Internet service providers often tell their clients that they offer “bullet-proof hosting.” Whistle-blower organization Wikileaks, it seems, will settle for nothing less than “bomb-proof.”
Some portion of Wikileaks’ servers have been moved to the “Pionen” White Mountains data center owned by Swedish broadband provider Bahnhof, as first reported by Norwegian news site VG Nett last Friday. That data center will store Wikileaks’ data 30 meters below ground inside a Cold-War-era nuclear bunker carved out of a large rock hill in downtown Stockholm. The server farm has a single entrance and is outfitted by half-meter thick metal doors and backup generators pulled from German submarines–fitting safeguards, perhaps, for an organization that raised the ire of several powerful military forces last month when it released thousands of classified Afghanistan war documents.
Here’s a video tour from the IT organization Data Center Pulse filmed in 2008, showing a super-secure facility it describes as worthy of “a James Bond villain.”
Earlier in August the copyright-flouting Swedish Pirate Party began hosting Wikileaks’ IT operations, and it’s not clear exactly why it’s chosen to move Wikileaks’ servers to the Pionen facility. The threat of law enforcement physically seizing or destroying the organization’s equipment, after all, is much less likely than a legal attempt to gain direct access to Wikileaks’ data. Last year the Swedish government put a crack in the country’s strong free speech protections when it passed a controversial law allowing surveillance of Internet traffic by the FRA, a law enforcement agency.
But Stockholm-based Bahnhof executive Jon Karlung tells me in an interview that the company’s data center is “a kind of metaphor” for Bahnhof’s commitment to resist any sort of intrusion, physical or legal. “We’re proud to have clients like these,” he says. “The Internet should be an open source for freedom of speech, and the role of an ISP is to be a neutral technological tool of access, not an instrument for collecting information from customers.”
Karlung says Bahnhof has not yet complied with Sweden’s new FRA surveillance law. “We have an unbroken chain of fiber-optic cables that cover 2,300 kilometers,” says Karlung. “We’re positive that [government agencies] haven’t installed any equipment yet. That day will come, and when it does we’ll inform all clients that they’re surveilled by the Swedish government.”
Wikileaks has likely spread its servers well beyond any single data center, including other facilities in Sweden and Iceland, and it’s also posted an encrypted file labeled “insurance” on its site, potentially to be used as a threat of further data spillage aimed at preventing attacks on the site or its volunteer staff.
In the coming weeks, Wikileaks has said it will release another 15,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan. As the controversy around the site mounts, it may need every protection it can find.
Please view the Video