Man Leaks Sensitive Documents To 4chan; Receives Insults, Arrest For His Troubles
from the didn't-really-think-this-through,-did-you? dept
If you’d like to blow the whistle on government activity, there are several options available to you. First, there are the “proper channels,” which come highly recommended by government officials who don’t care much for whistleblowers. Then there’s the media. Depending on which outlet you choose, there’s probably going to be a lot of backdoor chatter with officials to “negotiate” the terms of document releases — which could result in a more concerted effort by the government to expose the source of the documents..
There are other outlets like Wikileaks, which provide less narrative and analysis, but are generally more willing to release large sets of documents at one time, rather than trickling them out over a period of several years. Safety isn’t guaranteed, but Wikileaks is far less likely to return government agencies’ calls.
In an embarrassing security breach, a 21-year-old Department of Defence graduate allegedly managed to download a secret Defence Intelligence Organisation assessment, burn it to a disc, take it home and post it to anonymous image-sharing forum 4chan while praising Julian Assange as his hero.
Why this person decided 4chan was the best outlet for a top secret, Five-Eyes-only document is unclear. It seems to suggest the leaker had some familiarity with the forum and its denizens. But if so, he surely had to know his leak had about a 99% chance of being greeted with derision… at best.
Michael Scerba, the alleged document leaker, watched his original post — which supposedly contained the first two pages of the classified document — get the usual 4chan response. He complained about it — at 4chan — four days later.
A user, who prosecutors allege was Scerba, complained that no one had believed the documents were real.
“Plus to my dismay I just got a bunch of ‘fake and gay’ remarks and the secret documents went 404 [website not found] about 4 comments 1 hour later,” he allegedly posted.
“So… any other suggestions on how to minimize getting caught by authorities?”
No suggestions were forthcoming, apparently. Scerba was caught by authorities. He’s now facing charges of leaking sensitive information.
Almost as astonishing as Scerba’s actions is how the leak was discovered.
Court documents describe the discovery of the leak as “fortuitous”, occurring only when a former Defence Signals Directorate employee stumbled onto the post while browsing the website.
It’s unclear from this sentence whether the employee was browsing the site on his own time after leaving the employ of the Directorate or whether he kept one eye on the website as part of his Defence Signals activities. If it’s the latter, 4chan is being monitored by at least one government agency.
It’s also unclear as to how much damage actually needs to be mitigated. The original post only stayed live for one hour. The government’s statements claim “14 people had already commented on it” as if that’s some sort of significant amount. It also suggests the government believes it was 14 different people (at minimum) who had seen the post, which is quite the assumption in regards to this wholly anonymous forum.
No one does “meta” quite like 4chan. Two definitely NSFW threads (here and here) discussing the news report of the attempted 4chan document leaking are available for those who have some general idea what they’re getting into if they click through. Those unfamiliar with the particular charms of 4chan are probably better off
gathering this information from other sources. It does appear that no archive of this leaked document exists, which is kind of why no one has ever suggested using 4chan as a leaked document repository.
And, in the end, we learn absolutely nothing new about our Five Eyes partner’s secret activities, other than that some former or current employees of a certain agency browse 4chan for work/pleasure. As for 4chan, it will continue to be 4chan. Vice’s Drew Millard boils down the essence of 4chan to a single sentence:
The site’s users seemed generally pleased with their actions.
Feed something to 4chan and you’ll get back whatever the users choose to give you. The site exists largely for its own amusement. Scerba may have thought using an anonymous board would give him additional protection, but all it really got him was insults to go with his legal injuries.