After hackers took down WikiLeaks on Tuesday, their direct messages with the site's official Twitter account – widely believed in cybersecurity circles to be run by Julian Assange — ended up turning into a civil chat about hacking tips. In those messages, obtained by BuzzFeed News, WikiLeaks advised its hackers that they were wasting time simply taking control of high-profile tech CEO’s social media accounts. Instead, WikiLeaks said that they should have impersonated the CEOs to gather more information.
The messages came after OurMine, a hacking group that has gained a reputation over the past several months for seizing the Twitter accounts of CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Travis Kalanick, launched a distributed denial of service hack (DDoS) on WikiLeaks. The attack took down the website of the organization that has become famous for publishing secret documents.
OurMine claims to be a security firm, and that it takes over the social media accounts of prominent tech figures to raise awareness about its business. Indeed, the hacked accounts are typically returned to their owners, often after an exchange of Twitter DMs. This was also the case with WikiLeaks, which was restored after being down two hours.
In the exchange with OurMine obtained by BuzzFeed News, whoever runs the WikiLeaks Twitter — almost always Assange, according to multiple sources — advised the hackers that the DDoS was a "waste of time," and that their hacks of tech CEO Twitters were also a "big waste." Why? Because, according to WikiLeaks, "there's a lot more that could have been done with those accounts e.g. sending DMs as Zuckerberg to further access elsewhere."
In other words: Whoever was running WikiLeaks' Twitter told OurMine that they should have impersonated two of the most powerful people in tech in order to gain access to information — so they could send it to WikiLeaks. That certainly fits with the organization's mission. And Assange is famously no fan of Google or Facebook.
OurMine seemed open to it: "Great idea."
WikiLeaks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.