently posted on a file-sharing network by a California state employee in August 2008.

In an interview, Harrer provided two more examples to Computerworld.

He said that WikiLeaks' release of Microsoft's Computer Online Forensics Evidence Extractor (COFEE) tool and related documentation in Nov. 2009 came several weeks after the information first become available on P2P networks.

WikiLeak's announcement of the Microsoft document suggests that it was obtained from a source, though it also appears to reference its previous availability on P2P networks.

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