What’s Wikileaks hiding in its 400GB of ‘insurance’ files?


WikiLeaksOn 16 August Wikileaks released an enormous collection of mysterious ‘insurance’ data on to the web.

The data was released in 3 sizeable torrent files alongside a message asking the people of earth to mirror the data far and wide.

The triumvirate of files are locked with NSA-approved AES encryption and weigh in at a beefy 3.6GB, 49GB and 349GB respectively.

Without a secret key to decrypt them (or a time machine and a very powerful computer) the files are useless blobs of ones and zeros that allow the safe dispersal of secret information beyond the reach of anyone who might want to interfere with Wikileaks.

The only statements by WikiLeaks have been released via Twitter

WikiLeaks releases encrypted versions of upcoming publication data ("insurance") from time to time to nullify attempts at prior restraint.

…and Facebook

Please mirror: WikiLeaks insurance 20130815-A: 3.6Gb http://wlstorage.net/torrent/wlinsurance-20130815-A.aes256.torrent B: 49Gb http://wlstorage.net/torrent/wlinsurance-20130815-B.aes256.torrent C: 349GB http://wlstorage.net/torrent/wlinsurance-20130815-C.aes256.torrent

For now we have no idea what is actually in these files, so they just loom like those enormous, brooding UFOs from Independence Day; casting their shadow over the world’s governments with their true purpose unconfessed.

Of course the dearth of actual cold hard facts to accompany the data, and the fact that this isn’t the first time Wikileaks has done this, hasn’t stopped widespread conjecture and wonderment about this curious happening.

El Reg speculates that the files are a warning shot across the bows of ‘anyone seeking to nobble either Julian Assange or Edward Snowden’ – a dead man’s switch that will unleash a payload of pay dirt if the anointed heroes of free speech ever release their grip on it.

Maybe El Reg is right but it seems to me that Wikileaks serves its aims by releasing information, not by withholding it. The idea that it would be prepared to sit indefinitely on half a terabyte of secrets somebody has asked it to leak just doesn’t ring true.

Besides, whatever you think of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, it would be a stretch to accuse any of them of worrying unduly about personal safety.

Gizmodo’s groping in the dark stumbles towards the event’s timing;

Bradley Manning's sentencing hearing is due to reach a verdict sometime next week. That, and there's always something going on with Edward Snowden.

The first bit is true, having recently been charged Manning is due to be sentenced this week.

I’m less sure about the second part, unless by “going on” Gizmodo meant to say “occupying the attention of 24 hour news by not changing airport”.

Does anyone really think that WikiLeaks would try to use blackmail to influence the outcome of poster boy Bradley Manning’s trial? Isn’t that exactly the kind of underhand and undemocratic behaviour the whistleblower website is trying to expose?

And does Snowden really need an internet time bomb while he’s enjoying the fortified hospitality of Vladimir “Ostrich Legs” Putin? Surely even a radical expansion of the US drone strike program is unlikely to take in Moscow.

No, I think WikiLeaks has already told us that this is information it will be releasing in due course (“upcoming publication data”).

Of course even if Wikileaks does publish the secrets in these files on its website, the insurance files themselves are still just scrambled noise unless it releases the keys as well. So perhaps we’ll never know what’s really in them. Maybe, as some have speculated, they actually do contain proof that every single episode of The X-Files was actually a documentary.

So, please, take a minute to share what you think is in the files. My money’s on cat videos.