I had a rather major and unexpected traffic spike as the result of the last entry and change a few things around and hid a bunch of the older stuff. I was linked to from a bunch of forums and I’m actually being cited by RationalWiki who in light of the publicity ACS:Law has received recently wrote their own article on them. So I changed things around temporarily for privacy reasons and hid a lot of the older entries which will be slowly coming back after I have the chance to review each one and determine whether I’m really okay with it being in the public interwebsphere. I have also changed the theme because the wasted horizontal space of the old one drove me insane. Not that this one is perfect. That’s artists for you.
It was pretty cool because I picked up the story from Slashdot, who are usually a few days behind the curve. But in this case, none of the major news outfits had picked up on it, and it was a Saturday, and they didn’t get their behinds into gear until late Monday. I put up the blog Saturday night, cue a sudden traffic influx as it turns out I’m one of the few people who have collected the whole thing together, and the URI was being shared on various forums, wikis, other blogs and Facebook. Pretty awesome to see the internet work like that though; to let people like me write news reports and generate a buzz around a story until the more reliable places got themselves in gear. Also a lot of the initial news reports were hesitant to NOT attribute the leak to the DDoS attack so in that respect the blogosphere was making sure people knew the whole story. It’s also nice to see that a lot of people were indulging in the schadenfreude of ACS:Law scoring an own goal without needing to be prompted by the major news. It snowballed massively late Monday and Tuesday, but there was a lot of interest before then.
I guess the other news is just how effective Anonymous/4chan has managed to be. Their DDoS tactics may seem dubious but it’s come in response to recent revelation that anti-piracy firms employed an Indian IT outfit to enact DDoS attacks on ThePirateBay. 4chan calls it “Operation Payback Is A Bitch”, and clearly, 4chan can harness enough resources to make a dent on whomever they target. There are basically a lot of people who don’t “get” the internet, who think it is okay to try to restrict information. Most people under 20 have grown up with the Internet as a fact of life as far back as they can remember and a lot of people under 30 happily embraced it when it came along. They realise that the most important aspects it has are that it’s not centrally controlled and it was always designed to route around localised problems, which means its very hard to censor. The people who don’t “get” it want to bumble in and try to change the entire philosophy of it because it doesn’t fit with their old, obsolete and naive view of the world. These people are apparently unaware that while older people might not be used to having so much information and communication powers so readily available to them and might not have fully embraced what the Internet offers in those respects, to younger people, these things are a core fact of life and not one they’re going to give up just because some overweight, middle-aged idiot in a suit decides that either it’s okay to tell people what they’re not allowed to read/view, or that the free flow of information makes his dubious brand of capitalism and exploitation a bit harder for him to be successful at. Frankly, we value our free information and we don’t give a toss if you think it hurts your profits (and we aren’t convinced it does anyway). And this is coming from someone who doesn’t actually download anything.
It’s hard to take these people on on their own ground because a lot of the people who do “get” the Internet aren’t of voting age or don’t have enough familiarity with the political system to effect any changes [and there are relatively few sufficiently educated people in the established political parties anyway so there’s quite often no real avenue for pursuing it politically], really this is an instance where the ‘official’ above-board route is a massive failure. So instead they choose to fight a different battle, one that they can do very effectively. And although it’s legally questionable, it’s ethically justifiable and it is great that they really can have an effect and raise publicity to people who aren’t necessarily in geekier circles.
I’ve looked through the emails in more detail and looked at some recent articles from smaller news sources about ACS:Law.
One of the more amusing outcomes is the hasty back-pedalling done by Crossley in a short BBC interview he made directly after the leak gained attention: “In relation to the individual names, these are just the names and addresses of the account owner and we make no claims that they themselves were sharing the files”. So it’s reliable enough to threaten to take that person to court with, it’s reliable enough to demand £500 out of that person with, but it’s not reliable enough to actually identify THAT PERSON. How does that work exactly?
And oh my, the emails show that Crossley is such a whiny little girl. There’s no other phrase for it.
He’s tried to sue Slyck.com (who linked to me) for defamation because they criticise him, in fact one of the complaints was that a Slyck user called Terence Tsang a ‘wanker’, and another said “for Andrew Crossley, I hope you choke on your mince pies”. I’m pretty sure a court probably wouldn’t rule that this really counts as defamation. A bit mean, yes, but not really a legal issue. This is the guy all over. If there’s a record for the lowest rate of actually bringing about legal proceedings against people whom you threaten to do so, Crossley is a serious contender. I rather imagine he has the words “All mouth and no trousers” framed on the wall in his office underneath the words “ACS:Law Mission Statement” (uh oh was that defamation?). It really does strongly appear that his modus operandi is to rely on his legal credentials as a means to attempt to effect by intimidation action that should be decided in a fair court.
And he complains about everything. He had to pay a fine for littering which was traced to his office, he emailed someone to complain and said “I am utterly appalled I have been treated like a criminal”, which seems slightly ironic given what his business does. Uncharacteristically, he didn’t threaten to sue them.
After the One Show’s report on ACS:Law was broadcast he wrote a whiny email to the BBC, which basically amounted to complaining that they gave advice to deny ACS:Law’s claims if innocent. He decided to pretend the ‘if innocent’ part didn’t exist and worked on this assumption throughout. Needless to say, the BBC didn’t uphold his complaint.
He seems to have a long running feud with the solicitor who appeared on it to give the advice (Dr. Deborah Prince, who works for Which?), here’s an email quote: “That Deborah Prince is a total idiot. I am going to sue her“. He emailed her about a Which? article she wrote and he said: “I regard your conduct as unprofessional and in severe breach of the core duties of honesty and integrity”. I think the man genuinely believes himself! The emails are fragmented afterwards, but it appears after deciding not to sue her after all (oh you do surprise us, Andrew), he wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), by whom he’s currently being investigated for misconduct, for the third time, to file a complaint against Dr. Prince. I don’t think their response is present in the email archive, but his reaction to their response is and he’s not a happy bunny: “Accordingly, I have referred the papers to the Ombudsman, as I am dissatisfied with the response given. However, I am not remotely surprised at the response to my complaint, as the SRA has consistently been a big disappointment to me.”. He lives in a different world.
As for their IT setup, they seem to have been hosted on a fairly amateurish hosting package, which I’m willing to bet was configured by an enthusiastic amateur in their office (old Teflon Terence, I rather imagine), not a reputable IT consultancy firm or something. Mixing personal data, computers and the law is quite hard and you really do need someone with a formal computing education to set it all up to an appropriate standard. 4chan’s DDoS attack should have been a minor inconvenience to them as they sorted a more appropriate host. In contrast, ACS:Law took the opportunity to score a massive own goal. They didn’t just fall on their sword, they left a whole rack of them sticking up and covered the corridor in banana skins. A DDoS attack is rarely effective for causing any real financial damage because companies who are susceptible to it and visible enough to attract such an attack take appropriate precautions to ensure they’ll have a good chance to be able to weather any surprise attacks, it’s usually only good for annoying people. On the other hand, ACS:Law has been offline for about a week now. No website, no email … oh dear. Out of their depth? Just a bit.