Because the portal DDoSecrets had published data from US police authorities, the activists’ server has now been confiscated in Saxony.
A dispute over the publication of internals from the US police has brought investigators to the scene in Zwickau. It’s about a group of international activists called “Distributed Denial of Secrets” (short: DDoSecrets). She is committed to exposing secrets that the public could be interested in. Co-founder Emma Best shared with, the Zwickau prosecutor took a server of the activists with, among other things, 269 gigabytes of data from the US police authorities. The Zwickau public prosecutor wrote the SZthat she seized the server in question in a data center in Falkenstein (Vogtland) in response to a planned request for legal assistance from the US police.
DDoSecrets sees itself in the tradition of Wikileaks and publishes material from whistleblowers or hackers. They hand over their material to the organization, which according to its own information then endeavors to check the plausibility of the material. It then makes the data searchable and makes it available to journalists who can report on it in more detail. In the past, the customers of the data included New York Times or the BBC.
Also the Southgerman newspaper has worked with material from DDoSecrets in the past. Together with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the non-profit organization Finance Uncovered and the Times in London, SZ had analyzed internal documents of the London offshore service provider Formations House and at the end of 2019 as part of the “29 Leaks” research project on the dubious background of Suisse Bank Ltd. reported. The archive of DDoSecrets is neatly arranged geographically, a good one and a half years after the platform was founded, documents from almost every corner of the world can be found there.
The leak, which has now led to the seizure of the server by the Zwickau public prosecutor’s office, was christened by the activists #BlueLeaks. It is a collection of files from so-called fusion centers of the US police authorities. These are intended to facilitate the exchange of data between local investigators and federal police officers in the United States. According to a Twitter message from DDoSecrets, which has since been deleted, the collection contains audio, video and text files, emails with attachments from more than 20 years of policing. The group claims to have received the data leak from a person who described himself as the representative of the hacker collective “Anonymous”.
According to a report by journalist Brian Krebs’ IT security blog, the vulnerability over which the data was collected was found in a Texas web design company that oversaw government websites. Cancer also quotes a lawyer who previously worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The latter criticized that, in his opinion, the publication was unlikely to provide any evidence of police misconduct, but it could easily put police officers at risk of life by exposing officials who are undercover, for example.
DDoSecrets wants to continue leaking
Twitter had deleted the activists’ account after the leak was published because of the “spread of hacked material”. According to the Zwickau prosecutor, the action is “a provisional measure in the context of international legal assistance”. Whether the seized data will actually be passed on to the US authorities should be clarified if the request from the USA is also officially available. The decision is up to the Federal Office of Justice, which is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Justice.
DDoSecrets co-founder Best criticized that the seizure was carried out without a court order. The prosecutor has confirmed this. According to her, the data center in Falkenstein was searched as a “witness”, which is possible under the Code of Criminal Procedure. Although this only applies to crimes under German law, it is also used in practice for international legal assistance.
According to Emma Best, the seizure has no major impact on the activists’ work. There were copies of all the data, Best wrote on her personal account on Twitter. The server in question was intended only for the public to download the material. Further publications are in preparation and the material has already been passed on to journalists.