As Hackers Leak Symantec's Source Code, Firm Says Cops Set Up Extortion Sting Operation



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Source code from the antivirus firm Symantec has been held hostage for the last month in a tense negotiation between the Anonymous hackers who stole that code and law enforcement agents who impersonated Symantec execs to set up a sting operation aimed at tracking down the data thieves. Now it seems the negotiations are over, and the hostage is dead.

More interesting is another release from the same hackers: An email chain that shows what appears to be a Symantec staffer offering the hackers $50,000 to not release the code and to publicly state that they didn’t possess it. “We can pay you $2,500 per month for the first three months,” the email from someone at Symantec named Sam Thomas reads. “In exchange, you will make a public statement on behalf of your group that you lied about the hack (as you previously stated). Once that’s done, we will pay the rest of the $50,000 to your account and you can take it all out at once. That should solve your problem.”

“You won’t believe it but Symantec offered us money to keep quiet,” a hacker from the group who uses the name YamaTough wrote on Twitter. “And quess what they couldn’t make it over 50k for the whole range of their src shit, therefore the show starts as of tuday.”

In fact, Symantec says it never made any offer to meet the hackers’ extortion demands. “Sam Thomas,” Symantec spokesperson Cris Paden told me in an interview late Monday night, was the false name created by law enforcement agents who pretended to pursue the negotiations only to attempt to trace the hackers. The entire conversation had been a ruse.

“Anonymous has been talking to law enforcement, not to us,” Paden says. “No money was exchanged, and there was never going to be any money exchanged. It was all an effort to gather information for the investigation.”

When they came to us with what was for all intents and purposes extortion, we went to law enforcement,” says Paden. “From that point on, we turned over the investigation to them.” Paden says he can’t comment on which law enforcement agencies are involved, as the investigation is ongoing.

Finally on February 6th, YamaTough seems to have grown impatient, and decided to post the code, which is now available on bittorrent.

The email conversation (including lots of headers) can be read right here.