Earlier this week, anti-piracy lawyers ACS:Law had their website taken down by a 4chan DDoS attack. Adding insult to injury, owner Andrew Crossley was harassed at home in the middle of the night by prank phone calls. Now, through a fault with his website, hundreds of megabytes of private emails have been exposed to the public and uploaded to The Pirate Bay. To those hoping that this is a MediaDefender-type fiasco all over again, trust us – it is.
After coordinating DDoS attacks against the MPAA, RIAA and anti-piracy company AiPlex Software this week, 4chan turned to a new target.
Anti-piracy lawyers ACS:Law, who send out tens of thousands of letters demanding cash-settlements from often innocent Internet subscribers, became the new target. The company, which is headed up by lone principal Andrew Crossley, is widely hated among file-sharers and innocents alike and with 4chan’s Operation Payback now in full swing, payback is the operative word.
After prank telephone calling Crossley in the middle of the night during the week, it now seems that 4chan are aiming to tear his professional life apart, as they have obtained and are distributing a 350mb file of the company’s website which includes countless company emails.
So how were they obtained?
“Their site came back online [after the DDoS attack] – and on their frontpage was accidentally a backup file of the whole website (default directory listing, their site was empty), including emails and passwords,” a leader of the attacking group told us. “The email contains billing passwords and some information that ACS:Law is having financial problems.”
Financial problems? Interesting. Many tens of thousands of people who received letters from ACS:Law are also experiencing the same problem, having already paid up several hundred pounds each to make non-existent lawsuits go away.
“We’re still sorting through it. There’s a lot of stuff here to go through. But, basically, we were told we were less important than a 10 minute late train, or a queue for coffee by Andrew,” the attackers’ spokesman told us, adding:
“Payback is a bitch, isn’t it Andrew?”
The file is currently seeding on The Pirate Bay but most leechers are stuck with less than 60%. It is, however, available publicly on the web already. We have managed to secure one of those copies and are examining it now.
A little taster from emails read so far:
– ACS:Law and USCG (of Hurt Locker fame) appear to be cooperating
– Crossley boasts that his retained lawyer “literally wrote the SRA rules!”
– Crossley accuses Which? of ‘defamation’ and articles designed to “demean” and “denigrate”
– Crossley gives veiled warnings to Which? that he could sue them for libel
– Internal documents reveal intentions to take down Slyck.com
– Email from ACS:Law client which states the following:
Thank you for your email.
Our client remains concerned over the accuracy of the data that you provide and the methods used to obtain such data. It has been closely monitoring the recent press that your Firm has attracted regarding complaints to Which, in relation to demand letters that have incorrectly been sent to innocent internet subscribers, accused of copyright infringement. Your letter of 30 October 2009 was not satisfactory, in that it did not fully deal with the concerns raised in our letter of 21 July 2009, save as to state that you and your client disagree. Clearly there are flaws in your data gathering process. These are important and valid concerns that need to be satisfactorily addressed, so as to protect the rights of our client and innocent customers.
– Crossley brags about his financial status:
Spent much of the weekend looking for a new car. Finances are much better so can put £20-30k down. May go for a Lambo or Ferrari. I am so predictable!
(later emails reveal he bought a Jeep Compass 2.4CVT)
– Email evidence that ACS:Law deliberately does not target two UK ISPs, TalkTalk and Virgin Media
– Crossley writes to monitoring company NG3Sys and says the following:
You are going to receive on average about £1,000.00 per 150 letters sent. This can be seen from the first tiny batch. Because we have good quality product being monitored and captures are high on the data we have, when the letters get sent out the figures therefore equate as follows:-
Phase 1: 2,500 letters, estimated revenue to you: £16,666.00
Phase 2: est. 4,000 letters, estimated revenue to: £26,666.00
Phase 3: est. 18,000 letters, estimated revenue to you: £120,000.00
That is data collated to date! I have more titles to give you, more data will be captured.
Please stay with this.
After falling out with NG3Sys, ACS:Law sent this out to other potential monitoring company:
I own and operate the most prominent law firm in the UK that carries out file sharing litigation. We are one of only two law firms in the UK currently carrying out this work.
We have a number of copyright clients and we have one client in particular,with a large number of copyright titles that have been collecting good numbrs of IP addresses. We have two phases run through and the latest phase has been collecting circa 20,000 IP addresses a month for UK alone. Germany also is gathering good figures.
Our current UK-based data monitoring company has let us down and we need to find another monitoring company to supply our IP data from now. There are currently 300 titles (all adult film titles – all legal and UK certificated) that were being actively monitored.
If you are interested in monitoring for us and to do so quickly, please let us know and we can talk further. We will be able to supply much more data if this works and would like to push the data into Germany also.
We are proposing to pay 10% of net revenues (after ISP costs and postage costs of letter=) to the data monitoring company. On current figures that equates to circa £8,800.00 (€9,750.00) to the monitoring company per 1,000 letters sent. Our next phase we anticipate 10,000 letters to be sent in the UK alone. These are estimates only, but based on current collections are accurate.
I look forward to hearing from you.
– Series of highly abusive emails from Crossley to his ex-wife, where in part he tells her to “Fuck off and keep out of my life” and accuses her of being with a “drug addled hermit”.
– Crossley tells his assistant Terence Tsang to “be more discreet with this stuff” when referring to our article where we revealed ACS:Law looked to buy anti-piracy tracking software on the cheap.
Of course, as with our coverage of the MediaDefender leaked emails back in 2007, Our coverage of this debacle will be extensive.
Keep checking back every few minutes, we’re going to be updating this through the night and throughout the weekend.