The Panama Papers May Have Come From a Hack, Not a Leak

Source: AP
Source: AP

Right now, the world is in the midst of repercussions of the largest leak in history: the Panama Papers, a treasure trove of information about how the world's wealthy elites hide their money away from taxation, leaked by a do-gooder who couldn't stand to see corruption go unchecked.

"The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures," reported Süddeutsche Zeitung, the paper that initially released the papers.

But Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the center of the documents, is calling foul. They say that the leaker wasn't an insider, but an outside hacker.

"We rule out an inside job. This is not a leak. This is a hack," founding partner Roman Fonseca told Reuters. "We have a theory and we are following it."

This could feed the notion that the leaker wasn't some insider with a conscience, but possibly a foreign entity. Some suspect the U.S. government is the culprit, given the lack of Americans in the ledger of guilty parties exposed by the hack.

But the idea that Mossack Fonseca was hacked also inspires the question: Who could be the next potential target?

What's next? If this is a hack by an outside party, it demonstrates that hacking can have major social and political power to generate scandal in the face of corruption. As cybersecurity mogul John McAfee wrote in a column Tuesday, the legal world is rife with potential targets.

"Mossack is the fourth-largest 'offshore' legal firm in the world," McAfee wrote. "Where do you think the hackers are headed next?"

Before we celebrate the idea of further leaks that expose corruption in finance or government, remember that this kind of hacking is most definitely still a crime. Mossack Fonseca wants everyone to remember it too, and have a little more sympathy.

"We are amazed that nobody has said, 'Hey, a crime has been committed here,'" Fonseca told Reuters, the BBC reported.

To be fair, people are definitely saying there's criminal activity here. But it's not the hack they're talking about.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jack Smith IV

Jack Smith IV is a senior writer covering technology and inequality. Send tips, comments and feedback to jack@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Scientists just spotted 2 black holes flirting and dancing like awkward middle schoolers

The two could someday merge to become one.

I can't stop laughing at this amazing iOS 11 glitch that basically turns your texts into Jaden Smith tweets

One iOS 11 bug — god, I hope this is a bug — stands above the rest, and I can't stop laughing.

This biohacker implanted a transit card into his skin so he never has to get out his wallet

His name is Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, and he's got multiple chips in his arm.

NASA just clapped back at Anonymous after its alien conspiracy theory went viral

A NASA scientist debunked the baseless claims on Twitter.

Just seeing your phone can make your brain's cognition worse, according to a new study

There's only one way to stop getting distracted by your phone.

China may have achieved a seemingly impossible renewable energy goal

For seven days straight, China says it powered an entire province using only non-fossil energy sources.

Scientists just spotted 2 black holes flirting and dancing like awkward middle schoolers

The two could someday merge to become one.

I can't stop laughing at this amazing iOS 11 glitch that basically turns your texts into Jaden Smith tweets

One iOS 11 bug — god, I hope this is a bug — stands above the rest, and I can't stop laughing.

This biohacker implanted a transit card into his skin so he never has to get out his wallet

His name is Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, and he's got multiple chips in his arm.

NASA just clapped back at Anonymous after its alien conspiracy theory went viral

A NASA scientist debunked the baseless claims on Twitter.

Just seeing your phone can make your brain's cognition worse, according to a new study

There's only one way to stop getting distracted by your phone.

China may have achieved a seemingly impossible renewable energy goal

For seven days straight, China says it powered an entire province using only non-fossil energy sources.