WikiLeaks To Monetize Using

The @wikileaks Twitter account announced the next generation of the platform with a pair of tweets on Christmas Eve.

What is

u99 will be an open source, decentralized and anonymous marketplace for the selling of secret information in exchange for Bitcoin.

Slur will operate over the Tor network. Both buyers and sellers are fully anonymous, and there are no restrictions on the data that is auctioned.

Sellers will auction secret information to the highest bidder, who will receive exclusive access to the decryption key.

The tweets from WikiLeaks:

Wikileaks Announces Slur
Wikileaks Announces Slur
Wikileaks Announces Slur
Wikileaks Announces Slur

Wikileaks evolving in response to the opportunity represented by blockchain based decentralized networks is no surprise; we first suggested this was going to be a broad trend in Ethereum’s Brave New World. The technology they’ve selected and the scenarios they describe are raising eyebrows across the full spectrum of individuals who would normally support Wikileaks at least in principle, if not directly.

@_cypherpunks_ immediately jumped in with this criticism, but there is an older, larger issue behind this one-line critique.

@_cypherpunks_ Comments
@_cypherpunks_ Comments

Jeremy Hammond is currently serving a ten year prison sentence for the Stratfor intrusion and Barrett Brown awaits sentencing on January 22nd for the brutal crime of sharing a link to Stratfor content, which had been publicly posted by someone else, in an IRC chat room. Wikileaks now offers The Global Intelligence Files as a free, searchable product, but they came under enormous criticism for attempting to monetize the content while Hammond faced prison for having liberated it.

Many Concerns

The introduction to Slur shows what appears to be a lack of mastery on the topic of blockchains. The developers appear to hold the idea that Bitcoin transactions are anonymous. This will be a feature of next generation blockchains, but it’s not true today, and this is easily demonstrable with their own fundraising wallet.

“Slur is an open source, decentralized and anonymous marketplace for the selling of secret information in exchange for bitcoin. Slur is written in C and operates over the Tor network with bitcoin transactions through libbitcoin. Both buyers and sellers are fully anonymous, and there are no restrictions on the data that is auctioned. There is no charge to buy or sell on the Slur marketplace except in the case of a dispute, where a token sum is paid to volunteers.”

Slur Fundraising With Bitcoin
Slur Fundraising With Bitcoin

Crimes, Conspiracies & Implications

Reading the Slur Implications in one window while having Cornell’s Legal Information Institute reference open to Title 18, the following are some obvious, glaring issues:

Stolen databases. Corporations will no longer be able to get away with an apology when they fail to secure their customers confidential data. They will have to pay the market value to suppress it.

Depending on who the victim is, this is likely a violation of Title 18 Chapter 41 Extortion and Threats.

Military intelligence relevant to real-time conflicts.

This is de facto espionage. The motivation would be whistleblowing if the conflict were a war of choice, like Iraq was for the U.S., rather than the war of necessity we faced in Afghanistan. While it depends on circumstances, this is likely a violation of Title 18 Chapter 37 Espionage & Censorship.

Zero day exploits. For the market defined value rather than a price determined by the corporations under the guise of a bounty with the veiled threat of legal action should the researcher choose to sell elsewhere.

It is unthinkable that Wikileaks is unaware of @thegrugq, the world’s top broker of 0day exploits. This market already exists, and corporate bounties have little teeth.

Unflattering celebrity photos and videos.

This is the most puzzling item in there – Wikileaks has been about government corruption from its inception, and now it wants to be a paparazzi/revenge porn operation? There are many states with statutes against this sort of thing, but there isn’t anything specific in Title 18 yet.

Slur’s Curious Origin

Julian Assange has been a de facto political prisoner, living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since the summer of 2012. This lengthy physical isolation has been deleterious to his health, and such level of isolation, with police camped outside his door waiting to arrest him, has limited chances for networking. It is interesting to see that the selection of Slur seems to have been initiated by a Twitter cold call from @theu99group six weeks prior to the Wikileaks announcement, rather than by personal networking.

Slur's First Public Appearance
Slur’s First Public Appearance

The Twitter account’s avatar is a simple yellow submarine silhouette combined with the name provides an immediate clue for World War II history buffs. The U99 was a German submarine which sank thirty-eight allied vessels, damaged five others, and took one Estonian vessel as a prize, only to later have it mistakenly sunk by the Luftwaffe. The crew of the U99 escaped death at the end of an incredible eighth war patrol by scuttling their damaged boat and surrendering to the pair of British destroyers that were hunting them.

Conclusions & Speculation

What are we to make of Slur at this point?

The concept of a decentralized market for leaks is a good one, but there are many worrying gaps in what Slur is offering. Their proposed solution seems in want of some skeptical oversight, particularly in that it plans to do this business via the Bitcoin blockchain, rather than one of the new, more secure offerings like Ethereum.

The scenarios offered are … cheeky. An unnamed, unclaimed decentralized autonomous organization MIGHT be able to get away with what Slur suggest, but one would not want to admit authorship for fear of conspiracy charges. Money changing hands really squashes any potential to claim whistleblower status.

Wikileaks is not the only anti-corruption entity facing financial and operational travails. The recent Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg did much to take the heat out of Torgate, but it’s unlikely that leak oriented organizations are going to have a similar event. They are simply always in opposition to the man.

If you’re law enforcement in an industrialized country you might be smiling at the rough patch Wikileaks is facing. Don’t be too smug. There are always going to be leaks; just imagine the hazards we would be facing if Edward Snowden had quietly sold his leak rather than ensuring proper journalists got hold of it.

Images from u99 Group.