A vagabond in his childhood, a hacker in his teens and always living on the edge, Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is the controversial man who people love and governments hate. This Australian publisher, journalist and editor-in-chief of the whistle-blower website, has stuck to his belief, that publishing improves transparency and better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies. Today, on July 3, this multi-talented-hacker-publisher is celebrating his 50th birthday, but it’s difficult to say where and how!
Name: Julian Paul Assange
Date Of Birth: 3 July 1971
Having travelled across Australia, gone to 37 different schools, Julian Assange sought refuge at Ecuador’s Embassy in London on 19 June 2012, and holed up there for nearly 7 years before Ecuador ended his politician asylum on the grounds of unruly behaviour on April 12, 2019. Now under the custody of British Police, Assange is still wanted by the US authorities and efforts are being made to get him extradited to face charges in the US.
Interesting Facts about Julian Assange
- Julian studied mathematics, physics and programming at Central Queensland University in 1994 and the University of Melbourne between 2003–2006, yet not completing his degree.
- Assange did not like and objected to other students working on computer projects for the military.
- In 1987, Julian began hacking under the name Mendax, which translates into “nobly untruthful”.
- He formed the International Subversives, an ethical hacking group along with two others, known as Trax and Prime Suspect (code names).
- He and his group hacked into the Pentagon, the U.S. Navy and other U.S. Department of Defense facilities; government organizations such as NASA, MILNET and Australia’s Overseas Telecommunications Commission; private companies suchlike Citibank, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Panasonic and Xerox; and educational institutions like the Australian National University, La Trobe University and Stanford University’s Stanford Research Institute.
- He also co-wrote ‘Underground: Tales of Hacking‘, a book about hacking, around this time.
- He was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications firm, in September 1991 and was summoned to court on such offence.
- In 1993, Julian Assange gave technical advice to the Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit and assisted with prosecutions.
- In the same year, he was involved in starting Suburbia Public Access Network, one of the first public free internet systems in Australia providing web, shell, irc, email and more services to non-profit groups and individuals.
- He was charged with 31 counts of hacking and related crimes in 1994, to which he pleaded guilty to 25 charges in December 1996 and six of them were dropped. Comically so, Julian had even hacked computers to monitor the Australian Federal Police investigation into his hacking.
- 1996 saw Julian Assange run ‘Best of Security‘, a website giving advice on computer security that had 5,000 subscribers.
- He contributed research to ‘Suelette Dreyfus’s Underground‘, a book about Australian hackers, including the International Subversives, in 1997.
- In 1998, he co-founded the company Earthmen Technology, with the aim of developing “network intrusion detection technologies”.
- In 1999, he registered the domain leaks.org, yet did nothing with it. Today it’s owned by Andreas Fink, CEO and owner of Backbone ehf, an Internet Backbone provider at Iceland.
- In 2000, he programmed Surfraw, a command-line interface for web-based search engines and now is licensed in the public domain, hosted as part of the Debian project.
- The controversial yet “free and unrestrained press” publication, WikiLeaks, officially launched in 2007 and it was run out of Sweden at the time because of the country’s strong laws protecting a person’s anonymity.
- He was continuously on the move, with periods in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, France and Germany(2007–2008); Austria, Spain, Malaysia, and Denmark(2009); and Iceland, the United States, Norway, Australia, Belgium, Sweden and the United Kingdom(2010).
- For his efforts, this internet activist earned the Reader’s Choice for Time magazine “Person of the Year” title in 2010.
- On 26th September 2012, Julian delivered a speech, via satellite to a full conference room at the United Nations, asking the U.S. government to end its actions against him and his website.
- Julian Assange has entertained some famous people while at the embassy, to raise money for WikiLeaks.
- His book, “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet,” was released in November 2012.
- In 2016, Assange was once again in the limelight after Wikileaks publishers thousands of emails from the US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee, which is believed to have cost her the election.
After 6 years of protection in the west London embassy, Julian started apparently facing the heat due to the mounting pressure from British taxpayers who were lobbying to end the protection. Taxpayers claim that every day about $14,000 is being spent on Julian’s security installed outside his house. In the first three years of its asylum in the Ecuador Embassy, reportedly, $18 million dollars in taxpayers money was spent to provide security to Julian.
Finally, on 12th April 2019, British police hauled Jullian Assange from the Ecuador embassy after Lenin Moreno, President – Ecuador, decided to end his asylum after accusing him to use the embassy as a ‘centre of spying‘.
In January 2021, US Justice Department faced a setback in its efforts of getting Assange extradited to the US. A British judge ruled against the extradition, albeit denied his bail petition.
Since then Assange’s fiance, Stella Moris, has been making constant efforts to get bail for Assange who is now in high-security Belmarsh prison in London.
When we are talking about Julian Assange, we can not miss out some interesting facts about WikiLeaks, either. Here are three:
i) WikiLeaks is a project of the Sunshine Press and an independent global group of people with a long-standing dedication to the idea of a free press and the improved transparency in society and not a front for any intelligence agency or government despite a rumour to that effect.
ii) WikiLeaks has been victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.
iii) WikiLeaks has released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined.
iv) Funded by donations, Wikileaks received an average of 20,000 euros a month from just PayPal alone in 2010 and had gone up to roughly 1,000 euros a day by mid-2013.
Proving every year could be new, Assange seems to be living up to his stepfather, Brett Assange’s description of him, as the “sharp kid who always fought for the underdog“. And as he gets to be 50, we wish he remains the revolutionary visionary he is, inspiring many more bold entrepreneurial ventures striving to make this world corruption-free.
The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from the Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or a renewed leaders who moved the industry with their exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base on the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, Sir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.