Tag Archives: Aaron Swartz

ShutterstockThe Anonymous Operation Last Resort campaign has returned to leak crucial files from an investment banking firm and a state.gov database “for Aaron Swartz.”

The OpLastResort Twitter account announced its hack, defacement and data exposure of an investment firm G.K. Baum, seen in Wikileaks email files as an alleged client of global intelligence company Stratfor.

Monday, February 18, George K. Baum and Company saw their website defaced and a page was added linking to a data dump that showed all the firm’s client user account credentials, passwords in plain text, phone numbers and access to transaction information.

Anonymous OpLastResort Hacks Investment Firm | DFI News.

WikiLeaks said late yesterday that recently deceased Internet activist Aaron Swartz assisted the organization, was in contact with Julian Assange, and may have been one of the organization’s sources.

Reached in Iceland on Saturday evening, California time, WikiLeaks representative Kristinn Hrafnsson confirmed to CNET that the tweets were authentic but declined to elaborate.

In the tweets, the organization said it was revealing the information “due to the investigation into the Secret Service involvement” with Swartz.

Here are screenshots of the tweets:

The phrasing of the last tweet (“strong reasons to believe, but cannot prove”) may be related to the precautions WikiLeaks says it takes to ensure its sources’ anonymity. WikiLeaks’policy says:

 …we operate a number of servers across multiple international jurisdictions and we we do not keep logs. Hence these logs can not be seized. Anonymization occurs early in the WikiLeaks network, long before information passes to our web servers. Without specialized global internet traffic analysis, multiple parts of our organisation must conspire with each other to strip submitters of their anonymity.

The Secret Service has a legal mandate to investigate computer crime, a task it shares with the FBI and other federal agencies, which the agency describes including “unauthorized access to protected computers” — which Swartz is alleged to have been guilty of. It also investigates forgery, identity fraud, visa fraud, money laundering, food stamp fraud, wire fraud, and a host of other federal offenses.

It would not be unusual, in other words, for the Secret Service to be involved in a criminal probe of Swartz’s alleged bulk downloading from the JSTOR database. Some other examples: The Secret Service, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, has investigated an artist who installed photo-taking software in Apple stores, a credit card theft ring, spywareinstalled on college campuses, and a possible theft of GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s income tax returns.

The ambiguous WikiLeaks tweets have prompted speculation about what the group was trying to suggest. The Verge’s Tim Carmody wrote that “the aim of these tweets could be to imply that the US Attorney’s Office and Secret Service targeted Swartz in order to get at WikiLeaks, and that Swartz died still defending his contacts’ anonymity. Taking that implied claim at face value would be irresponsible without more evidence.” And blog emptywheel wrote that if true, the tweets “strongly indicate” that “the US government used the grand jury investigation into Aaron’s JSTOR downloads as a premise to investigate WikiLeaks.”

Until WikiLeaks elaborates on what it intended to say by highlighting the Secret Service‘s involvement, and provides supporting evidence, it will be difficult to draw any conclusions.

After confirming the authenticity of the tweets, WikiLeaks representative Hrafnsson asked that we contact him later with any further questions. We’ll do that and let you know what we find out.

It seems the only thing that’s now certain is that criticisms of, and speculation about, the government’s handling of the Swartz-JSTOR case isn’t likely to die down overnight.

WikiLeaks says Aaron Swartz may have been a ‘source’ | Security & Privacy – CNET News.

Courtesy of AP Photo/ThoughtWorks, Pernille Ironside This Dec. 8, 2012 photo provided by ThoughtWorks shows Aaron Swartz, in New York. Swartz, a co-founder of Reddit, hanged himself Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in New York City. In 2011, he was charged with stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an attempt to make them freely available. He had pleaded not guilty, and his federal trial was to begin next month. Courtesy of AP Photo/ThoughtWorks, Pernille Ironside

Federal prosecutors in Boston have dismissed charges against Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz, who was found dead in his New York apartment.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, filed a three-line notice of dismissal in court Monday.

The notice says the case is being dismissed because of Swartz’s death. Such filings are routine when a defendant dies before trial.

Swartz was indicted in 2011 on 13 counts, including wire fraud and computer fraud. Prosecutors alleged he illegally gained access to millions of academic articles through the academic database JSTOR. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

Swartz’s family says his suicide was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

Charges Dismissed against Aaron Swartz | DFI News.

Courtesy of Daniel Sieradski Aaron Swartz makes the case against the Stop Online Piracy Act on January 18, 2012. Courtesy of Daniel Sieradski

Less than 48 hours after Aaron Swartz’s tragic suicide, the institution involved in his high-profile JSTOR incident (that eventually lead to federal charges) has issued a statement.

MIT President Rafael Reif e-mailed the members of the university community this morning to address the situation, despite Swartz never having a formal affiliation with the school. Reif emphasized he was compelled to comment not only because of MIT‘s role in the JSTOR incident, but also because Swartz was beloved by many within the MIT community. The president’s tone was clear throughout: “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

In light of such an acknowledgement, Reif appointed professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of the school’s involvement, “from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.” Reif asked Abelson to outline options MIT had plus the decisions the institution made, and he promised to share the report with the MIT community once it’s received.

MIT President Calls for Analysis of Aaron Swartz’s JSTOR Incident | DFI News.

The tech community was stunned this week by the terribly sad news of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, one of Reddit’s co-founders and co-owners, co-author of the RSS 1.0 spec, and a tireless campaigner and advocate for web freedoms. It was in this role against internet censorship that Aaron found himself facing charges relating to hacking and computer fraud, having downloaded millions of academic documents from the JSTOR online resource, with the intention of distributing them freely online.

Aaron had denied the charges at a preliminary hearing, but was facing an imminent federal trial at the time of his death, and his family have since publicly accused federal and state officials and attorneys of being over-zealous in pursuing and harassing him, with the intention “to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.” Aaron’s family also named the Massachussets Institute of Technology as “contributing to his death,” further accusing MIT of “refusing to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

In this context, it’s not difficult to understand why internet hacktivist group Anonymous chose to hack the MIT website today, to leave a very personal tribute page for Aaron – and, in a significant departure from the group’s usual modus operandi, also leaving an apology to MIT‘s website administrators for doing so.

Anonymous doesn’t pull any punches in stating that “the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for.” The group also states its belief that “Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activisim; it had tragic consequences.” They add four wishes which they believe should be enacted:

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

A postscript was also appended to the tribute page, apologising “for this temporary use” of MIT‘s site, and emphasising that Anonymous does not directly blame MIT for the tragedy:

We tender apologies to the administrators at MIT for this temporary use of their websites. We understand that it is a time of soul-searching for all those within this great institution as much — perhaps for some involved even more so — than it is for the greater internet community. We do not consign blame or responsibility upon MIT for what has happened, but call for all those feel heavy-hearted in their proximity to this awful loss to acknowledge instead the responsibility they have — that we all have — to build and safeguard a future that would make Aaron proud, and honour the ideals and dedication that burnt so brightly within him by embodying them in thought and word and action.

But even the significant departure from Anonymous tradition in that apology is perhaps not as noteworthy as the very personal tributes left on the page, by those who evidently knew Aaron personally:

Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world. May you read in peace.

You were the best of us; may you yet bring out the best in us. – Anonymous, Jan 13, 2013

Anonymous hacks MIT website, leaves a tribute to Aaron Swartz.