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back to article Call yourself a 'hacker', watch your ex-boss seize your PC without warning

A US district court has ruled that self-confessed "hackers" have all the skills needed to swiftly destroy evidence, allowing anyone suing them to seize their equipment without warning. The court in Idaho decided that a software developer’s computer could be confiscated without prior notice primarily because his website stated: “ …

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Surely that cant stand on appeal....

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It will until someone can afford to appeal. Remember, that seizure means ALL your assets, leaving you with nothing to pay for a lawyer. Even then...

"Zero tolerance" set the precedence that it's all perfectly legal. It could not be more unconstitutional, but yep, it's legal.

You don't really think Americans still have rights. do you?

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Facepalm

Americans have rights? only when the government wants them too...

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I need to clarify my post a little more:

In THIS case, the seizure seems to be only of the computers, but in the future it WILL be construed to mean ALL assets as the precedence has been already set with "zero tolerance" seizures.

It always does.

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Backwoods courts here in the US constantly make rulings that go against all reason. Those rulings are almost always overturned by higher bodies. There will be much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes among those who feel 'The Government' has too much control of State laws and some judge will segue his fight against them into a campaign for State office, but this'll certainly be overturned.

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Unhappy

Yes, it will be overturned...

...but by then, Corey Thuen and his company Southfork Security will be history. That's the whole point here: Battelle's legal team knows exactly what they're doing.

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Anonymous Coward

You're better off focussing on Battelle, not the "backwoods courts". Try googling (then searching archive.org) for "Battelle litigation fraud", for instance.

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AC posted: "You're better off focussing on Battelle, not the "backwoods courts". Try googling (then searching archive.org) for "Battelle litigation fraud", for instance."

Thankyou for that. I learned a lot. This article - http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131022/13260324972/govt-contractor-uses-copyright-fear-hackers-to-get-restraining-order-against-open-source-developer.shtml - was very useful.

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Re: The TechDirt article

Really blows the lid off this one. It turns out this "copyright infringing" software is written in an entirely different set of programming languages to Battelle's program, and uses open source libraries that predate Battelle's software too, so it's a mystery how that could possibly be a "copyright infringement".

Battelle is just trolling, because one of those nasty open source people might make their software obsolete.

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Battelle is certainly known for the shady dealings, as are most extremely powerful organizations in the US, but the fact of the matter is they can only do those things because dodgy and/or backwoods legal bodies let them.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Try googling for "Battelle litigation fraud"

I did - if I were an American, I would be extremely worried about the influence they seem to have (also see Don Jefe's posts later on), as most links I found ended up being suspended (HostPapa) seemingly due to billing problems.

Hmmmm.......

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FAIL

That is astoundingly bad case law. It's basically setting the precedent that if a suspect is capable of destroying any potential evidence against him, the 4th amendment no longer applies. Extending this reasoning to physical documents that can easily be burnt would mean that the state has the authority to search anyone, anywhere, anytime just in case the suspects might be thinking of destroying any possible (alleged) evidence.

There ALREADY is a well-defined mechanism to allow courts to order a search for evidence at a suspect's residence / in a suspect's belongings. It's called a search warrant, it works within the established framework of 4th amendment and related constitutional law.

Saying that the 'hacker' could anonymously distribute the source code unless his hard disk is seized is also frickin' stupid. You don't think he might have a copy somewhere else, do you??

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Anonymous Coward

Not "billing problems"

A combination of DRM takedowns and some quiet phone calls from interested parties in the USG. Most of the news sites that covered the stories took their pages down too.

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Anonymous Coward

What he needs is...

It uploaded to an unknown site with some sort of dead mans handle which makes it public.

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Big Brother

@Mr Xavia

"Americans have rights? only when the government wants them to"

Mr X, it's been that way in the UK long since. The odd thing is that European criminals, illegal immigrants convicted of rape & murder, hate preachers advocating jihad & the destruction of our society - why, their rights are sacrosanct.

We poor native plebeians who are the ones who apparently must work & pay for everything - we have no rights, other than the freedom to be taxed to the hilt - and then some!

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Re: seizure means ALL your assets

No it doesn't. Only RICCO allows all of your assets to be seized. He can still pay for the lawyer.

While concurring that he needs to be able to defend himself, I'd allow the seizure and copying of the hard drive. There is significant risk he would destroy evidence related to the case. But I'd insist on it being returned in working order within 24 hours as well as issuing a restraining order for destroying information relevant to the case on the computer. And I would not permit the plaintiff to access the copied data until after the defendant had time to argue the initial order was improper and submitted a proper warrant for the data sought. With the proper warrant approved, only the relevant data should be released to the plaintiff.

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Re: dodgy and/or backwoods legal bodies let them.

Dodgy yes, backwoods no. That's coming from elected Congresscritters, even if they are protesting these days.

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Re: seizure means ALL your assets

Thanks Tom, but I did write a clarifying addendum just a few post down from my original saying pretty just that.

Now let me tell you how the seizure system really works: you almost never get your property back.

The main point is that this is blatantly unconstitutional. A search warrant is required at all times for all possibilities. Not enough evidence to get one? Too damn bad. Keeping any property that is not direct evidence? Theft.

RICO overstepped its bounds long ago and so have the zero tolerance drug laws.

And THAT was my point. This instance is dangerously close to perpetuating the same thing.

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Re: seizure means ALL your assets

"pretty much just that"

Dman dyslexeca!

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Re: seizure means ALL your assets

No, in this case just his computer, it seems. One would hope that a computer professional would have adequate backups and a disaster recovery plan, that makes this a minor inconvenience. I imagine he might have any evidence gathered as a result of this seizure disallowed on appeal.

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Americans have the right to purchase Obama Care, or your friendly neighborhood IRS Guy will come over and shake you down anyway....

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Facepalm

Rights?

Americans have rights? only when the government Obama wants them to...

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Anonymous Coward

Obama Care?

You mean RomneyCare don't you (which is exactly the same)

FI Romne and Obama are two faces of the party that rules the US - the wealth party.

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Re: seizure means ALL your assets

ABSOLUTELY!

And, on top of that, there should be a standing body that is charged with sole responsibility to collect and forensically validate or invalidate the claims of infringing material BEFORE the judge allows the case forward, so that the plaintiff, especially those being pure dicks, cannot financially destroy the defendant.

It is interesting that here we can read of the agedness of the code Thuen and team used, but that the court, as seemingly backward, destructive, and frightening as it appears and may be proven to be, is allowing (or appears to be allowing) fast-track destruction of a defendant.

Still, worse, these dangerous, insensitive judges in the court system are allowing and forcing redefinition of hackers. The software community, too, seemingly is not making bold strides to reassert the difference between blackhats and whitehats.

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What appeal? It was an court procedure to collect evidence, which ignored all prior case law regarding search and seizure of private property.

Any appeal would be against any eventual verdict, assuming that the company doesn't tie it up by rescheduling repeatedly for a decade, which would render the case moot, as the programmer and his company would become bankrupt.

Meanwhile, the US Constitution's Bill of Rights swiftly becomes further undermined, becoming the Bill of Optionals, where the fifth amendment right against self-incrimination is now considered a privilege by the SCOTUS (in their own words on the SCOTUS blog).

World, welcome to your view, the United Fascist States of America. The land where rights are mere privileges and some actually advocate for summary execution.

I really should have retired to New Zealand when I retired from the US Army.

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"Backwoods courts here in the US constantly make rulings that go against all reason. Those rulings are almost always overturned by higher bodies."

Ah, but you ignored the fascist trumpet being blown, "National Security", as security through obscurity works so well and rights should be eliminated as simple privileges based upon mere suspicion of anything by anyone.

And I'm not using hyperbole, fascism is alive and well and increasing in the US.

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So...

... if someone refers to themselves as a "Gangsta"...?

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Re: So...

Indeed, or anarchist or maverick or socialist or anything else considered 'negative'. This is simply some stupid country judge used to getting his way and now he's got attention he always didn't want.

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Re: So...

Exactly.

This guy works as a programmer. I know that not everyone working in IT is actually an IT pro when it comes to security but we must assume that the job implies that level of expertise without anyone needing to be a 'hacker'.

Essentially what this judge is saying is that as a simple programmer, Thuen did not have sufficient "computer skills" to release the code and delete the evidence from his PC but that, as a 'hacker', he now does have the requisite skills.

Or, another way: that anyone self-identifying as a 'hacker' has - by definition - more advanced IT skills than someone whose source of livelihood is programming computer system - even if those system are directly related to security and intrusion prevention/detection.

if you say so, Judge.

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Re: So...

Just think, if he had identified himself as a 'l33t Hckrz' he'd be in Guantanamo by now.......

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Re: So...

Hacker (term), is a term used in computing that can describe several types of persons

Hacker (computer security) someone who accesses a computer system by circumventing its security system

Hacker (hobbyist), who makes innovative customizations or combinations of retail electronic and computer equipment

Hacker (programmer subculture), who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities

In other equestrian news: The verb form "to hack" or "hacking" is associated with English riding and used more often in eastern Canada and the eastern United States than in western North America

So, you openly admit to hacking (exercising your horse) and all you stuff are belong to them. Nicely thought out.

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Re: So...

Exactly. Not only is the term ambiguous at best, for a long time in my last job, I was taked with 'hacking' our servers, and client servers, and yes, I enjoyed it!!

Lock me up! Throw away the keys!

Maybe he'd have fared better if he'd said he enjoys 'penetration testing' (ooo err missus!) instead.

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Criminal? Employee? Man I get confused sometimes. Better lock him up to be safe.

'Hacking' a computer system is no more criminal than standing in a bank with a loaded pistol, which is to say that it is entirely dependent on whether you have been hired for that purpose or are attempting to break the law.

You know, context.

A judge who is not able to assess a statement in context is not one I want sitting at the bench.

Someone who takes a car they don't own and smashes it into a wall may be guilty of a crime or paid a wage, depending on whether they took it from a stranger and went on a joyride or whether they had crash test dummies strapped into the seats and motion sensors aligned to the impact points.

That's as close an analogy for 'hacking' as I can think up at the moment.

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Re: So...

Hack: A writer of articles; a harmless drudge.

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Re: So...

Or:

Hoe (lose your toolshed because the warrant presumes prostitution)

Ho (lose your freedom if your real surname is Ho)

Slavedriver (be accused of running a sweatshop)

Slavemaster

And, to think that courts have power to allow judges to destroy or grant motions based on specificity...

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Anonymous Coward

Battelle has a tremendous amount of political influence

And the dealings my engineering firm have had with Battelle has shown me what abusive scumbags they are too. Battelle has a very overreaching NDA which would be illegal in most States, and they routinely sue ex-employees who start their own companies, even when they're not engaged in work related to what they did at Battelle. After one contract with them, we vowed "never again", and counted ourselves lucky to have escaped the lawsuits that so regularly entangle other contractors.

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Re: Battelle has a tremendous amount of political influence

Battelle are most certainly aggressive dicks. I worked with/through/around them when I was at ORNL and they very nearly derailed my project because it was getting attention from folks outside their sphere of influence. It was exceptionally dirty and had they succeeded it would have completely disrupted what became a decent career for me. But you're right, they are very powerful and operate about as honestly as their political masters.

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Big Brother

US Gov taking a stand against the people

It seems in all of the US Gov. those of authority are now abandoning the constitution and taking an adversarial position against the people of the US.

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Anonymous Coward

He should sue Battelle for serious damages

This man and business should sue these scum for harassment, Racketeering, and legal fraud etc., and sue the court and judge too, for legal overreach.

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Unhappy

So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

Either that or he chose the meaning most likely to get him a bribe pat in the head from Big Business.

This ruling is shameful.

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

No, he has used the exact meaning: person with skills in dealing with computers.

Having skills in the 21st century US brands you a suspicious person. A liberal paradise.

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

@DAM: Upvoted for saying "Having skills in the 21st century US brands you a suspicious person."

However, what do you mean by "A liberal paradise"? Are you suggesting that "liberal" means "stupid" or "uneducated"?* If so, what do you base that on?

*Actually, that is a rhetorical question - I've read enough your posts to know that you are very right-wing in your politics, and you think anyone that doesn't agree with you is stupid.

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

Strange that.

The most insular, narrow minded, stupid, 'god fearing' folk tend to be right wing in my experience

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

> The most insular, narrow minded, stupid, 'god fearing' folk tend to be right wing in my experience

I guess you don't have much experience then.

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

I think he means that in a Big-Brother, 1984-style manner. In other words, "liberal" = communist/socialist. Let's face it, many liberals are (whether you realize it or not).

Note that I said liberal, not Democrat or Republican. There are many Republicans that are quite liberal and several Democrats that are not.

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Re: So nobody told this judge that the word 'hacker' has several different meanings?

Disagree. The judge should have used a clear definition of the word and at the very least obtained higher clarification if there was any doubt.

My understanding of 'hacker' has always been as per the definition here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(programmer_subculture)

Creating software and sharing it with each other

Placing a high value on freedom of inquiry

Hostility to secrecy

Information-sharing as both an ideal and a practical strategy

Upholding the right to fork

Emphasis on rationality

Distaste for authority

Playful cleverness, taking the serious humorously and their humor seriously.

My guess is that the judge probably just looked at "Distaste for authority" and decided that anyone with any computer skills is just another Mitnick.

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First, I'm a hacker too: bring it on.

Second, if this guy is any kind of a hacker they can do what they like with his hard drive; all they'll get is well-encrypted random noise.

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Anonymous Coward

*sigh* That is the reason the judge allowed the seizure without notice.

Without him being notified they get disks, encrypted or not, that contain data, with him being notified they get disks full of random noise.

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