Julian Assange: All That Malware on Wikileaks Isn't a Big Deal
At a 10th anniversary press conference in Berlin, the Wikileaks editor downplayed the malware in its archive.
Camera crews film Assange's live feed. Image: Joseph Cox
On Tuesday, Wikileaks celebrated its 10th anniversary with a press conference in Berlin. In addition to reflecting on the publisher's various releases over the years, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange hinted that more disclosures around the US election would come soon.
But recently, one researcher found that Wikileaks' site is hosting tens of thousands of malicious files within its archives, potentially infecting visitors who execute them. At the press conference, Assange downplayed the risk to users, talking via video-link from London.
"The [Hillary] Clinton campaign has been going around saying 'don't read Wikileaks, because there's malware,'" Assange said in response to a general question about malware on the site from Motherboard. Talking specifically about malicious files that were included within a recent dump of emails from Turkey, Assange emphasised that there wasn't an issue for users who just visited the site, and that people needed to download the files themselves.
"However this same risk exists for most '.exe' or '.doc' files downloaded elsewhere from the internet or received by email. As time goes by we flag documents to alert readers," a print-out given to journalists at the press conference reads.
Assange even thought that the presence of malware itself was noteworthy.
"There was malware sent to [the ruling Turkish party] AKP, either from criminals or from state attacks on the AKP. That's extremely interesting," he said.
Dr. Vesselin Bontchev, the Bulgarian researcher who has monitored malware on Wikileaks, told Motherboard that the site contains at least 33,000 malicious files. These are within the Turkish email dump, he said.
Once a visitor has downloaded one of the files, perhaps not knowing what it contains, "the user will be just a single click away from infecting their machine," Bontchev wrote in an email. Bontchev also disagreed with Wikileaks' assertion that the risk of opening malware from Wikileaks is just like downloading files from anywhere else on the internet.
"Most websites don't make tens of thousands of malicious files available for download. Unless, of course, we are talking about malware distribution sites, but I have a hard time thinking of even one of those that has so many malicious files available!" Bontchev wrote.
Bontchev said in, response to his work, Wikileaks has replaced around 300 malicious files with text. But even with that, it is still possible for users to download the malware, Bontchev added.
"Wikileaks readers ARE at risk, because the Wikileaks website makes it way too easy for them to download malware on their desktops and doesn't adequately warn them about its presence," he added.