Wikileaks posted another in a series of cryptic tweets last night. The tweet referred to something called a "Stochastic Terminator". So what is the Stochastic Terminator? How does it relate to what's going on now? Why are they posting about it? Read on.
What is the Wikileaks Stochastic Terminator Algorithm?
The Stochastic Terminator is an algorithm that Wikileaks developed to "maximize" their impact by publishing material at a specific time. An algorithm is simply a way of doing things -- for example, when you wash your hair you have an algorithm: lather, rinse, repeat.
The word algorithm in programming is often used to describe a method that someone developed for the computer to produce some sort of intended result. For example, there are search algorithms, like the one Google uses to search the internet. Algorithms are often the most proprietary part of software products because they are non-trivial. The rest of a software program (the user interface, for example) can often be duplicated by any good software engineer.
Wikileaks originally tweeted about the 'Stochastic Terminator' algorithm on October 12, when they became concerned about Julian Assange's safety and his ability to continue publishing:
Editorial: We are now publishing on a schedule created by our new impact maximizing publishing algorithm the "Stochastic Terminator". Enjoy.
-- WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 12, 2016
We'll discuss more about what exactly this algorithm does and why it's called the Stochastic Terminator.
Why is it Called 'Stochastic Terminator'? How does that help Wikileaks?
Why does Wikileaks call its new algorithm the "Stochastic Terminator"?
The term "Stochastic Terminator" describes (in some way) what the algorithm does. "Stochastic" is a mathematical term which essentially means something that has some randomness and therefore can't fully be predicted.
For example, if we changed the hair washing algorithm slightly so instead of "lather, rinse, repeat", it was "lather, rinse, flip a coin to decide whether to repeat" that would make it a stochastic process.
So what does stochastic mean in the context of the "Stochastic Terminator"? It means that Wikileaks has added a level of randomness to their publishing algorithm.
So where does the "Stochastic Terminator" come from? Why is it needed?
The "Stochastic Terminator" algorithm was written by Wikileaks' team. It's unlikely that it is a particularly complicated algorithm, because it was developed in a rush to counteract a new threat.
Wikileaks has introduced some level of randomness, as well as some artificial intelligence into their publishing methods.
Why would they do that? Because they don't want to be predictable. Presumably, they are concerned that if Clinton and her team know when certain items are published, they can get out ahead of them. Or worse, as Wikileaks described earlier this week, cut their Internet or threaten Assange.
Over the last week, Assange's Internet was cut, he's been threatened, and armed people had been posted outside the Ecuadorian Embassy:
PHOTO: Heavily armed 'police' appear outside Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Julian Assange has political asylum (photo, Tuesday morning) pic.twitter.com/EOfsrmi3t2
-- WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 21, 2016
But the threats against Assange with relation to this material have been going on for a few weeks. This would lead Assange to want to 1) ensure that the material gets published regardless of whether he's able to do the publishing, and 2) make sure people can't predict when the material is published so they can't launch a denial of service attack at that time.
So why did Wikileaks Update the Stochastic Terminator algorithm?
We have updated the Stochastic Terminator algorithim.
-- WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 22, 2016
Clearly, Assange is more concerned than ever about his ability to continue publishing and his safety. You may remember that earlier, Wikileaks tweeted out a series of numbers, which we covered here.
Those numbers were a commitment scheme:
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.
This is all part of Wikileaks' contingency plan. That there are operatives across the world who have the packets of information described above, and that with teh release of those number, Wikileaks has given them the green light to do something with them. Now that the keys are public, the holders of the information can look at it and post it as they choose.
This was another way to ensure that the people/machines that held encrypted Wikileaks material were able to release that material.
Now that they think the threat is more significant, Assange may have wanted to update the algorithm to speed up publishing, or to remove any dependencies on him, in case something serious goes down.
We'll see in practice what the updates to the "Stochastic Terminator" do during the week.
Wanna read more on this? Check these out: Wikileaks Releases Explosive #Vault7: Was CIA Hacking Trump's Twitter? (more); Is Pamela Anderson Hooking Up with Wikileaks' Julian Assange? (more); Julian Assange Awaits His Fate As Ecuadorian Elections Enter Runoff (more); RIP Wikileaks? Ecuador Elections Could Mean The End For Julian Assange (more).
And here are some more related articles: Wikileaks Julian Assange Resurfaces on Twitter - Could #Vault7 be Imminent? (more); Wikileaks #Vault7: Everything Known About The Secret Vault 7 Project (more); Wikileaks' 'Sudden Death' Message Sparks Murder Questions (more).