Over the past 24 hours, Wikileaks has been tweeting out very cryptic numbers without any context. What are they? Why are they tweeting them out? We've got answers.
Wikileaks PrecommitmentTo understand what these numbers mean, we first should understand what a "pre-commitment" is. According to Wikipedia, a precommitment means:
Precommitment is a strategy in which a party to a conflict uses a commitment device to strengthen its position by cutting off some of its options to make its threats more credible. Any party employing a Strategy of Deterrence faces the problem that retaliating against an attack may ultimately result in significant damage to their own side. If this damage is significant enough, then the opponent may take the view that such retaliation would be irrational, and therefore, that the threat lacks credibility, and hence, it ceases to be an effective deterrent. Precommitment improves the credibility of a threat, either by imposing significant penalties on the threatening party for not following through, or, by making it impossible to not respond.This means that they will definitely perform an action. Wikipedia uses the example of burning a bridge after crossing it, so they can't possibly retreat.
So Wikileaks is threatening to everyone that they are definitely going to perform some action -- so what is it? And why do they feel the need to threaten?
We also need to look at what a commitment scheme is (again from Wikipedia):
A way to visualize a commitment scheme is to think of a sender as putting a message in a locked box, and giving the box to a receiver. The message in the box is hidden from the receiver, who cannot open the lock themselves. Since the receiver has the box, the message inside cannot be changed—merely revealed if the sender chooses to give them the key at some later time.
Wikileaks Hash, Key, Encryption NumbersThe numbers that Wikileaks posted: 4bb96075acadc3d80b5ac872874c3037a386f4f595fe99e687439aabd0219809, eae5c9b064ed649ba468f0800abf8b56ae5cfe355b93b1ce90a1b92a48a9ab72, and f33a6de5c627e3270ed3e02f62cd0c857467a780cf6123d2172d80d02a072f74 appear to be what are called hashes or keys.
There are two theories about this. The first theory is that the numbers are hashes, which will be used to verify some information. The second theory is that they are keys, as part of a scheme, so that if things go wrong, information can be released. Read on for details.
Wikileaks pre-commitment 1: John Kerry 4bb96075acadc3d80b5ac872874c3037a386f4f595fe99e687439aabd0219809As an example, let's look at pre-commitment 1. The number 4bb96075acadc3d80b5ac872874c3037a386f4f595fe99e687439aabd0219809 is related to some material to be released on John Kerry.
In theory 1, this would be a verification for the authenticity of the material. But that doesn't sound particularly useful.
However, in theory 2, that is a number that would unlock material that someone has. Now, that could be useful... Why?
Wikileaks pre-commitment 2: Ecuador eae5c9b064ed649ba468f0800abf8b56ae5cfe355b93b1ce90a1b92a48a9ab72In theory 2, we would have to assume that certain people all over the world have access to this information -- 3 sets, one on John Kerry, one on the UK FCO, and one on Ecuador (which is strange because Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy -- perhaps these are codenames?).
Whoever has these materials all over the world would be unable to read them or do anything with them since they are encrypted. But with the key that Assange tweeted out, suddenly these materials become readable and possible to disseminate.
But why now and why haven't they done this before?
Wikileaks pre-commitment 3: UK FCO f33a6de5c627e3270ed3e02f62cd0c857467a780cf6123d2172d80d02a072f74The reason they're doing this now is because it appears that Assange thinks things are going to "go down" for him. We've seen strange things have been happening to Wikileaks and Assange over the past week.
There have been a lot of DDOS attacks, which are attacks in which a bunch of computers -- generally spread out all over -- keep connecting and sending data to a target in order to flood that target. So in Wikileaks case, someone has been trying to make the Wikileaks server inaccessible.
And now Wikileaks has released this:
So clearly Assange thinks something big is going to happen.