‘BlueLeaks’ Publishers Pursued As ‘Criminal Hacker Group’ By DHS

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The dump of the damning “Blue Leaks” files in late June provided the public with over 250 gigabytes of video, audio, and other data from a broad range of law enforcement agencies across the US.

Yet, the organisation behind it insists it is not responsible for the hacking itself.

The US Department of Homeland Security is persecuting Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), the group that was the first to publish the “BlueLeaks” trove of hacked police files in June, as a “criminal hacker group”, similar to WikiLeaks, as follows from a bulletin circulated to fusion centres around the country earlier this summer, The Verge reported.

“A criminal hacker group Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDS) on 19 June 2020 conducted a hack-and-leak operation targeting federal, state, and local law enforcement databases, probably in support of or in response to nationwide protests stemming from the death of George Floyd”, the bulletin reads.

It says the leaked data is from “200 police departments, fusion centres, and other law enforcement training and support resources around the globe” that was reportedly collected over ten years.

The “BlueLeaks” data was reportedly provided to Distributed Denial of Secrets by a hacker with purported ties to the Anonymous group, a collective that is known to combine political activism with cyber hacking operations.

The Verge went on to detail that a number of media outlets had used “BlueLeaks” data to publish stories about police tactics, including the counter-surveillance methods ostensibly exploited during Black Lives Matter protests, antifa threats, and news pieces about mask-wearing during the pandemic hampering facial recognition technologies.

Despite the said formal designation by the US authorities, the group itself asserts it has nothing to do with the hacking proper.

In particular, DDoS co-founder Emma Best told The Verge, the group merely publishes files obtained by others, thereby finding fault with the government pursuing DDoSecrets, much in the same manner as it went after WikiLeaks (which incidentally similarly stressed it doesn’t hack the documents it publishes either.)

“Unlike WikiLeaks and [its founder Julian] Assange, we have no involvement in actual hacks and don’t provide material support to hackers”, Best said in a statement on Thursday.

While it is not illegal to publish classified information in the United States, most of the “BlueLeaks” data is marked “For Official Use Only” rather than classified, The Verge noted.

Best asserted that DDoSecrets is merely a publisher prioritising freedom of expression and transparency, saying “calling us ‘criminal hackers’ (while ignoring the numerous facts and evidence that undermines that accusation) gives them the excuse to circumvent the First Amendment”, as Best recounted to The Verge.

One of the discrepancies is purported to concern DDoSecrets’ January 2019 release, referenced in the bulletin: it comprised 175 gigabytes of information, some previously released on Russian websites, about the dealings of the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine among other issues.

According to multiple media reports, the Russian hacking group Shaltai Boltai and some other Eastern European hackers were responsible for obtaining the materials. However, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre in a February report declared that “hacktivists, leaktivists, and public disclosure organisations” like WikiLeaks and DDoS are akin to terrorists in terms of their alleged national security threat.