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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  1. Chad H.

    Surely that cant stand on appeal....

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      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?

      1. MrXavia
        Facepalm

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

        1. Ted Treen
          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!

        2. Michael Habel Silver badge

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

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

        3. BillG
          Facepalm

          Rights?

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

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        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.

      3. Tom 13

        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.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          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.

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: seizure means ALL your assets

            "pretty much just that"

            Dman dyslexeca!

        2. dssf

          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.

      4. Pookietoo

        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.

    2. Don Jefe

      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.

      1. Quxy
        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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Tannin

          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.

          1. Oh Homer
            FAIL

            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.

        2. Don Jefe

          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.

          1. Tom 13

            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.

        3. Kobus Botes
          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.......

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

      3. Wzrd1

        "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.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge
      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??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What he needs is...

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

    4. Wzrd1

      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.

  2. Graham Marsden

    So...

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

    1. Don Jefe

      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.

    2. dan1980

      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.

      1. Great Bu

        Re: So...

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

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          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.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            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.

          2. dan1980

            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.

          3. markw:

            Re: So...

            Hack: A writer of articles; a harmless drudge.

    3. dssf

      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...

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Don Jefe

      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.

  5. tempemeaty
    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.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Mephistro
    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.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      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.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        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.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          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

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            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.

        2. Scott 1

          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.

      2. Julian Taylor Silver badge

        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.

  9. corestore

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

        Well, then they look at GitHub where his source code resides.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        "*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."

        Hey anon! (very appropriate...)

        I think the police had better raid your house and take all your stuff. I mean, you may have done something illegal, and we wouldn't want you to destroy the evidence, would we?

      3. corestore

        And, absent the KEY, how exactly do you distinguish well-encrypted data from random noise?

        Or, more briefly, whoosh!

    2. Roo

      "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."

      I doubt that the contents of the drive are materially relevant in this particular case.

      The judge has been 'convinced' that this chap is capable and has a motive to hide any evidence of copyright infringement that may exist on the basis of the malign interpretation of the word "hacker". Given that word was used in a advertising context and it is generally expected that advertisers want to project a positive image it is reasonable to believe that the Judge has misinterpreted the intentions of the developer. At best the judge is ignorant, but given the fact he is already attributing intent before we've got to examining evidence it looks as though the developer is going to have to prove his innocence rather than Batelle prove his guilt.

      Let's say Batelle's hired stooge/expert/shill finds nothing, but the stooge legitimately claims that there is evidence that suggests files have been deleted at some point in the HDD's life. Given that the judge has already attributed intent and motivation I think seems likely the developer would still lose the case on the strength of that evidence.

      In the playground it is hard to prove your innocence when there is no evidence that you did something wrong because mud sticks. It appears that the courtroom is in fact a playground and the developer has been on the receiving end of the mud. ;)

  10. UnauthorisedAccess
    WTF?

    CEH'ers

    What about Certified Ethical Hackers? Are we now also doomed as we've gone to the effort of achieving certification regarding our knowledge/abilities as white-hatters?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: CEH'ers

      You are correct of course, there is are legitimate uses for hacking. I think there's a marketing/branding issue that needs to be addressed though. The black hats already own the public perception of the term and that isn't likely to change. The 'good guys' need to come up with a suitably cool, but different term for themselves.

      A bit of brand management worked wonders for the mercenary industry. Mercenaries are rough, unstructured lunatics from Africa and security services are organized professionals in matching uniforms from 'white' countries. The reality is they're the same thing, but the security services have positioned themselves as 'legitimate forces for good' while simultaneously deriding the term mercenary. There's a lot of fluffy bullshit in marketing, but there's a lot to be gained through it as well.

      Penetration testing is absolutely horrible branding and 'ethical hacker' is confusing to anyone outside the industry; like 'gentleman thief'. Somebody really needs to work on that.

      1. Alan Johnson

        Re: CEH'ers

        Hacker has many meanings and is still in use to simply mean someone who codes quickly, perhaps without a formal design and likes playing with code. This was the original meaning in a computer context.

        Descrbing oneself as a hacker absolutely is not equivalent to saying you are interested or expert in security areas let alone you are someone who illegally attacks systems.

        The verb hack to mean quickly modify code is still very widely used.

      2. Infernoz Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: CEH'ers

        The word hacker is not the same as cracker, so there should be no confusion; it is only stupid and retarded people who are causing this confusion and slandering people!

  11. Surblaze

    Legal System Fail

    "Battelle’s lawyers also raised national security concerns by arguing that releasing the Sophia utility as open-source code would hand strategic and vital information to wannabe power-plant hackers"

    This is so far from the truth it shouldn't even be allowed as a statement in court.

    Code should be 'open' to scrutiny on an enormous scale. Have we learned nothing from the recent NSA leaks? Even more so, we now know of serious flaws which were likely created on purpose by the likes of Apple, and Microsoft in their own 'protected' source code which have absolutely zero, none, any respectable, or fundamental reason to be there.

    Can the community and more importantly the legal system WAKE UP!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Legal System Fail

      I don't know where you have been since 9/11. The frank and frightening possibility of TERRISM is EVERYWHERE and WILL BE USED TO THE FULL EXTEND OF THE LAW OF MEN!

      The Volksgerichtshof is now in session.

    2. FuzzyTheBear
      Big Brother

      Re: Legal System Fail

      You're talking about America. Logic does not apply.Logic will not apply. Remember : the terrorists won and changed Americans forever. The only thing that keep their country from crumbling is the new paranoia state in which they are. They lost their freedom , they lost their liberty and they lost their common sense.

  12. jake Silver badge

    So according to this idiot judge,

    Richard Stallman, rms, ken, Harry Garland, Jerry Lawson, Ed Roperts, Gary Kildall[1], George Morrow, Bob Marsh, Ron Jones, Roger Melen, Li-Chen Wang, Ricky Greenblatt, Lee Felsenstein, Bill Gosper, Adam Osborne, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Dompier (just off the top of my head) should all have their computing gear seized?

    ::teehee:: What a fucking moron this judge is.

    I've been making a living as an ethical hacker for over 30 years ... and I've never done anything illegal, immoral or fattening. It won't take too much time to strike this one down ...

    [1] RIP, my friend ... not certain of the life-status of all the others.

  13. Irony Deficient

    enlightenment from the Digital Bond blog post

    John, thanks for the link to the Digital Bond blog post. Among the information that can be found there is a link to the court decision, which partially granted and partially denied Battelle’s ex parte application for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). This TRO expires on the 29th — this coming Tuesday. Battelle also had to post $25,000 security, in case of a finding that Southfork was wrongfully restrained for the two-week duration of the TRO. (Part of the TRO requires Battelle to return the hard drive to Southfork in the exact condition in which their retained forensic expert received it.)

    Some of the comments at that blog post were also useful: I’d recommend those of Reid and “Marbux”.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: enlightenment from the Digital Bond blog post

      >(Part of the TRO requires Battelle to return the hard drive to Southfork in the exact

      >condition in which their retained forensic expert received it.)

      Some fictional quoting: "Hmm, we got the harddrive and when we plugged it in, it said no file system, please format this drive, so we formatted the drive and there was no data on it, you can have it back now"

    2. Roo

      Re: enlightenment from the Digital Bond blog post

      Thanks for the summary Irony Deficient..,

      In the name of fair play Battelle should hand over all their hard drives to the court as well so there can be no question that they simply copied the source code from his hard drive...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. vagabondo

        Re: enlightenment from the Digital Bond blog post

        @Roo

        Battelle have no need to copy Southfork's allegedly infringing code from a hard drive; it is downloadable from Github

        1. Roo

          Re: enlightenment from the Digital Bond blog post

          "Battelle have no need to copy Southfork's allegedly infringing code from a hard drive; it is downloadable from Github"

          I get that, but I don't think Battelle really care about the rights and wrongs, all they are trying to do is put some competition out of business. Also with regard to establishing their case that he copied code the location of the infringing code is important. Anyone can put stuff on github and proving a particular individual posted infringing code there could be a difficult. By contrast I think most judges & juries would have no problem assuming that infringing material on his hard drive got there by his actions alone.

  14. Tromos
    WTF?

    Forget qualifications and experience...

    ...just put 'Hacker' on your CV.

  15. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    no one pointed the court to the Jargon File?

    http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html

  16. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Next...

    "Doctor": The government has to right to control your prices

    "Manager": The government has the right to control your salary

    "Muslim": The government has the right to control your end-of-life

    "Reporter": The government has the right to control your sources

    "Non-Aligned Politician": The government has the right to control your funding

    "Citizen": The government has the right to control your healthcare

    Well, it's been thus for some time.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Next...

      "

      "Doctor": The government has to right to control your prices

      "Manager": The government has the right to control your salary

      "Muslim": The government has the right to control your end-of-life

      "Reporter": The government has the right to control your sources

      "Non-Aligned Politician": The government has the right to control your funding

      "Citizen": The government has the right to control your healthcare

      "

      Unfortunately, over the last couple of years I've had to make extensive use of both the social services and the health system.

      Yet, even here in commie-Britain, I haven't had any prices to pay, and have had complete control over when/how/what has happened.

      I have a few personal American friends who have had little to no control of things when they've gotten ill. One had to self medicate for his skin cancer, another lost all his savings (and nearly his house).

      I've been quite free to live my life and recouperate without any hassle or worry or financial burdens.

      Mind you, as I get my current medication delivered to me for free, I guess I don't have as much freedom as those who have to scour the internet for it.

      And it's not a UK thing - It's pretty much the same in the overwhelming majority of first-world countries.

      It's because I generally like Americans, and have quite a few American friends (not just online aquaintances) that the whole selfish uninformed position you and your ilk hold, pisses me off so much.

      I am under no illusion I live in the best place in the world, and will readily agree with criticisms (even made by Americans) of many of the shitty things or government/police do, but when I hear some overly patriotic Americans spout the 'land of the free' / 'best country in the world' etc. it really pisses me off. These type of ignorant people are what allows the current system to exist.

      Your 'swear allegance to the flag' and 'beware evil socialist pinko commies' brainwashing from since you were in high-school does you no favours.

      I have no major beef with some right wing things - whilst I tend to veer to the left, I'm quite moderate, and I guess some of my opinions may be considered over here as right wing (whilst to you I'm presumably a bloody bleeding heart socialist commie etc.)

      Read the Republican partys manifesto of 50 or so years ago, and it is far more 'socialist' than the Democrats of today!

      These days, Republicans are soley out to protect the rich and big businesses.. Hell, they don't even make it a secret anymore.

      And whilst I'm here, why are so many Americans (refreshingly, NOT the vast majority that post here) so insecure that they get pissed off if a non-American criticises something that happens in America - and think that by speaking up we are saying it's all good here? - You know, it's not automatically a competition.

      When we were critiscising the USA over prism, we weren't implying that our government is great. Indeed, many have posted their criticism of the stuff GCHQ has done - Indeed, despite their posturing, I'm sure the UK government would have gone as far as prism etc. If they had the resources - and of course, they are deeply involved with prism etc. anyway - I've not seen anyone post here saying otherwise.

      Yet, when another Prism story was posted, 'asdf' got all offended by all the Brits criticising it and not so much the UKs shite, even though - guess what - it was a story about the NSA not GCHQ. How dare we Brits be critical of something we don't like that happens in other countries!

      Ok, I know I've gone off on a rant, and to be fair to 'Destroy All Monsters' most of this isn't directed at him/her. But I still stand by what I've written, and I know many Americans who would agree with me, without feeling personally insulted or threatened.

      Still, if it wasn't for your screwed up system, we wouldn't have had 'Breaking Bad' - A show that could never be set in any other civilised country in the world.

    2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Next...

      That'll teach you.

      You can compare your fellow citizens to Nazis till the cows come home, and get nothing but upvotes. One crack (out of six) about an institution respected in the UK, and you collect downvotes.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Next...

        :-)

        I upvoted you, but again, the NHS isn't perfect by a long shot, so criticise those parts all you want.

        Just don't come out with strawmen, lies, and FUD.

        This ain't Fox 'News' !!

  17. ByeLaw101

    How can a judge overrule a constitution

    "A US district court has ruled that anyone calling themselves a "hacker" loses their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and property seizures."

    I'm not American so I don't understand how a judge can overrule a constitutional right?

    1. Werner McGoole

      Re: How can a judge overrule a constitution

      Presumably he just ruled that the seizure wasn't unreasonable.

    2. MrJonno

      Re: How can a judge overrule a constitution

      Calling yourself a hacker is the equivalent of saying you are a bank robber , and don't get pedantic on the meaning of the word, in common use hacker = criminal.

      If you openly admit to being a criminal then its gives the the authorities just cause to believe a crime is taking place and you the police are quite entitled to kick your door down without a warrant

      1. Roo

        Re: How can a judge overrule a constitution

        "Calling yourself a hacker is the equivalent of saying you are a bank robber , and don't get pedantic on the meaning of the word, in common use hacker = criminal."

        The only meaning that is relevant is the one intended by the defendant in the context of his business, particularly as the Judge is choosing to predict the man's abilities and intent from his self-description (however misguided it may be to use an ambiguous term in the first place).

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: How can a judge overrule a constitution

        "Calling yourself a hacker is the equivalent of saying you are a bank robber , and don't get pedantic on the meaning of the word, in common use hacker = criminal."

        Errr, no. And ignorance of usage means sod all - even if accepting your premise of current common use of the phrase.

        It's not like he posted "I'm a drug dealer" or even "I illegally break into computer systems have no authorisation to access" and even if he did, whilst it could justly prompt a bit of an investigation, it does't warrant the excessive assumption being made. Hell, it wasn't a bloody signed & witnessed confession!

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. oolor

        Re: MrJonno

        >Calling yourself a hacker is the equivalent of saying you are a bank robber , and don't get pedantic on the meaning of the word, in common use hacker = criminal.

        Which fully explains why Mr. Zuckerberg's door has been kicked down.

        All in all, some nice doublethink on your part. Up is down and so on, don't get pedantic on the meaning of the word...

        The job of the judge is to look at the context and decide on a balance of probabilities, and in this case to quote Bruce Schneier: "the argument doesn’t pass even the laugh test".

        >If you openly admit to being a criminal then its gives the the authorities just cause to believe a crime is taking place and you the police are quite entitled to kick your door down without a warrant

        "Just cause", that little gem is purely of your own hallucinations. The legal doctrine of probable cause in this case was only met through the plaintiff purposely misleading the court as to the breadth of evidence. Even the much weaker reasonable suspicion standard does not seem to be met. If it was a law enforcement agency investigating this, they would not have the evidentiary burdens required. Such lack of evidence can cause other evidence found as a result to be thrown out later.

        As for admitting to be a criminal, it is also not enough, one has to be admitting to an act either committed, ongoing, or being conspired. To kick down your door, they better have some serious indications of risk of a person's safety or evidence destruction. It is not so much an entitlement as a defensible action on their part in circumstances that warrant it (pun unintended, but I hereby claim credit anyhow).

      5. dan1980

        Re: How can a judge overrule a constitution

        @MrJonno - "common use hacker = criminal."

        I can't speak for a 'common' person (i.e. one without IT knowledge) so let's say that that what you claim is true and common use equates hackers with criminals.

        Can we, however, agree that a judge making an exceptional and invasive (as he himself noted) ex parte ruling should want to avail himself of more detailed information than simply "hacker = criminal"?

        The very purpose of a judge is to evaluate evidence and interpret language to reach an informed decision on specific cases, rather than applying inflexible blanket good/bad/black/white rules. These are people who are trusted to interpret contracts, laws & legislation and even the US constitution to arrive at an understanding of both what the language actually says and what the language means in context.

        It is not much to expect a judge to at least attempt a more nuanced understanding of the situation, especially considering the very real invasion of privacy and denial of due process that such an ex parte order represents.

        Perhaps your standard for judges is that low but let us be glad that most judges are a bit better than that.

        I can see it now:

        ". . . The cases are real; the people are real; the decisions are final . . ."

        "All rise. The honourable Judge MrJonno now presiding . . ."

        "Well, Mrs. Smith, I talked to some people and the word around town is that you're a bit of a slut. I find in favour of Mr Smith and award sole custody to him. Next!"

  18. Arachnoid

    On reading the article

    It looks like he didn't even allow them to defend themselves in court, now surely thats unconstitutional too?

    1. oolor

      Re: On reading the article

      No. It is simply a case of the judge being wrong, likely due to not understanding the subject matter in addition to the misrepresentations by the plaintiff. Had the plaintiff's claims been 100% true, the ex parte order is appropriate.

      Either way here is the defendant's response (see page 4, particularly "I completed conflict-of-interest paperwork and spoke with representatives in the Battelle Conflict of Interest office (in particular a Mr. Moriarty) and was informed that my proposed involvement in Southfork was permissible."):

      http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/808844/thuenresponse.txt

    2. dan1980

      Re: On reading the article

      Not always.

      The very point (indeed the definition) of an ex parte decision is that it is made with only one party present. This is proper in certain circumstances and the job of the magistrate in these instances is to assess the evidence presented and decide if an ex parte order is warranted.

      In the case, the deciding factor was apparently that Thuen used the terms 'hacker' and 'hacking' in reference to his business. As he is an experienced programmer specialising in security, one must assume that the judge was commenting not so much on the technical ability but the inherent malicious behaviour that, in his mind, characterises 'hackers'.

      Such an ex parte order is, as the judge rightfully noted, quite an exceptional thing and should not be given lightly. Unfortunately, it would appear that the judge did not make any serious attempt to independently ascertain the validity of the arguments and instead simply accepted everything Battelle were saying.

      Given the intrusion and seriousness of claim that such an order represents, it is unacceptable that the Judge did not take reasonable steps to be sure first.

      Even if we assume that the Visdom code was copied from Sophia, the truth of that alone is not enough as that would be settled through normal proceedings. What prompted the ex parte order was the allegation by Battelle that Thuen would do the following if not prevented:

      1. Release the source code

      2. Cover his tracks

      As people have pointed out, the code was already released and attributable to Thuen (via GitHub) so there is nothing to prevent.

      TL;DR - In cases like this, ex parte orders are granted when there is a genuine risk that real and lasting damage will be done by informing the other party before taking action.

      Every covert surveillance warrant (e.g. 'wiretapping') is essentially an ex parte order due to the fact that telling someone you are listening to their phone calls will likely defeat the purpose of listening to those calls in the first place.

      In this case, the stated purpose of the order was to prevent release of the code but the action taken (seizure) could never have prevented that for the simple fact that the code was ALREADY released.

      1. Roo

        Re: On reading the article

        "As people have pointed out, the code was already released and attributable to Thuen (via GitHub) so there is nothing to prevent."

        I hate to play devil's advocate on this one, but how could you prove that the source released via GitHub is the sum total of the relevant material he has in his possession ?

        1. Robin Bradshaw

          Re: On reading the article

          Compile it and see if it works, if it does then that is the sum total of the disputed code, if it doesnt then some secret sauce is missing.

  19. Keep Refrigerated

    Here's my application the NASA space program...

    I am an Astronaut.

    1. veeguy

      Re: Here's my application the NASA space program...

      Welcome aboard! We are sure you are aware that due to the "Affordable Care Act" costs, all future astronauts most bring their own sponsorship. We provide the hardware and you will be provided a 12" X 12" prime location for your sponsor's advertising. Please make the check out to either Elon Musk or Roscosmos.

  20. heyrick Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What you call yourself can change your basic rights?

    Right - that's it. From now on I am calling myself the President. I expect to joyride Air Force One, prat about on the White House lawn in an armoured car, and saving the world from an alien invasion. NSA, you already know where I live, come hook me up...

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re: What you call yourself can change your basic rights?

      Run with it! There's some precedent for self declared rulers in this country: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Norton

      1. Shades
        Thumb Up

        Re: What you call yourself can change your basic rights?

        Thank you Don, for bring that Wiki page to my attention. I actually cried with laughter at some of the stuff he got up to... the world could do with a few more proper characters like that!

  21. SolidSquid

    By this reasoning, couldn't any accountant or lawyer who used paper records fall into teh same category, since burning paper is a fairly straight forward process?

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      No. It isn't the same at all. Paper has magical qualities to legal types. Apparently it can't be destroyed or it's contents forged. Remember the legal field is basically the sole reason fax machines still exist as an industry, even though Federal law did away with the need for such things during the Clinton administration. I can transfer millions of dollars around with nary a physical signature but anything that goes to the lawyers has to be transmitted via dead trees...

      Honestly, I believe the whole use of paper thing in the legal field is an organized value justification scam. It is designed to make their services appear more valuable by using physical objects to symbolize their worth. It's a retail service sales trick that's ages old. Pens from banks, fridge magnets from veterinarians, a wee model of your exotic car, all that kind of stuff is designed to remind you how valuable their providers are (not as some people think to make you feel like a valued customer).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an American, I have rights...

    I have the right to remain silent. Anything I say can and will be held against me in the court of law. I have the right to an attorney...

  23. 2cent

    I'm not a lawyer, but this is what I'd be thinking about.

    Free Speech...

    Call yourself a "hacker", "patriot" or whatever you choose. The ability to define yourself by the words you find most common are a way of communicating. It does not and should not preclude that your are representing yourself under the meaning that someone else has posed a definition.

    Was Batelle misleading Thuen...

    (good luck getting evidence on this one)

    If Thuen had stated his intentions to Batelle during his employ, did Batelle lead him to believe that his goal of opensource was possible. In other words, did Batelle lead Thuen on?

  24. Arachnoid

    So if he said

    He was a Hacker and above the law would the judge also hold this true?

  25. john devoy

    Why is anyone surprised? In the USA more than any other place money talks, everyone in power is for sale.

  26. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    > This statement was used to prop up the claimants' argument that Thuen and Southfork "have

    > the technical ability to wipe out a hard drive [and] will do precisely that when faced with allegations

    > of wrongdoing"

    Gee, a sledgehammer and/or a blowtorch should be able to achieve the same results, no technical knowlege needed.

  27. Crisp

    Necessary computer skills and intent

    Hang on. Hacker == Intent?

    Is having the necessary computer skills really the same as going equipped to cause damage?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe that's a good thing?

    Let me get this straight: we can confiscate all the hard drives of every *self-described* hacker?

    Great! Let's start by taking n00b00nt00 00sers' drives first!

  29. Robin Bradshaw

    There isnt a facepalm big enough.

    "they have the necessary computer skills and intent to simultaneously release the code publicly and conceal their role in that act."

    For example they could have uploaded it all to github 7 months ago with their name on it.

    I cannot find the words to describe the stupidity of this decision.

    https://github.com/visdom/visdom

  30. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    A deplorable state of affairs but entirely predictable.

    If you wish to play with grown ups, you must not display yourself as anything but grown up. Blithering about Hacker Cred on your public website is, I'm afraid, rather an obvious opening for someone to begin the process of rights trampling.

    No doubt I shall be excoriated for extending the "she was asking for it" line of thinking, but hey. When you are outside the confines of the coding pen you are in the real world, and lawyers DO use the "she was asking for it" argument every effing day.

    The choice is as simple as it ever was: stick to your "free speech" guns and go down under a scrum of gits, or use more professional language - to say the same thing if you like but that will also open you up for attacks of this kind - and make the gits work for their conviction/damages/restraint order.

  31. DJ
    Coat

    What we've seen so far...

    score: Business 1, individual 0.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled greed and myopia...

    Mine's the one with the shredded Bill of Rights in the pocket.

  32. Inachu

    wowzers

    At one time I was able to remember up to 1,000 lines of code by heart.

    I used that code and the stuff in between to be my toolset box of often use routines to perform certain functions.

    Now if someone took that code and tried to copyright it I by design also win in court because it is my TOOLBOX of often used subroutines that I use as a regular programer to perform my daily tasks achieve those end goals to meet QA each week. Now if various companies try to sue other companies for reusing my code templates then those companies lose in court and I win. So in that regard to this article I am sure this guy has been very intimate for many years with this code and he went off on wild tangents to make the code better and perform better on different hardware I suspect.

    I hope the judge remembers the programmers toolbox caselaw in which the programmer always win unless they truly copied and pasted lots of code that is not part of his toolbox. In which case the programmer would not win in court.

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