British police arrested Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday. He had been hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 and was arrested after the Ecuadorian government invited the Metropolitan Police Service into the embassy to remove him. Assange was initially arrested for jumping bail in 2012, but the Metropolitan Police Service subsequently announced that he had been “further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities.
After Assange’s arrest, the US Justice Department unsealed its indictment against him. The indictment focuses on Assange’s role in helping Chelsea Manning steal classified information from the US military.
In 2010, “Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers,” the indictment charges. Manning allegedly provided Assange with the the hash of a password and asked Assange to crack it.
The indictment says that the hashed password was only available to those with administrative privileges, which Manning didn’t have. However, she “used special software, namely a Linux operating system, to access the computer file and obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange.”
The government says that the password would have allowed Manning to log in to computers as an administrative user, making it easier for her to cover her tracks as she downloaded additional sensitive documents.
However, it seems that Assange never succeeded in cracking the password. “On or about March 10, 2010, Assange requested more information from Manning related to the password,” the indictment states. “Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had ‘no luck so far.'”
While Assange wasn’t successful in cracking the password, the US government is charging him with conspiracy to hack military computers based on his attempt to do so.