Leak Gains Attention Solely From Authorities

Michael In the News

It happens time and time again. Someone sees another person do something cool or original and they want to copy it. Everyone wants to be ‘like Mike’ or in this case, ‘like Ed’.

Good Initiative, Bad Judgement

Posting to open forums, like Reddit and 4Chan, where just about anyone can reply is always a dubious task. Even if you’re posting a simple video or picture that you find funny or interesting, there is always a chance that the rest of the interwebz won’t feel the same way. The chance of being flamed is always there, the struggle is real.

Certainly this wouldn’t happen to him, Michael Scerba thought as he posted to 4Chan in October 2012.

At the time, Michael Scerba was 21 years old, and a graduate of the Department of Defence in Australia. He also had possession of a pretty neat document: a top secret Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) assessment that he planned to leak. He had an ironclad plan: post anonymously to the forum of 4Chan and watch the internet catch fire with his information.

Things didn’t go according to plan.

The post wasn’t ignored at least, it got 14 comments within an hour. However, those comments were… less than ideal.

… to my dismay I just got a bunch of ‘fake and gay’ remarks.

-Michael Scerba 4 days after initially leaking documents

Yes, instead of his leak garnering international recognition his post was deemed illegitimate by the mature users of 4Chan, and the post was taken down an hour later. He also took this time to ponder something that further questions his foresight…

“So… any other suggestions on how to minimize getting caught by authorities?”

Either he didn’t get any suggestions or they weren’t good ones because fast forward to last week and Mr. Scerba, now 25, is facing charges for his foray into whistle blowing. His two charges for the failed leak attempt are, “unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data,” and “disclosure of information by a Commonwealth officer.” Which, Luckily for him, only carry a max sentence of 2 years in jail- but a lifetime of embarrassment.

Even the way he was caught has some comedic value.

Somehow, a former Defence Signals Directorate officer happened across the leak after it had been commented on and sounded the alarm. It’s unclear whether this was part of his duties at the time, or if he was perusing of his own free will.

After tracing the IP address from the original post, the Australian Federal Police raided his home. In the trash bin they found a broken disc unmistakably labeled “Secret, 5 eyes.” Which, of course, refers to the intelligence alliance of the USAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and Britain.

The Biggest Fail of the Leak

The heroic, yet underwhelming, actions of Scerba elicited a shoutout from Wikileaks. They told Fairfax Media, “If you’re going to leak sensitive documents on the internet, do it right.”

Go to the pros if you want to leak

Wikileaks ‘mobile information colleciton unit’ at Occupy Wall Street (wikimedia commons)

And why wouldn’t you? I mean Edward Snowden basically gave future whistle blowers a bible to go off of for how to leak correctly. He’s responsible for the biggest intelligence leak ever and he’s still a free man. Albeit, stuck in Russia of all places, but a free man nonetheless.

However, to be fair, Snowden didn’t leak his documents until almost a year later. Luckily, he didn’t post his documents to 4chan.

I try to stay away from this term; but with big brother incessantly watching the internet, you kind of have to do it right the first time.

Let’s face it, the kid’s heart was in the right place. He posted anonymously, so he likely wasn’t looking for fame. And Julian Assange is probably his hero given the name of his post was, “Julian Assange is my hero.”

But the biggest fail of this episode was not that he thought 4Chan was the right place to leak; but that after it is all said and done, the information that he prefaced by saying, “I release what I feel should be in the media: bombings, civilian deaths, actions of the ‘terrorists’ that just aren’t reported in the media,” is still not public information. No information was actually gleaned from the 15 page report that he risked- and will likely lose- his freedom for.

According to court documents, Scerba is expected to plead guilty to at least 1 of the 2 counts. Maybe, if he had the no logging VPN services of LiquidVPN when he carried out his fool-hearted plan, he wouldn’t have had to ask, “So… any other suggestions on how to minimize getting caught by authorities?”

feature image courtesy of Butupa via flickr

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