Whistle-blowers and hackers have been quite busy this year as they have released tons of secret and hidden information that has affected global entities. Major leaks in 2016 had far ranging effects and it even allegedly affected the US presidential elections.
US Department of Justice
Hackers breached the database of US department of Justice and released information about more than 10,000 employees of Department of Homeland Security on February 9. The next day they released the details of 20,000 FBI employees.
The hackers were allegedly protesting against United States relationship with Israel, they even claimed that the Department of Justice took a whole week before realizing their system was hacked.
On March 3 personal information of 700 employees of Snapchat were stolen, this hack is quite interesting as the hackers posed as Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snapchat and simply requested the details of these employees. However, it is not yet clear how are they planning to use to this information
Philippine Commission on Elections
The breach of the Philippine Commission on Election’s database was dubbed as the “worst government data breach anywhere” by the Infosecurity Magazine. Allegedly the hackers stole the personal data of 55 million people.
The personal information of almost every registered voter was hacked on April 11.
Anonymous was responsible for this hack and they said they wanted the election commission to ramp up the security features before elections. However, the information was released a few days later and is still available to be used by anyone for identity theft or other purposes.
On May 17 email and passwords of 117 million LinkedIn users were posted online but the actual hack had occurred four years earlier. LinkedIn had responded quickly and it had notified its users to change their passwords.
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Leaks
Wikileaks released the Democratic National Committee emails on July 22, this leak occurred only a few days before Hillary Clinton was selected as presidential nominee by the national convention of the party. The leaked information included over 19,000 emails from the DNC staff, another 8,236 emails were released later in November.
The emails proved that the DNC had a bias against Bernie Sanders and in order to support Hillary Clinton by snubbing anyone who pointed out the bias. Although Russia has been accused of the hacking but a Romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0 claimed the responsibility of the hacking.
Established in June 2016, DCLeaks is a website that released emails of high level military and government officials, over 200 Democratic lawyers and 300 Republicans including Lindsey Graham and John McCain.
George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist was also exposed in August when approximately 2,500 emails were released proving he had enormous influence in the government, in 2011 he had advised Hillary Clinton on how to handle the situation in Albania. She took his advice and sent a mediator to the region a few days later.
Other emails showed that he even tried to influence global politics by trying to interfere in the elections of Malaysia.
Emails from General Philip Breedlove the former NATO commander were also released and it was exposed that he wanted to escalate the tension with Russia.
One of the biggest financial leaks in the history, Panama Papers incident occurred when an offshore company Mossack Fonseca was hacked and 11.5 million files were stolen and then released in April. The Panama Papers were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung with the help of an anonymous source.
These documents contained the detailed information about the wealth of some of the most powerful people in the world, the list included names of numerous political leaders. The Panama Papers created such an unrest that it forced the prime minister of Iceland to resign as he also had offshore companies.
Other prominent leaders include former British prime minister David Cameron whose father had an offshore company and the prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif who is currently facing a judicial inquiry in the Supreme Court of the country.
US State Department Emails
Jason Leopold of VICE and the Judicial Watch group filed freedom of information lawsuits in order to get the emails released of then secretary of state Hillary Clinton which she had sent using a private email server instead of a government provided one.
More than 30,000 emails from this private server were released in March by Wikileaks, these mails were sent between 2010 and 2014. These emails contained information which exposed the close ties between global politics and the Clinton Foundation.
The actual role of the United States in the lead up to the Yemen war was exposed by Wikileaks in November when it released 500 documents from the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. Hillary Clinton was the secretary of the state during this time period and these documents provide details of weapons and training provided to Yemen by the United States.
Yemen was given weapons, bio-metric systems, patrol boats, aircraft and other supplies, the leaked information shows the US authorities knew that these weapons and the counter-terrorism aviation support could be used against the Houthi rebels rather than terrorist but they chose to ignore the fact.
In August computer exploits which were used by the NSA were leaked, a hacking group called the Shadow Brokers leaked the information in an online auction, the information was acquired from group operated by the NSA known as the Equation Group.
This proved that the NSA is extremely vulnerable which means that the whole public is at risk, it also shows how web requests can be redirected NSA servers, here they will be infected with malware so that they can be intercepted.
The information was reportedly auctioned for 1 million bitcoins which is equivalent to $695 million.
Before the presidential elections of United States Wikileaks had vowed to release 50,000 thousand emails of John Podesta who was the campaign chairman of Hillary Clinton. Wikileaks released the emails in small batches and by the end of the elections the total number of released emails was more than 50,000.
These emails contained information about the Clinton Foundation and speeches from Bill Clinton, one of the most important fact was the close ties Hillary Clinton’s campaign had with the media. The emails also proved that president Barack Obama knew that Clinton was using a private server.
Other emails included information on how the Citigroup influenced Obama while choosing his cabinet even before he became president in 2008.