Hacker source code shop closes its doors

An online shop that was selling the source code for two computer programs has abruptly suspended its operations, citing a "redesign" of its "business model."

The Source Code Club opened its doors on Monday, using an e-mail posting to an online discussion group to advertise the availability of source code and design documents for two products: the Dragon intrusion detection system (IDS) software from Enterasys Networks and peer-to-peer (P-to-P) server and client software from Napster, now owned by Roxio. By Thursday, the group's Web page displayed a message saying the Club had ceased operations due to "fears our customers faced."

The group used a Web page with an address in the Ukraine to advertise its wares, saying it was selling "corporate intel(ligence)" to its customers, along with other, unnamed, services, according to a message posted to the Full-Disclosure mailing list by a group or individual using the name "Larry Hobbles."

The group offered the Enterasys Dragon IDS 6.1 source code for US$16,000 and the Napster code for US$10,000, according Kevin Flanagan , an Enterasys spokesman.

On Thursday, the Club's Web site was renamed the "former SCC page," with the group saying it plans to re-emerge, but that it needed to change its business model to ease customers' fears.

"Selling corporate secrets is ... very tricky, and we believe it is an area that we can conquer," the statement read.

Enterasys is working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the Club's claims, but company representatives are still not convinced that its product source code was stolen, Flanagan said.

Even if the theft did occur, the company is confident that the code was obtained from "media" such as a computer hard drive or CD, rather than the company's network, Flanagan said.

That opinion is based on a structural analysis of the source code files exhibited on the Club's Web site, he said.

Flanagan could not say how media containing the source code might have leaked, citing an ongoing criminal investigation, but said it was theoretically possible a company developer copied it onto a CD or other portable media "for convenience," even though the company prohibits such copying.

Dragon IDS 6.1 is around one year old, and customers who upgraded to Versions 6.2 and 6.3 were protected, because significant differences in the later versions make it difficult to carry out attacks on the upgrades using the 6.1 code as a model, he said.

Enterasys did not contact "Larry Hobbles" or the Source Code Club. Instead, the company turned directly to law enforcement, Flanagan said.

He declined to speculate on why the Web page was offline, saying only that "people who are doing overtly illegal things have lots of reasons to disappear."

The company will continue to pursue the source code theft, as well as any Source Code Customers who want to benefit from the alleged theft, he said.

Enterasys and Roxio are just the latest companies to contend with the alleged theft of intellectual property from shadowy online criminals.

In May, Cisco Systems Inc. confirmed that it was working with the FBI to investigate source code file thefts from the company's Internetwork Operating System (IOS) after IOS source code files were posted on a Russian Web site, a small piece of what was said to be more than 800 megabytes of code.

In February, Microsoft said it was investigating a source code leak from the Windows NT and Windows 2000 operating systems to P-to-P file sharing networks.

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