Rethinking Access Controls: How WikiLeaks Could Have Been Prevented

By Ken Ammon  |  Posted 2011-02-15 Print this article Print

The WikiLeaks crisis rocked headlines in the second half of 2010, but it's not over yet. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Ken Ammon explains why new security developments will keep this story in the limelight well into 2011.

The simple and unfortunate truth is that the WikiLeaks crisis could have been prevented altogether. While hindsight is 20/20, there are critical lessons learned that today's organizations and government agencies should understand in order to prevent future incidents.

"History repeats itself," as the popular saying goes. WikiLeaks is no exception. The WikiLeaks crisis concerns the unauthorized access and downloading of 250,000 sensitive and classified diplomatic cables and other files. It has a strikingly similar resemblance to the Napster crisis, which enabled piracy and was eventually sued by the band Metallica.

So, what exactly do Metallica and the United States government have in common? They are both fighting to control information once it has been placed on the Internet. Like Napster, WikiLeaks is simply another example of a controversial, yet highly efficient Internet distribution engine for the global sharing of data. It's also hard to stop.

Both Metallica and the United States government have gone after these Internet distribution systems in an attempt to regain control of content they own. However, it's a losing battle. For Metallica, not much has been done to stop the millions of people who illegally access and share music files. Internet users know several Napster replacements exist that still amass files and enable the sharing of them. When something people want-music or data-becomes public, you can be sure that people will find a way to share it.

Ken Ammon is Chief Strategy Officer at Xceedium. A recognized expert in security issues, Ken joined Xceedium from LookingGlass, a high-technology consulting firm that advises corporations and private equity funds on emerging security trends and technologies. Prior to LookingGlass, Ken was founder and president of managed security services provider NetSec. A noted security expert in matters relating to the federal government, Ken has testified before the House Government Reform Committee on dramatic security vulnerabilities affecting sensitive government information and infrastructure. Ken has also served as an adjunct faculty member at the National Cryptologic School where he was recognized with the Scientific Achievement Award. Ken began his career in the United States Air Force where he was a captain assigned to the National Security Agency. He can be reached at

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