WikiLeaks illustrates how the Internet is changing cyber warfare: Independent groups can get information out as easily as governments.There's no doubt about it: The WikiLeaks story has gripped the international community. Hacker Julian Assange and his nonprofit have divulged a flurry of fascinating secret diplomatic cables that have been recounted in dozens of news stories in recent weeks.

After all, it's one thing to hear an off-the-cuff comment from a diplomat about what he or she really thinks is happening in a global hotspot, but entirely another to read record after record showing systematic analyses offering viewpoints diametrically opposed to vigorously stated government positions.

Despite rigorous attempts to stamp it out, WikiLeaks lives on, leaving a tabla of lessons to be culled from what could well be seen as a historical event. Here are five lessons from this incident:

1) Independent groups can successfully compete with governments in the cyber realm: This has been something that information warfare theorists have argued for some time, but Wikileaks has truly driven the point home. The world's inability to completely shut down WikiLeaks servers illustrates that a small but determined cyberwarfare team can compete with the best information-warfare machines on the globe. What's more, the built-in characteristics of the Internet that make it so resilient also make it impossible for a single entity to truly control information.

2) It's easier for independent players to gain mainstream-media attention than ever before: WikiLeaks has spoonfed its files to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Der Spiegel, among other top-notch publications. Those publications were cautious in what they published and careful to vet the articles. But whether Julian Assange needed them to get his message out more than they needed him to generate page views is a completely open question. Scoops are more important than ever in an era of slice-and-dice consumption of bits and bytes by empowered consumers. So a story as newsworthy as these from WikiLeaks, more than ever before, will find an audience. What's more, the time to deliberate whether to cover a story or not has shrunk tremendously from the Watergate era.

3) It will be increasingly difficult to undermine financial support for these types of independent players: One of the Bush Administration's biggest successes in its efforts to combat so-called rogue states was a financial strategy: It froze key North Korean leaders' bank accounts, making it difficult for them to access hard currency or move their money. But it's far harder to do that with an organization as nebulous as WikiLeaks. In the last few days, PayPal finally shut down the donation account for the site. But the move amounts to window dressing. PayPal makes it easy to collect money with any random email address, but other online payment services also offer this opportunity -- and new social payment systems, such as those emerging in video games, are rapidly evolving. Like the Internet itself, these systems make it easier to conduct transactions and harder to track their origin and terminus. Mobile payment systems will soon add yet another layer of complexity by making it harder to track the location of transactions.

Independent -- or nongovernmental -- groups, of course, a widely varied and can be a force for good or for evil. WikiLeaks has merely crystalized the potent possibilities that the Internet and the New Era of Ubiquitous Connectivity has made available to these groups, for better or for worse.

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December 06 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Under Jus Cogens, Assange is a pirate and can be killed by any individual or state. In fact, it is required of every state to attempt to apprehend him. He has stated repeatedly in interviews that he has declared war on the United States. Simple folks will chuckle, but when an individual has done this in the last 2-thousand years, he has been declared a pirate. We are in a state of war with Assange and his crew and each and everyone of them including his lawyer who has the cheek to demand the resignation of the US President and Secretary of State and has threatened to release the names of US spies, etc.. Assange has a God Ccomplex and in making his demands has set himself up as Dictator of the World who can unlaterally give orders to world government and they must obey. Pirates and their crews should be tracked down and killed like wild animlas as they have always been.

December 06 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Generally intimidated, I rarely comment on such matters. Even among regular commentators, I am always last to know, last to understand, lAST TO REACT. BUT this WikiLweaks phenomenon seems to level the playing field. There are others out there who share my timidity and my ignorance and my certainty of powerlessness in the presence of those Powered by position or strength, or both. Those who confidently control "what everybody knows" seem now ill-at-ease. I always thought there was a small In-Group," whose members knew each other, and a large majority who must accept what is offered them by Media outlets and officials telling exactly what they wished known generally. If this fellow Assauge (sp ?) is what he appears, he's after MY attention ?But Why ? Has he a soap-box ? Does he underline-or-delete according to some agenda known only to him ? Knowing absolutely nothing for sure, I call for Fair Play and Due Process and First Amendment for him, and a respectful hearing from us all. And if he is permanently and irreversibly silenced, I will have been injured and my outrage will not be easily countered.

December 06 2010 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is nothing more than some idiot putting down his boss in an email and then leaving a printed copy on his desk. This is not terrorism. This is someone exposing remarks made by leaders about others. They pretend to support a country then spit in their face and stab them in the back. Put more of these cowards docs on the web. let the public see these creeps for the mental giants they really are.

December 06 2010 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is crazy.

December 06 2010 at 2:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

While it's true that governments do litte to prevent rogue sites like wikileaks from operating with impunity, let's not lose sight of the fact that our computers were not hacked, a traitor provided Assange with the information. As many hail him as a hero, they fail to realize that Assange's actions will likely cause the loss of more of our freedoms.

December 06 2010 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brigittepj's comment

I meant, can do little to prevent.

December 06 2010 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi! The founder of WikiLeaks is a threat to the United States and he needs to be stopped! His Mother is pleading that people don't KILL HIM! Julian is on the run and he knows his life is in jeopardy for his TERRORIST actions. He is a Traitor and he needs to be dealt with. The people that are leaking to him also need to be dealt with. I hope he's found and stopped soon! Thanks! Jack

December 06 2010 at 4:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The movie version of this affair is titled "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers."

December 06 2010 at 2:12 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Im sorry this site and its owners are Traitors... nothing about this info ie news worthy.. zero.. all publications thatg give them time are traitors too. Ive already canceled my Subcription to the NewYork Times. This has done harm in ways we w ill never fully understand

December 05 2010 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Another thing I find "interesting" is that Julian Assange was charged with sex crimes in SWEDEN. HEY! I think SWEDEN is a really, really, really great country (I know it's not Holland)... but... a couple of women in SWEDEN are charging an internationally known man with sex crimes???? My eyebrows are arching just a little bit to learn this! Perhaps WikiLeaks should explain in some detail what his alleged criminal sex acts were, ONLY - you understand - so I can make a proper judgement.

December 05 2010 at 8:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply