WikiLeaks' next target is top US bank

Founder Julian Assange likens information to data that brought down Enron

WikiLeaks has said its next release of confidential information from whistleblowers will be on a large US bank, likening the scale of unethical practices found to that exposed in the Enron trial.

Julian Assange, the site's founder, said in an interview with Forbes magazine that big business would receive the same scrutiny that the website had meted out to governments.

The bank involved was engaging in "flagrant" rule breaking and "unethical" behaviour, Assange said. It has not yet been named.

The release of data on the bank, expected early next year "will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume," he said.

Assange likened the release to the documents exposed in the trial of managers at former energy firm Enron. "When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations."

However, Assange said it may be premature to claim the leaks demonstrate criminal behaviour. But he added that "it's also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that's not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they're fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it."

The technology industry will also be examined, he said. "We have some material on spying by a major government on the tech industry. Industrial espionage." No more details were given.

Pharmaceutical companies, for a long time the target of campaigners who say some overprice drugs and conduct dangerous trials in Africa and elsewhere, will also see their data exposed, alongside that of energy companies, Assange said.

Wikileaks also has "lots" of information on the BP oil spill, which is currently being sifted through, Assange said. But he said that much of the data on the spill may already be available. Official documents created by the US Oil Spill Commission have suggested that BP ignored the results of safety critical software to save time before the disastrous spill.

Wikileaks this week released a trove of US government correspondence, including details that the authorities had sanctioned spying on United Nations officials, that a raft of Middle Eastern countries wereurging the US to take action on Iran's uranium enrichment programme, and claims that China had hacked into Google.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of damning military documents relating to the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is not the first time WikiLeaks has targeted big business. In 2009, it released details on trading firm Trafigura dumping toxic waste in Africa. Trafigura initially attempted to obtain a superinjunction to stop the Guardian newspaper from reporting on the news, but abandoned the plan after the details of the Wikileaks files spread around the world from Twitter messages and links. It was later found guilty in a Dutch court of illegally exporting the waste.

Assange was asked by Forbes for a response to rumours that famous hacker Peiter Zatko, who also goes by the name 'Mudge', was working with the Pentagon to develop technology that can stop such data leaks.

He declined to comment directly, but asserted that new forms of communication were always a step ahead of technology to stop it.

Assange began as a computer hacker, but said he now depends more on insider information, saying it was "annoying" to still be called a hacker.

"That hacker mindset was very valuable to me," he said. "But the insiders know where the bodies are. It's much more efficient to have insiders. They know the problems, they understand how to expose them."

Picture: Espen Moe

This story, "WikiLeaks' next target is top US bank" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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