Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is at the center of one of the largest leaks of classified documents that the country has ever seen. He is accused of using his privileged access to a classified government computer system to download sensitive documents, and distribute these documents to websites.
A quick read of his story on the Wikipedia website is a lesson in MEECES – the reasons for hacking. MEECES stands for money, entertainment, ego, cause, entrance to social groups and status. Here is a list of the MEECES examples from the Wikipedia website about PFC Manning:
Money – As there is no indication of compensation from WikiLeaks, it is unlikely that he did it for the money (I will concede that point). As a note, WikiLeaks has donated $15,100 to a fund for his attorney’s fees (which has raised over $100,000).
Entertainment & Ego– If the statements can be attributed to him, Manning was getting satisfaction from the possible ramifications the documents to be leaked. Allegedly, he told a writer at Wired magazine that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public. Additionally, he was feeling superior as he cited “weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm …” leading to his assessment of “perfect example of how not to do INFOSEC”.
Cause – There are a couple of possible causes here. The major cause cited was desire to publicize sensitive, classified documents pertaining to diplomatic and military affairs in the middle east. Bradley felt that these documents needed to be placed in the public domain. He thought that the public needed to know the truth. In addition, Bradley was about to be discharged (for punching a female officer in the face), so revenge is apparently a motivator.
Entrance to Social Groups and Status – By initially posting the documents on-line, Bradley was able to communicate with writers for Wired magazine and the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. The attention from these prominent media is impressive for young techies.
The article on Wikipedia’s website is quite detailed, but obviously lacks Bradley’s opinions (since he is in jail, awaiting trial). Time and trial by court martial will tell if Bradley is a criminal or a hero. Right or wrong, the story posted on Wikipedia demonstrates the motivations of a hacker.