BitTorrent-busters busted by BitTorrent

Email leak exposes stealth P2P honeypot


MediaDefender vows to protect the big-name movie studios and record labels from attack by P2P file sharers. But it seems to have trouble protecting itself.

Over the weekend, what looks like nine months of internal MediaDefender email messages turned up on BitTorrent sites across the net, in an apparent exposé of the company's internal operations. The messages would seem to prove that the company uses particularly nasty tactics in its ongoing efforts to bring down file-sharers everywhere - which is news to no one.

In July, P2P-centric blog TorrentFreak reported that MediaDefender had set up a fake video-download site called MiiVi to entrap unsuspecting file-sharers, and according to the purported email leak, the report was right on the money.

Apparently, when TorrentFreak first broke the MiiVi story, MediaDefender chief Randy Saaf sent his business buddies an email that read "This is really fucked. Let’s pull miivi offline."

MediaDefender claims it introduced the world to "Internet Piracy Prevention," or "IPP," and as far as The Reg is concerned, it's more than welcome to do so. Since opening its doors in 2000, the company has been "contracted by every major record label and every major movie studio" to crackdown on the unauthorized sharing of copyright content online. Evidently, MediaDefender defends media from BitTorrent users.

Well, a new group is defending BitTorrent users from MediaDefender. This weekend's email leak comes courtesy of a rebel alliance calling itself MediaDefender-Defenders. "By releasing these emails we hope to secure the privacy and personal integrity of all peer-to-peer users," the group said, via the BitTorrent services it hopes to protect.

The group also had a few choice words for one MediaDefender staff member in particular. "A special thanks to Jay Maris, for circumventing [MediaDefender's] entire email-security by forwarding all your emails to your gmail account, and using the really highly secure password: blahbob."

We think that "really highly secure" bit is sarcasm. MediaDefender wouldn't return our phone calls, but an unnamed employee told The Wall Street Journal that "the company is investigating how the emails were leaked".

In a previous interview with Ars Technica, CEO Randy Saaf denied that MiiVi was used to entrap file sharers, claiming it was an internal project accidentally released to the web, but the emails released by MediaDefender-Defender indicate otherwise.

In one message, MediaDefender's Ben Grodsky tells colleagues they shouldn't say all that much about MiiVi when interviewing for new jobs, worried that candidates might be reporters in disguise. "If anyone asks anything about MiiVi, just reiterate what Randy has said online (it was an internal video project that we probably should have password protected...NO part of the project was a honeypot designed to trap downloaders)."

The emails go on to reveal all sorts of additional efforts to combat internet file sharing, including the spewing of fake torrent files, but it would seem that many of the company's tactics were less than effective. In one in-bound message, an exec with the Sony BMG record label points out that MediaDefender spent several months failing to prevent unauthorized downloads of Beyonce's "Beautiful Liar" on a site called Soulseek. "Can you please investigate the problem and ACTUALLY solve it?"

But our favorite bit involves another message from Saaf. In forwarding a note from the Universal Music Group, which asks if music industry lawsuits had succeeded in throttling P2P traffic on college campuses, the MediaDefender chief tells his employees: "Take a moment to laugh to yourselves." ®


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