Thursday, March 17, 2005

Operation Buccaneer; tying up the loose ends

Thursday, March 17, 2005 0

The global anti-piracy initiative which brought about the arrests of 60 individuals who occupied the upper echelons of the piracy 'scene' trudged closer towards its protracted finale this week, as the last two members of DrinkOrDie to be sentenced were called to face the Old Bailey.

Alex Bell (aka Mr 2940), 32, of Grays, Essex and Steven Dowd (aka Tim), 42, of Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside were snared by the National Hi-Tech Crimes Unit way back in December 2001. Oddly enough, while it is clear that both men abetted the infringement of the Copyright Act by supplying niche business software, they will actually serve jail time for 'conspiracy to defraud'.

At the time of his arrest, Bell worked for the IT department of Morgan Stanley bank. He abused his position by surreptitiously supplying DOD with the credit card details of several account holders, which were subsequently used to acquire software destined for internet diffusion. What's truly mystifying is exactly how Dowd, an unemployed father of two suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis, was best placed to have privileged access to pre-release software.

Both men's fate will be decided on 5th May when their trial recommences following bail. The seizure of hundreds of CDs containing pirated software during raids on their homes won't have helped their cause.

Meanwhile, 42 year old British-born Australian, Hew Raymond Griffiths, of New South Wales, who is assumed to be a co-leader of DOD, today lost his long-fought battle against extradition to the US. The unemployed programmer (aka Bandido) is to be indicted on two charges of copyright infringement by the US District Judge.

Monday, March 14, 2005

'Angry Young Hackers' bite back

Monday, March 14, 2005 0

While the marauding anti-piracy tag team comprising The Swedish Enforcement Administration and Antipiratbyran celebrated their long-awaited and extremely successful raid on Sweden's most distinguished ISP, Bahnhof, a multi-pronged revenge campaign gathered steam.

With youthful exuberance no doubt, the hackers angrily defaced APB's home page, plastering it with quotations extracted from the private correspondence of the agents responsible for the operation (which I should add was devoid of a cool-sounding code name). In particular, the name and personal contact details of the APB gaffer were revealed and the group expressed their desire to see the colour of his [Henrik Ponten's] blood.

Coincidentally I'm sure, the poor man has since been besieged by "SMS terror" and abusive phone calls, and has even been driven to seek the services of some hired muscle to guard his life. Clearly shaken by this unexpected turn of events, he commented, "When it's got to a point where they're ringing my son, I think it's gone absolutely too far". Nevertheless, he remained steadfast in his belief that he had been right to employ an informer to spy on Bahnhof; "We can't just stand there with our arms crossed while the industry is stolen from us".

Jon Karlung, the managing director of Bahnhof disagrees - he's a tad miffed that The Anti-Piracy Office chose to launch their attack on the company leasing the confiscated servers, rather than the 20,000 individuals who are believed to have used them to trade enormous quantities of copyright protected media.

It is has not yet been confirmed that Bahnhof employees were directly involved in exploiting the ISP's servers, though two members of staff have been suspended pending further enquiries. Karlung, outraged by "this witch-hunt", insisted that he does not condone piracy.

Despite the backlash, Ponten wagged a defiant finger at those who continue to flout copyright laws and promised more of the same in future, all the while gloating that, "the pirates out there are panic-stricken".

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Topsites confiscated in Swedish ISP swoop

Saturday, March 12, 2005 0

On Thursday the anti-piracy division of the Swedish Enforcement Administration, aka Antipiratbyran, raided the Stockholm offices of Bahnhof.se at the behest of the Swedish Performing Rights Society, which protects the interests of entertainment big wigs EMI, Sony and Universal.

Antipiratbyran agents engineered the raids by infiltrating the company and 'phoning home' with information relating to four of Europe's largest topsites, three of which have been identified as Artic Connexion (193.16.97.157), Enigma CD (193.16.97.63) and Infinite Power (193.16.97.145).

Copyright enforcement officers had been instructed to scour the servers specifically for four movies and eight music albums. Although they were unable to locate the target intellectual property, they were not disappointed; upon inspection, the servers were found to contain 23 terabytes worth of bootleg material. The seizure comprised 5000 software titles, 1800 movies and 450,000 MP3 music files.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Three pirates busted in 'Operation Higher Education'

Wednesday, March 09, 2005 0

The 'Higher Ed' appellation was inspired by the defendant's penchant for stashing their wares on university computers, rather than the Department of Justice's "that'll teach 'em" attitude. Operation Higher Education represents an offshoot of last year's better-known, worldwide 'Fastlink' anti-piracy crackdown.

Seth Kleinberg, 26, of Pasadena, California (who incidentally is the 'executive editor' of online gaming mag game-over.net), 20 year old University of Maryland student from College Park, Jeffrey Lerman, and 32 year old, married father, Albert Bryndza of Flushing, New York, yesterday confessed to charges of copyright infringement before a U.S. district court.

All three men were arrested last April on suspicion of operating within a variety of piracy release groups including the notorious Kalisto and Fairlight, and for cooperatively stripping PC, Playstation 2 and Xbox titles of their copyright protection mechanisms and distributing them to a wider community.

Kleinberg (aka 'basilisk'), who is expected to face the harshest sentence of the three men, is to be charged with supplying, cracking and 'currying' (distributing) pre-release software titles.

Lerman will be tried for his involvement in ripping patented data to a more manageable size to aid distribution, while Bryndza awaits his fate in the dock on charges of constructing servers to house and disperse the modified code.

Their downfall transpired through the group's lust for fortune in addition to peer group infamy. A Singapore based affiliate of Fairlight who paid the group for topsite leech slots, unbeknownst to him was being tracked by the FBI. Agents passed his details to Singaporean authorities who, in August 2004, convicted him for hawking his colossal haul on the open market. Likely as a result of his replete cooperation he was given a fairly lenient (this is Asia after all) 15 month prison sentence. Soon after, Lerman, Bryndza and Kleinberg were brought into custody for questioning.

Singapore bread crumb trail or not, the Department of Justice's computer crimes division were not bereft of leads. For as long as I can remember Game Over has been strongly associated with the piracy 'scene' - it's no coincidence that they always managed to secure pre-release copies of games for review (they have, in the past, even been cited in various release group calling cards, aka nfos!).

In response to his arrest and upcoming conviction, Kleinberg remorsefully commented:

"I am sure you are aware of last April's "Operation Fastlink." Unfortunately, I made some bad choices, and was involved in the warez scene. I am accepting responsibility for what I did, and pleading guilty tomorrow in the United States District Court in Connecticut.

I am very sorry for what I have done, and after I serve my sentence, I hope I will be able to continue my career in the game industry, and move on with my life. This last year has been incredibly hard for me emotionally, facing the consequences of my bad choices, and I am hopeful for your support, but I'll understand if you want nothing to do with me."

The trio of 'sceners' will be sentenced in July and could face between 3 and 10 years of jail time. Luckily for them, as they all have clean records, their sentences could be drastically reduced. Also of course, it's a safe bet that 'get out of jail' (earlier) cards will be dangled under their noses. The accepted currency I believe is information leading to further arrests.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I think, therefore I type, therefore I backup

Sunday, March 06, 2005 0

Assuming you possess a brain and can type, you are likely to have a number of important personal documents stored on your computer - documents you would be lost without should anything disastrous happen to your hard drive. If you own a CD or DVD writer these could be backed up to a writable disk, however, this is slow and inconvenient if you regularly make changes to these documents (think of your CV or personal web site).

What I've done to address this problem is buy a Smart Media/Compact Flash card reader and a few CF cards to store my data on. The card reader is attached to my computer via a USB cable, and accessing the cards entails nothing more complicated than inserting them into the reader. Whenever I do this, a shortcut to the CF card appears on my desktop allowing me to access it just like a hard drive, whether I'm using Windows or OS X.

Now here comes the clever bit. To backup all my irreplaceable documents, I use a simple, free command utility called F-Sync to synchronize the contents of the folders they reside in. Once you know exactly which folders you need to backup, and where you would like the copies to be placed, you can save this information in a batch file alongside the F-Sync executable and run it whenever the need arises with an effortless double click of the mouse.

To create such a batch file, open a command prompt window and type 'edit backup.bat'. Now type out the commands necessary to create the backups, save the file and select exit from the file menu. For example, my batch file looks like this...

fsync d:\Documents e:\Documents /F fsync d:\Pictures\ e:\Pictures /F fsync d:\Email e:\Email /F /P

The first drive/folder reference should point to the source folder containing the files you wish to backup, whereas the second drive/folder reference should point to the intended destination folder and drive where you would like the duplicates to be placed. The /F switch isn't mandatory, though I use it to skip any confirmation requests so the synchronization will be carried out in the background while I get on with other tasks. The single /P switch indicates that I'd like F-Sync to pause once it has finished synchronizing the third and final folder before closing the DOS window so I can see at a glance how many files have been updated.

Public safety warning - pay close attention

It is absolutely essential that you allocate a separate folder for each stage because by default F-Sync deletes any files or folders which aren't present in the source folder - if you were to synchronize your files to the root of your chosen drive, F-Sync would wipe out everything except the source folder - something I'm sure you'll want to avoid. Incidentally, if you only want to add new files to your backup drive, rather than add new files and delete redundant ones you can use the /C switch to prevent deletion.

Perhaps you'd like to have this backup routine performed automatically each time you boot your computer. If so, why not add backup.bat to your startup menu? To make the process even less intrusive you could use the /S switch to prevent the DOS box from appearing.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Shameless name-dropping

Friday, March 04, 2005 0

A speedy, effortless way to neatly rename scores of similar files in Windows Explorer is to drag a box around them, right-click on the first file in the set and choose 'rename'. The ensuing files will be renamed automagically, making use of the name given to the initial file and a consecutively numbered appendage in brackets i.e. Image (01).jpg, Image (02).jpg and so on.

If your appellative requirements are a bit more complex, Flexible Renamer (for PC users) and Renamer4Mac (surprisingly for Mac users) are the tools for you. In addition to consecutive renaming schemes they support string and number additions, deletions and substitutions, MP3 tag editing, case switching and much more.

 
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