Using cryptography and virtual drop boxes, Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks created a revolutionary new model for media to lure massive digitized leaks from whistleblowers, exposing everything from US military secrets to wealthy tax-dodgers’ illicit offshore accounts.
Assange’s arrest in London Thursday on a US extradition request to face charges of computer crimes could spell the end of 13-year-old WikiLeaks.
But his legacy will live long in the world’s media.
News outlets and journalists everywhere can now offer to potential sources encrypted apps and secure virtual mailboxes to receive secrets that were once divulged by discreet whispers, furtive phone calls and unmarked manila envelopes.
Skilled at hacking and cryptography – and motivated by a deep distrust of traditional institutions – Australia-born Assange took a cypherpunk’s libertarian streak to the challenge of government secrecy.
In 2006 he built an online platform that offered an anonymous, encrypted path to leak computerized files without fear of exposure.
‘We liberated cryptography’