Censored by WikiLeakS.org - discussion about PGP encryption keys

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[UPDATE 12:00 GMT - the missing PGP page and Discussion page are now back online, but comment additions or editing are still not allowed]

Either through carelessness, or through deliberate censorship WikiLeakS.org now appear to have deleted the Discussion page, which was online for a couple of years, which discussed their (lack of) PGP public encryption keys.

[via Cryptome.org: Wikileaks Support Initiative]

2. Second encryption to Wikileaks of the encrypted submission. Wikileaks keys (Wikileaks Talk on PGP Keys, downloaded 4 July 2010, now apparently removed.)

Surely this polite, constructive criticism and helpful suggestions is rather less worthy of censorship than some of the other stuff which WikiLeakS.org is still allowing to be published on its website ?

Judge for yourselves:



WikiLeaks:PGP Keys
From WikiLeaks

Do not use PGP to contact us. We have found that people use it in a dangerous manner. Further one of the Wikileaks key on several key servers is FAKE.

WikiLeaks talk:PGP Keys

* 1 PGP key 0x11015F80 has expired on 2nd November 2007
* 2 Only one PGP key for one email address = Single Point of Failure
* 3 Still no valid PGP key published
* 4 Why not Digitally Sign press releases, volunteer emails etc ?
* 5 Over 3 weeks and still no valid PGP key
* 6 Reluctance to use PGP, even as an option, is undermining your reputation for trust and credibility.
* 7 PGP is hardly the best solution
* 8 None of the other methods are "best" in every case either - use PGP as appropriate
* 9 Wikileaks no longer using PGP ? How can the wikileaks editorial team be contacted privately without PGP ?

PGP key 0x11015F80 has expired on 2nd November 2007

The published PGP key 0x11015F80 for wikileaks@wikileaks.org has expired on 2nd November 2007

Any chance of publishing a new one, both here and on some public PGP key servers ?
Only one PGP key for one email address = Single Point of Failure

Only one PGP key for one email address = Single Point of Failure against accidental or deliberate denial of secure communications attacks.

How about publishing a couple of additional ones as well ?

Yes, good idea. We will do this soon. Generally we recommend against using PGP in its simplest form, since the traffic is easily detected and provides proof of intention to conceal, which depending on the context may pose a significant difficulty. One of the biggest problems for interception organizations is to sort wheat from chaff and PGP traffic solves this problem for them. Spear phishing or other electronic attacks are then used on endpoints to get decryption keys and other information. Additionally, the PGP web of trust model can be viewed, in a suitably hostile country, as a web-of-conspiracy and potential witnesses to be targeted. This is not to say the PGP model is broken, but it should not be seen as a panacea for those operating in technologically adept non-western countries. Wikileaks 20:34, 5 November 2007 (GMT)

Generally we recommend against using PGP in its simplest form,

There does not seem to be such technical advice or warnings published on the Contact or Submissions pages

since the traffic is easily detected

It is no more easily detected than plaintext, unencrypted traffic. PGP encryption could and should probably also be used to encrypt messages or data sent via the postal mail system as well.

and provides proof of intention to conceal, which depending on the context may pose a significant difficulty. One of the biggest problems for interception organizations is to sort wheat from chaff and PGP traffic solves this problem for them.

So why not routinely encrypt some or all of the chaff which you generate as well ?

Spear phishing or other electronic attacks are then used on endpoints to get decryption keys and other information.

Are you saying that the wikileaks.org endpoint is likely to be vulnerable to "spear phishing" i.e. targeted bogus emails asking for private PGP decryption keys or passphrases , or with attached computer virus or trojan malware etc ?

If a government or corporate level attacker is successfully (legally or illegally) grabbing communications traffic data about some or all of the emails to and from wikileaks.org, the non-PGP stuff will be enough to make you a suspect anyway.

Additionally, the PGP web of trust model can be viewed, in a suitably hostile country, as a web-of-conspiracy and potential witnesses to be targeted.

Which is why this optional "web of trust" model, whereby various PGP public key publishers digitally countersign each others public keys, is rarely used in practice.

However, if you are planning to publish several PGP public keys e.g. for wikileaks@wikileaks.org, africa@wikileaks.org, australia@wikileaks.org etc. then countersigning each of them in a web of trust should do no harm, and might enhance public trust a little.

This is not to say the PGP model is broken, but it should not be seen as a panacea for those operating in technologically adept non-western countries.

PGP is not a panacea, but it is a readily available tool, the proper use of which, may add to the credibility and trustworthiness of the wikileaks.org project, regardless of which country your email or other correspondents happen to be in around the world.

If you are seen to be actively discouraging the use of PGP, some people will draw the conclusion that you are in cahoots with one or more government agencies.

Still no valid PGP key published

Another week has gone by, and the wikileaks@wikileaks.org PGP key is still Expired, without replacement (10 November 2007)

Why not Digitally Sign press releases, volunteer emails etc ?

wikileaks.org seems to have forgotten that PGP is not simply about encryption for privacy purposes, but that it also provides a mechanism for Digitally Signing and verifying that, say, unencrypted plaintext wikileaks.org press releases or volunteer list emails have not been tampered with or forged.

Surely a project which claims to be trying to be transparent and trustworthy, but which will inevitably come under technical and disinformation attacks by those who fear it, should make use of this cheap yet sophisticated technique?

Over 3 weeks and still no valid PGP key

More than three weeks have now elapsed since the wikileaks@wikileaks.org PGP key Expired on 2nd November 2007.

Why has no new PGP public encryption or digital signing key been published ?

It is not a high priority, since excluding yourself, we have received no more than one part in 8000 PGP mail. Higher priority, for instance, is an SSL based mail submission system, similar to the document submission system. 1.0.22.53 10:12, 26 November 2007 (GMT)

Reluctance to use PGP, even as an option, is undermining your reputation for trust and credibility.

It is not a high priority, since excluding yourself, we have received no more than one part in 8000 PGP mail. Higher priority, for instance, is an SSL based mail submission system, similar to the document submission system. 1.0.22.53 10:12, 26 November 2007 (GMT)

So what if you have received very few PGP encrypted emails so far - you have done your best not to publicise the fact that you used to have a PGP key. Nobody is going to use an Expired key to send you anything, and most PGP encryption software will not actually allow a user to do so.

Why are you re-inventing the wheel by trying to develop your own "SSL based mail submission system" ?

Publishing a PGP encryption and signing key is not just about email, it is also useful for some people who might be considering using the postal mail systems to send documents on digital media.

You really should be Digitally Signing your official press releases and volunteer list appeals, as there are likely to be reputation attack forgeries of these in the future.

You could easily publish a new (or several new) valid PGP keys, for free, in the next few minutes.

The fact that the wikileaks.org project seems so reluctant to use PGP, even as an option, is undermining your reputation for trust and credibility.

PGP is hardly the best solution

Why are you re-inventing the wheel by trying to develop your own "SSL based mail submission system" ?

An SSL-based mail submission system would likely be easier to use for most people and would be just as secure.

Publishing a PGP encryption and signing key is not just about email, it is also useful for some people who might be considering using the postal mail systems to send documents on digital media.

If you are sending material by postal mail I don't think there are many scenarios where it is useful to encrypt it:

1. Material sent to Wikileaks will be publically available, so confidentiality is not an end goal in of itself.
2. In most Western countries interception is unlikely if the package is sent in an innocuous manner and they only harmful end result is that the package would not be forwarded, in which case it can be sent again. And since you wouldn't be sending it from your home or business, it is unlikely any interested parties would be doing the interception anyway.
3. In locales which do routine interception an encrypted postal package would not be forwarded anyway. Since the same goes for PGP encrypted email. Since SSL is commonplace for commercial transactions it is a more innocuous encrypted transmission medium.

The point about signing releases is probably valid.

None of the other methods are "best" in every case either - use PGP as appropriate

Why are you re-inventing the wheel by trying to develop your own "SSL based mail submission system" ?

An SSL-based mail submission system would likely be easier to use for most people and would be just as secure.

Not strictly true. Without extra encryption of the bulk of the messages or the attached document(s) (e.g. by using PGP like, say, Hushmail does) then the email resides as plaintext on the http://88.80.13.160 servers in Stockholm, after the secure SSL (or even Tor) transport. There is then a risk that this could be copied or seized, during the next legal or illegal raid on The Pirate Bay etc. co-location hosting company by the Swedish authorities, or snooped on by the PRQ Internet hosting company staff.

PGP should be one of the tools available to whistleblowers to make use of as required. It is no more difficult to install, and probably easier to use surreptitiously than Tor, which is one of the alternative methods of document submission made available by wikileaks.org.

You could send PGP encrypted documents via SSL and / or Tor instead of just plaintext documents.

N.B. the wikileaks.org "SSL-based mail submission system" does not yet exist.

Publishing a PGP encryption and signing key is not just about email, it is also useful for some people who might be considering using the postal mail systems to send documents on digital media.

If you are sending material by postal mail I don't think there are many scenarios where it is useful to encrypt it:

1. Material sent to Wikileaks will be publically available, so confidentiality is not an end goal in of itself.

Even though most of a leaked document may be made public, that does not mean that all of them will be, or should be, published as soon as you hit the return key on your keyboard.

Confidentiality is often a temporary, time sensitive requirement in protecting a whistleblower or members of their family and friends e.g. if they are whistleblowing just before they are about to leave a company or government organisation (where they have access to the leaked documents) or they are about to leave a country.

In some cases, a whistleblower gets a certain amount of protection, once their story has achieved widespread publicity and those who might harm their job prospects or lives feel themselves to be under the glare of public scrutiny. Until that point is reached, especially during the period between sending off the leaked information, and having it accepted for publication by WikiLeakS.org (or other mainstream news media or bloggers etc) , however, the whistleblower is vulnerable, or is likely to feel vulnerable, so there is a need for secrecy, even for information which they do intend to make public.

Wikileaks.org recognise this time sensitive requirement themselves, with their user specified delay and random delayed publication feature. which also tries to confuse Communications Data Traffic Analysis.

2. In most Western countries interception is unlikely if the package is sent in an innocuous manner and they only harmful end result is that the package would not be forwarded, in which case it can be sent again. And since you wouldn't be sending it from your home or business, it is unlikely any interested parties would be doing the interception anyway.

Postal mail and commercial courier packages increasingly get lost or stolen in transit, or delivered to the wrong addressee, even in "advanced" countries, even without any law enforcement or intelligence agency activity whatsoever, simply due to the vast numbers of such items in transit every day.

Why not protect any intermediary friends or couriers (as suggested by wikileaks.org themselves) who may be posting mail on your behalf, from whatever you are sending in to wikileaks.org by post, by encrypting it with PGP first ?

What if your digital documents e.g. Microsoft Word .docs etc. contain hidden metadata ? You might want to preserve this to help convince the wikileaks.org team about the authenticity of the documents. Sending such documents encrypted would reduce the risk of your whistleblower identity from being revealed, before, hopefully, wikileaks.org (or indeed, any other mainstream media news organisation) have removed such meta data prior to publication.

3. In locales which do routine interception an encrypted postal package would not be forwarded anyway. Since the same goes for PGP encrypted email.

They almost certainly would be forwarded on, without any unusual delay, because otherwise, the authorities risk "tipping off" the alleged "conspirators", that they are under surveillance, especially if a several test or "dry run" encrypted messages are first sent, containing no sensitive or illegal material.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, there are various bits of law from anti-drugs legislation to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III, which provide for criminal penalties of up to 5 years in prison for such "tipping off" offences.

Since SSL is commonplace for commercial transactions it is a more innocuous encrypted transmission medium.

SSL is commonplace, but that does not make it "more innocuous" from a whistleblowing point of view. It is unlikely to be completely blocked by a corporate or government firewall, but SSL does nothing to hide the Communications Traffic Data i.e. your computer's real IP address, the time , date, duration of session, amount of data uploaded and downloaded. to and from the single wikileaks,org target IP address of https://88.80.13.160, which is going to be logged and analysed, whether you use SSL encrypted port 443 https:// on its own or just plaintext port 80 http:// connections.

The use of Tor and other proxy servers in addition to the above, is another matter, with slightly different trust and interception risk issues.

The point about signing releases is probably valid.

If wikileaks.org do publish a new PGP key, then it can be used for encryption (confidentiality) of leaked document submissions, as well as for signing (authentication) of press releases etc.

The use of the wikileaks.org PGP encryption key by a whistleblower would also allow wikileaks.org editors and staff to respond securely and privately back to an anonymous leaker, who could easily generate his or her own PGP key, asking for clarification, or pointing out potentially self incriminating documents etc.

PGP must surely be of use where a whistleblower is supplying a series of leaked documents, rather than just a single one off leak, and wishes to give wikileaks.org some advance notice of forthcoming leaks, to allow them to marshal their analytical and media contact resources, on a "confidential journalistic source" basis.


Wikileaks no longer using PGP ? How can the wikileaks editorial team be contacted privately without PGP ?

How can the wikileaks editorial team be contacted privately without using PGP ?

If there was a "No Publish" option in the document submission forms, then it could perhaps be used to contact the wikileaks editorial team via SSL and / or Tor encryption.

However, as it stands, there must be a worry that what you thought was a private message, would end up being automatically, or semi-automatically, published to the world using this method.

What exactly is so difficult about publishing a PGP key as before ?

PGP Keys will be provided soon again. For now Wikileaks is missing a sound and user-friendly guide for usage of PGP that will make sure users contacting use with this method make no mistakes that could compromise them. Individual PGP keys for editors still exist and are available on request. The situation as of now is purely an issue of lack of time to address the writing of proper guidelines for Average Joe, which we perceive as being fundamental to publishing a PGP key for the masses. A volunteer is currently addressing this issue, but we can still only encourage anyone with an interest in this topic to help producing these guidelines. It is easy to author something on this portal, please just go ahead and help out. An alternative meanwhile can be contacting us via the Chat which is SSL encrypted. Wikileaks 17:36, 22 September 2008 (GMT)

1 Comments

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About this blog

This blog here at WikiLeak.org (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the WikiLeakS.org project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the WikiLeakS.org project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

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LeakDirectory.org

Now that the WikiLeakS.org project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The LeakDirectory.org wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

New whistleblower website operators or new potential whistleblowers should carefully evaluate the best techniques (or common mistakes) from around the world and make their personal risk assessments accordingly.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

The WikiLeakS.org Submissions web page provides some methods for sending them leaked documents, with varying degrees of anonymity and security. Anybody planning to do this for real, should also read some of the other guides and advice to political activists and dissidents:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

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Recently, they have been using their new Twitter feeds, to selectively publicise leaked documents to the media, and also to report on the status of routing or traffic congestion problems affecting the main website in Stockholm, Sweden.

N.B.the words "security" or "anonymity" and "Twitter" are mutually exclusive:

WikiLeakS.org Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: https://twitter.com/wikileaks

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OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

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Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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