How Wikileaks uses technology to protect anonymity of whistle-blowers

  @ibtimes on November 29 2010 4:36 PM

As a dossier of 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks tumbles out, Wikileaks is once again at the center of the storm. 

Wikileaks works on a model that allows whistleblowers to submit leaked documents through internet or postal mail, ensuring that the sender's identity is concealed and trails cleared. Volunteers then sift through the documents, repackage the documents and publish them on the web. It attempts to provide anonymity and legal protection to whistle-blowers.

To accomplish this Wikileaks maintains multiple servers across various countries like Sweden, Iceland and Belgium - which provide Wikileaks a token of legal immunity. Also as once it posts sensitive documents on the site the threat of crackdown becomes imminent it switches servers from one country to another keeping it beyond legal periphery.

The network used by Wikileaks is similar to a technology called The Onion Router or Tor. Tor is open-source software and its website states that it is currently used by a branch of U.S. Navy for gathering intelligence.

 It is a system used to outflank filtering and censors enabling users to evade blockers keeping their identity anonymous. To evade online traffic analysis Tor distributes transactions over several places on the Internet, so no single point can link you to your destination. The idea is similar to using a twisty, hard-to-follow route in order to throw off somebody who is tailing you - and then periodically erasing your footprints. Instead of taking a direct route from source to destination, data packets on the Tor network take a random pathway through several relays that cover your tracks so no observer at any single point can tell where the data came from or where it's going.

The website further states that Once a circuit has been established, many kinds of data can be exchanged and several different sorts of software applications can be deployed over the Tor network. Because each relay sees no more than one hop in the circuit, neither an eavesdropper nor a compromised relay can use traffic analysis to link the connection's source and destination.

Tor also offers a service called hidden services that enables users to host services like web-publishing, instant messaging and chat rooms, while keeping the identity of the participants anonymous.

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