'embarrassment of riches'
Epik, the Seattle-area internet company that provides web services to the Proud Boys, QAnon groups, and other organizations banned from larger internet platforms, has suffered a huge breach, and the hacking collective Anonymous dumped 150 gigabytes of personal information about clients onto the web last week, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The leaked data includes user names, passwords, purchase records, home addresses, and other information that can be used to identify clients who had counted on Epik shielding their identities.
"Extremism researchers and political opponents have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far-right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years," the Post reports. "Initial revelations have spilled out steadily across Twitter since news of the hack broke last week," but the researches say they will likely need months or years to sift through the data. One goal is to unveil extremists who hold public-facing jobs.
"It's massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I've seen and, as an extremism researcher, it's certainly the most interesting," Megan Squire, an Elon University computer science professor who studies right-wing extremism, tells the Post. "It's an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment."
Records show that Epik's clients have included 8chan, Gab, Parler, the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, and the Texas Right to Life site set up to allow people to report abortion-related activities under a new bounty-enforced abortion ban. The company has since dropped 8chan, the Daily Stormer, and the Texas "whistleblower" site, the Post reports.
"The company played such a major role in keeping far-right terrorist cesspools alive," Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, tells the Post. "Without Epik, many extremist communities — from QAnon and white nationalists to accelerationist neo-Nazis — would have had far less oxygen to spread harm, whether that be building toward the Jan. 6 Capitol riots or sowing the misinformation and conspiracy theories chipping away at democracy." Read more at The Washington Post.