Over the weekend a group calling themselves MediaDefender-Defender published nine months’ worth of internal e-mails, an audio file of a recorded phone call and server data from the internal network of anti-piracy company MediaDefender, whose bread and butter is populating file-sharing networks with spoof files — files with names of popular content but irrelevant data. It is working to leverage this technique as an advertising and branding effort for clients.
For those of you who aren’t following the cat-and-mouse game between the technologists in the employ of rightsholders and computer hackers, this is the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers and Nixon’s White House tapes rolled into one. Everything from the mundane reminders to clean moldy lunches from the shared company fridge to discussions of ‘renting’ IPs from adult web sites in order to circumvent PeerGuardian blacklists is discussed in the released e-mails. Among the server data that was released is a database from MediaDefender’s effort to compromise the Gnutella network behind such P2P services as LimeWire. The e-mails are dated as recently as Sept. 10th, and MediaDefender-Defender says it will continue to release internal information from the company.
TorrentFreak reported in July that MediaDefender’s Miivi site was a likely honeypot for entrapping the IP addresses of file sharers. Its allegations were denied by the company, which said the site was just an internal test accidentally made public. But TorrentFreak has combed through the leaked e-mails and found plenty of evidence that prove the official company statements were ‘spin,’ to put it diplomatically.
How do you distribute a giant binary file to thousands worldwide in a matter of hours? As a torrent on the PirateBay, of course! One commenter on that thread points to a series of IPs from the RIAA that are helping to distribute the leaked emails, presumably to find the IP addresses of peers. TorrentFreak’s Ernesto reports he found no evidence that MediaDefender was helping rightsholder organizations in their efforts to bring criminal charges or lawsuits against infringers, but the RIAA has a history of being litigious.
The leaked information has also brought to light the fact that MediaDefender has been meeting with the New York State Attorney General’s office, monitoring the effectiveness of Audible Magic’s filtering software for months, and tracking its own efforts to foil downloaders of movies like The Simpsons Movie, Live Free or Die Hard and The Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
That MediaDefender can’t secure its own systems would seem to suggest that any efforts to quell unauthorized file sharing would be similarly ineffective, though of greater concern in the short term may be that a horde of incensed file sharers now have really sensitive personal information — including phone numbers — and are threatening retribution. Viewed from any angle, it’s a black eye for the company. And while the vengeful rhetoric and vigilantism on the part of the file-sharing community would seem to sink them to MediaDefender’s level, it could also be argued that turnabout is fair play.