The Pirate Bay (one of the internet’s largest torrent indexers for movies, music, TV, etc.) is suing a number of large media companies including Fox, Universal, Paramount, and more. Why? “The charges are infrastructural sabotage, denial of service attacks, hacking and spamming, all of these on a commercial level.” More details at TPB blog.
How’d all of this come about? A company named MediaDefender (if you check Wikipedia, hope you’re getting it on a day that the company isn’t trying to sanitize its profile). The scandal seems to have started a few months ago, but more details are continuing to be revealed as 700MB of the company’s email was recently acquired, bundled up and offered for download from a torrent site. Essentially, it has come to light via these emails that MediaDefender has been working with a large number of the media companies to hack users of peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing services and attack various websites such as TPB.
One large aspect of MediaDefender’s work is digging up information about P2P users. They set up a video sharing website (Miivi.com — not there anymore) in order to gather personal information about users who posted video content.
The most frightening aspect of all of this is the methods the company is using. The attacks on P2P sites, the fake video-sharing site, etc. And it’s not only the big media companies who use their services. A recorded phone call has surfaced containing a conference call between MediaDefender and members of the New York Attorney Generals Office. The NY AG office appears to have partnered with MediaDefender to track down info about child-porn sharers. Now, shutting down child-porn sharers is 100% an excellent goal, but I’m not much thrilled when any government agency is buddying up with a company who itself circumvents legal methods of action and resorts to phishing, hacking, DOSing, spamming, and sabotage.
In a fantastic twist of irony, hackers everywhere now seem to be using MediaDefender for target practice. The leaked emails were culled from one of their employee’s private Gmail accounts. I don’t know exactly how the phone call was captured, but the NY AG’s office was using a VOIP (voice-over-IP) connection and this could have been hacked/recorded somehow. Now that P2P users are aware of the threat from this company, they’re able to use information about the company in order to circumvent MediaDefenders ability to track them using applications such as PeerGuardian (site | wiki).
The outcome of the MediaDefender scandal will be interesting to watch. The company has certainly had their reputation trashed, at least among the IT crowd (no, not that The IT Crowd). The lawsuit will be watched closely as it could signal the tides of change in the ongoing privacy vs piracy war in Sweden and in general.
Note: I’m not defending intellectual property pirates. I just don’t want to relive 1984 or any other sort of dystopian nightmare.
– The Pirate Bay Files Suit Against Big Media
– Leaked Media Defender e-mails reveal secret government project
– Peer-to-peer poisoners: A tour of MediaDefender
– MediaDefender Phonecall
– MediaDefender Emails
– Hackers Smack Anti-Piracy Firm Again and Again
– Media Defender emails