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Former associate of TorrentSpy founder sells out to the tune of $15,000

Money. Power. Respect. All these things and more were offered to hacker Robert Anderson by the MPAA, if the information he held could “save Hollywood.”

In the spring of 2005, a joint advertising venture between TorrentSpy founder Justin Bunnell and Anderson turned sour. Looking to salvage what he could out of the situation, Anderson hacked TorrentSpy’s servers by guessing an administrative password. TorrentSpy’s passwords were reportedly extremely weak. “I just kept changing the numbers until it fit,” Anderson told Wired. “It took a little more than 30 tries.”

After gaining access, Anderson modified the site’s mail system to forward all e-mail to his Gmail account. Information collected including banking information, passwords, and even the site’s source code. This interested the MPAA, alleged Anderson, because they said they were interested in setting up their own fake torrent site as a “shadow operation.” He claims that the MPAA told him that they’ll “get their names, address books, contact information and banking information.” 

Exactly whose information Anderson collected has not been revealed.

It is not known if MediaDefender’s MiiVi project – which presumably is still under construction under new auspices after being prematurely ousted and having its creators’ email exposed to the public – has anything to do with the above fake torrent site.

“Everything they were talking about was sent to my Gmail … everything they sent, anything sent to them, I got,” said Anderson.

Seeing the possible profit in this newfound information, Anderson approached the MPAA through an unsolicited e-mail. In the message, Anderson told the MPAA that he had an “informant” within TorrentSpy that could “intercept any e-mail communications.” Within a few weeks, he received a reply from DeanGarfield, who at the time was the MPAA’s legal director.

On June 30, 2005 the MPAA sent Anderson a contract to sign. The contract’s terms included all of the information Garfield collected, including “the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the owners of” Anderson was also requested to check into information on The Pirate Bay, and to look for “evidence concerning and correspondence between these entities.” Other terms included a non-disclosure agreement of sorts, $15,000 payment for Anderson’s services, and stipulations that confidential data only be acquired “through legal means.”

Anderson soon realized, however, that Garfield’s promises were hollow and that the MPAA had no further use for him. At that point, said Anderson, he came clean to Bunnell and warned him of the MPAA’s intended actions.

Predictably, the MPAA has since filed suit against, and since tried to compel the site to retain increasing amounts of data about its American users. In turn, TorrentSpy countersued the MPAA under the federal Wiretap Act, claiming that the MPAA was exposed to vicarious liability for Anderson’s e-mail surveillance.

In the countersuit, Anderson claimed that the MPAA’s actions were different than the terms of its contract, and said that the MPAA had little actual regard for how Anderson acquired TorrentSpy’s information.

Unfortunately Bunnell’s suit against the MPAA was dropped, with Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper saying that Anderson’s actions did not violate the wiretapping statute. Other, similar laws that may have been used against the MPAA are not available either, because they do not allow for vicarious liability.

The MPAA claims that the countersuit being thrown out is proof that its actions were perfectly legal.

TorrentSpy has not taken action against Anderson, “because he took steps to advise us of his wrongdoing and to cooperate,” said Ira Rothken, who is serving as Bunnell’s attorney. “We've made a decision to go after the bigger wrong-doing, the MPAA.”

The MPAA’s suit against TorrentSpy is currently ongoing. In May, Cooper ordered TorrentSpy to begin saving IP addresses and download activity of its U.S. based users as part of pre-trial discovery. TorrentSpy responded by blocking American users – a move later mirrored by several other popular torrent sites – citing privacy concerns.

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What an idiot
By FITCamaro on 10/22/2007 4:17:24 PM , Rating: 5
He ruined his name for $15,000. No company in their right mind would hire him now since its clear that he'll sell confidential information to the highest bidder for his own personal gain if he has a disagreement with someone.

RE: What an idiot
By yodataco on 10/22/2007 4:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
In our "pop-centric" culture, he'll be forgotten in a couple weeks.

RE: What an idiot
By Dactyl on 10/22/2007 8:24:42 PM , Rating: 5
That's why you Google people before you hire them. Google remembers indefinitely.

RE: What an idiot
By sxr7171 on 10/22/2007 9:21:26 PM , Rating: 2
It's funny but most companies don't even come close to that level of scrutiny. You'd be lucky if they even check basic credentials on potential hires.

RE: What an idiot
By FITCamaro on 10/22/2007 11:08:00 PM , Rating: 2
Actually more employers are starting to do it.

RE: What an idiot
By Basilisk on 10/23/2007 8:13:36 AM , Rating: 3
Even if the companies don't think to do it, co-workers may: I've known of several instances where staff, pissed off/jealous/bored/curious/whatever, decided to dig for staffer's history both by Googling and social-networking.

Now, if he elects to flip for McD or BK, such curiosity may be less likely... but he's certainly closed some doors and invited later re-consideration of his Potential. He couldn't be trusted with any Admin privileges or in fiduciary roles at any responsible company with deep pockets!

RE: What an idiot
By AlphaVirus on 10/24/2007 12:51:44 PM , Rating: 2
I know people who have hired based on what they find around the interweb. People with a Myspace or Facebook and have several pictures of themselves getting drunk and smoking weed. Comments of what they would like to do to the president and such.
Its a very useful tool to weed out the bad seeds.

RE: What an idiot
By Polynikes on 10/22/2007 5:18:35 PM , Rating: 2
You mean the lowest bidder? That guy was a dumbass for doing that in the first place, but for so little? Wow.

RE: What an idiot
By BitJunkie on 10/22/2007 5:56:44 PM , Rating: 2
USD 15k is probably the price of an Alienware gaming rig, a year sub to a MMO and pizza + icecream everynight for a year....some ambition huh?

RE: What an idiot
By FITCamaro on 10/22/2007 11:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
Well I wasn't gonna say it but yeah. Might as well been the lowest bidder. Hell, TorrentSpy probably would've given him more if he'd threatened to do it unless they'd paid him.

RE: What an idiot
By Proteusza on 10/23/2007 5:20:10 AM , Rating: 2
Surely what he did was illegal anyway? he hacked into a server and stole confidential information. Wouldnt that mean any information he gained would be useless because of the way in which it was obtained?

I thought two wrongs didnt make a right?

RE: What an idiot
By aharris on 10/23/2007 9:26:42 AM , Rating: 2
Not that I'm defending him, but I'm pretty sure the article says he didn't sell.

Oh, wait... no nevermind, it does really say that.

Something seems wrong with this sentence
By JasonMick on 10/22/2007 4:00:26 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly who's information Anderson was collection has not been revealed.

I read it a couple times and am still confused!

RE: Something seems wrong with this sentence
By GoodBytes on 10/22/2007 4:16:23 PM , Rating: 1
I don't understand a thing in this article.

RE: Something seems wrong with this sentence
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/22/07, Rating: 0
By TomCorelis on 10/22/2007 5:07:11 PM , Rating: 1
We're having some issues with the CMS right now that are messing with everything. No worries.

RE: Something seems wrong with this sentence
By smitty3268 on 10/22/2007 4:32:18 PM , Rating: 2
What I got was this:

The MPAA sues TorrentSpy, and wants to get information on who is using their site.

Someone who used to work at TorrentSpy managed to guess the current password being used, and illegally forwarded info to himself.

We don't know what the data itself was, but presumably IP addresses and the .torrent files they downloaded?

This person then offered to sell the info to the MPAA.

The MPAA offered $15000 but said the data had to have been obtained legally.

The hacker then decides that he isn't being offered enough money, so he admits what he has done to TorrentSpy and tries to make the MPAA look like the bad guys.

TorrentSpy then forgives the hacker for coming clean, and sues the MPAA because they don't think they really cared whether the info was gathered legally or not, and that they just added that clause to the contract for some legal ass-covering.

Their suit gets thrown out of court.

The MPAA's doesn't.

By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/22/2007 4:43:21 PM , Rating: 3
Anderson soon realized, however, that Garfield’s promises were hollow and that the MPAA had no further use for him.

This sounds to me like the MPAA had no intentions of honoring their side of the agreement more so then Anderson not being paid enough.

By tcsenter on 10/27/2007 2:24:36 AM , Rating: 2
Close. Your first event in the list should actually come between #6 and #7, chronologically. MPAA filed suit after Anderson approached them - unsolicited.

By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/22/2007 4:26:20 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly who's information Anderson was collection has not been revealed.

Probably should be: Exactly whose information Anderson was collecting has not been revealed.

By KristopherKubicki on 10/22/2007 5:07:49 PM , Rating: 1
I read it a couple times and am still confused!

Hey Jason with the new document engine you have to hit save before uploading an image or anything. I found out the hard way!

By sxr7171 on 10/22/2007 9:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe because the correct word is "whose."'s.html

I wonder....
By yodataco on 10/22/2007 4:10:32 PM , Rating: 4
I wonder how many of the people working within the MPAA & RIAA are people who were all for "freedom of speach", "freadom of press" and "freedom of music" movements in the 60's & 70's. I wonder just how many free concert hippies there are working within their coridoors. I guess it's not so "cool mannnn" anymore since their pockets are lined with music label dollars. A hundred years ago, if you said "i own that song" to someone, they would have either been extremely puzzled, or laughed at you. What's next? Am I going to get pulled over and arested because I'm singing too loudly in my car with the windows down & they deem that as an "unothorized concert" with "their song"........

RE: I wonder....
By Micronite on 10/22/2007 4:21:49 PM , Rating: 1
If ever there were need for spell check...

RE: I wonder....
By yodataco on 10/22/2007 4:26:50 PM , Rating: 2
I type fast...what can I say. Maybe Google can come up with a web-spellcheck. By profession, I'm not exactally required to spell check everything that I type, so I'm only cautious for important documents/email/etc. Still, spelling issues are no reason to vote down....I've seen comments in horrible, fragmented sentances here that were voted up to 5.

RE: I wonder....
By Treckin on 10/22/2007 4:50:10 PM , Rating: 2
Mozilla FTW!!

RE: I wonder....
By Oregonian2 on 10/22/2007 7:44:24 PM , Rating: 3
Get firefox

RE: I wonder....
By darkpaw on 10/23/2007 1:14:52 PM , Rating: 2
I tend to have the same problem he does, I read and type fast and tend to miss over obvious errors. Firefox is godly for fixing this at home, unfortunately I can't use it at work.

Excellent follow up
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/22/2007 4:30:33 PM , Rating: 3
This article was definitely informative in regards to what is currently transpiring bewteen the MPAA/RIAA and Torrentspy. Thanks for the article and even though there are a few grammer/spelling issues as some have pointed out, it is not to the point where one cannot understand what is going on. Excellent read.

RE: Excellent follow up
By Bioniccrackmonk on 10/22/2007 4:32:55 PM , Rating: 1

Should be between, oh where for art thou edit button.

RE: Excellent follow up
By bodar on 10/22/2007 5:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
You don't even know what "wherefore" means, do you? Hint: it doesn't mean "where".

Sorry, pet peeve.

RE: Excellent follow up
By iiiceaser on 10/22/2007 5:28:57 PM , Rating: 2

i don't really care. but, it's grammar

By James Holden on 10/22/2007 3:40:57 PM , Rating: 6
most appropriate DT thumbnail ever.

The Code
By Misty Dingos on 10/23/2007 7:57:20 AM , Rating: 2
Arrr this chum bucket broke with the code! Turning over his mates and all their treasure maps to the 'gentle' care of the King's men! Tis mutiny most foul I say!

There be some that say keel haul'em or hang'em from the yard arm but that be the King's punishment.

No this rum swilling rotten piece of flotsam now he should be marooned and left to rot till the crabs pick his bones clean. All that his mates should leave him for company is his Judas price and an empty keg of rum.

RE: The Code
By FITCamaro on 10/23/2007 8:32:01 AM , Rating: 2
I think you've watched Pirates of the Caribbean one to many times....

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
By iFX on 10/22/2007 7:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
If he were going to sell out his friends he should have.

A. Asked for more money.
B. Specified a cash transaction to avoid being traced.
C. Specified different sums of money for different info.
D. Remained completely annonymous.

-1 for selling out your friends, and then selling out your (then) employer. Sounds like a basket case all around.

By dflynchimp on 10/22/2007 7:26:58 PM , Rating: 2
Anderson = F#&King traitor

Pirates come in cheap...
By InternetGeek on 10/23/2007 1:17:44 AM , Rating: 2
Will betray you at any given moment.

It seems TorrentSpy will have to build some pleasure houses, and pay for some assasinations to keep the pirates at bay.

Or just outsource some bucaneers...

fortune and glory
By dare2savefreedom on 10/23/2007 10:44:15 AM , Rating: 2
You should have titled it "fortune and glory"

His arse...
By kileil on 10/22/2007 5:27:38 PM , Rating: 1
... Keel-haul it.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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