Assange's latest victim: WikiLeaks

Release of unredacted State Department cables shoves aside WikiLeaks' original mission for the demands of founder's ego

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But I'm reserving the lion's share of the blame here for the white wonder from down under, who put the file on the Internet in the first place and then gave somebody he didn't know very well the keys to the kingdom.

Assange had the files, and it was his responsibility to keep them safe and secure, turn them back over to the U.S. State Department, or destroy them. He could have redacted the cables himself and given only those files to news organizations. He could have split the files into pieces and distributed different ones to different media outlets, to minimize the exposure if a password leaked. He did none of those things.

Hey Jules: If you ever find yourself in possession of state secrets again -- assuming you don't spend the rest of your life in prison -- here's some advice.

Want to keep something a secret? Don't tell anybody else.

Want to keep an encrypted file encrypted? Don't give the password to a stranger. If you must give the password to a stranger, don't make it something that's easy to remember.

If you must put the file on the InterWebs, don't leave it there for seven months or assume because you put it in an encrypted file in a "hidden" directory with a "secret" name (z.gpg), that nobody will find it and crack it. You hide it in plain sight with a name like "consolidated financial reports," and bury the actual information deep inside a lot of dummy data.

Better yet: Don't put the friggin' thing on the InterWebs in any form. Ever heard of an encrypted flash drive and a safety deposit box? How about microfilm and a hidden compartment in the heel of your shoe? Assange may think himself as some kind of master spy, but he's less James Bond and more Maxwell Smart.

At IFA, Assange said he decided to release the unredacted files so that diplomatic informants could search to see if their names were revealed -- presumably before jackbooted thugs burst down their doors and shipped them off to their own private Gitmo.

How nice. What this release really is about is Assange trying desperately to remain at the center of the story. It's ego. What a shock.

I used to be a supporter of WikiLeaks. I still support the principles behind it. As independent media withers up and blows away, we are increasingly at the mercy of megacorps for our information. Independent, untouchable, unimpeachable sources for secrets those in power don't want you to know could fill the gap left by the death of investigative journalism. That was the idea, anyway. The reality turns out to be slightly different.

What's your take? Is Assange an angel or an ass? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Assange's latest victim: WikiLeaks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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