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refunds, source code, privacy May 19, 2010

Posted by deepsharer in Uncategorized, usenet.
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94 comments

Reading the comments on the Newzbin story three issues seem to crop up repeatedly. I’ve asked the right people and here’s the score:

Refunds.

I reckon it’s a bit cheesy wanting a few dollars back but maybe some people are poor and others are cheap. Some people have said Newzbin ‘ripped off’ customers but Newzbin always did the right thing. Caesium, Freaky & Kalante didn’t start Newzbin to make money, they did it because they were geeks with a good idea for the technology, the NZB format, and accidentally started a profitable business. All the way through they were about the community and doing the right thing: they didn’t let people buy large credits just in case this situation ever arose; they gave refunds to people who asked for them – whereas other site operators would just have told them to screw off (I’ve never tried asking Giganews for money back for a month when I didn’t use it, I’m guessing I’d not get a very receptive response); at the end Newzbin stopped taking any more money when they knew how it was going – they could have been taking money right up to the day the site closed if they were scammers. Yea, the guys made good money, but they earnt it for the valuable service they performed and for the risks they took: I guess if you’re a bit of a commie you might not like people making a profit from a useful service, but I dont care.

Anyway, if you want your money back the liquidators are Bennett Verby, ask them for claim form. My guess is that after the bills are paid you’ll get nada, but it’s your call.

Privacy

Liquidation doesn’t put anyone at risk. As was said on the site news at the time, and as some people have repeated in the comment to my original story, Newzbin kept almost no logs (other than for DoS prevention) and that was one of the things that upset the judge. There are no weblogs to tell who downloaded what or when.

Credit card records are irrelevant since they only say you were a member of the site, they don’t say what you downloaded or even if you downloaded anything at all. There was plenty of legal content indexed on the site.

The liquidator may sell Newzbin’s servers but the data disks will be probably be reformatted so even the minimal information that is on them will be trashed.

source code

This is where it gets intriguing. I mentioned the rumours that the site had been hacked and the code and databases stolen. Usenetshack have suggested that the timing is fishy and they seem to be suggesting it’s a put up job. As I understand it the hack was several months ago not recent. I PM’d Caesium on irc and he denies it’s an inside job either by him or the new owner. I believe him for no reason other than he is simply too worried about getting back into the MPA’s crosshairs to pull a stunt like that. Also Caesium, as I understand it, has a new squeaky clean project to work on and is out of the Usenet game.

More importantly, I may have been contacted by the code thief/liberator: ‘may‘ being the operative word. I was PM’d on irc by someone who said that my hack rumour was right and they’d grabbed the code plus database of reports and other operations files. He claimed they’d done a simple SQL injection attack that got them an account on the server, and that a privilege escalation had got them root on their account. I don’t know if this is true or if I am being bullshitted by some clown. I asked Caesium and he was sceptical, though he no longer ran the server at the time of the attack. Mr Hacker would not say what he intended to do with the code. I’ve asked him to prove that he has it by giving me a few lines of code that Caesium or the guys can verify. I’ve heard nothing yet.

It may be that I am an optimist, or engaged in wishful thinking, but the guy was convincing and I reckon that the code is out there and a clone will pop up sometime in the next few months; fingers crossed. Question is: will you return to Newzbin if it resurfaces? I’d be an editor again like a shot if a new site asked me. Any other ex-editors with an opinion on that?

Interesting update: 19th May

Had interesting side channel discussions on irc with Mr Code Thief. Initially, yesterday, he approached me and said he had the site code and databases. I thought he was probably a clown. Today he PM’d me with several lines of code. Caesium has just confirmed that these lines of code ARE from the site source code:

What does that mean? I doubt if Mr Code Thief is just doing it for bragging rights, may be but I doubt it. My guess is he’ll sell it on, or dump it on a filesharing site somewhere, perhaps Usenet.

Bottom line is that my guess is one or more clones will be popping up sooner or later.

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