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Crime The Internet

IP Lawfirm Sues Typosquatting Security Researcher 101

Posted by timothy
from the sure-would-be-a-shame-if-somethin'-was-t'-happen dept.
First time accepted submitter scottbee writes "A major New York intellectual property lawfirm has filed a $1m lawsuit against domain squatter/security researcher Wesley Kenzie (aka Securikai). Kenzie registered domain names to collect misaddressed email, and then holding companies to ransom claiming he had found security vulnerabilities and would consult for five figure engagements. Lockheed Martin handled it with a simple UDRP, but the Gioconda Law Group decided instead to file a lawsuit for 'cybersquatting, trademark infringement and unlawful interception of a law firm's private electronic communications in violation of federal laws,' along with a permanent injunction. Kenzie had also tried the same tactic against Rapid7's HDMoore, but was shamed out of the domain names earlier this year."
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IP Lawfirm Sues Typosquatting Security Researcher

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  • Scummy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:34PM (#40431287)
    Well this Kenzie guy seems to exhibit some pretty scummy behavior. However that bad behavior does not equate to "unlawful interception of a law firm's private electronic communications in violation of federal laws" (at least as I understand the law). He received emails addressed to his legally acquired domain. I don't know if intent plays into the law on this or not - obviously he did intend to get these emails, so maybe that does make him culpable. I am obviously not a lawyer. But as an average citizen, I can say that bad behavior like his should not be rewarded. So hopefully he doesn't make any more money on schemes like this. Just because the way things are setup allows people to be an asshole doesn't mean that they should act like an asshole.
    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      I agree if he bought the domains legally and mail was sent to those he didn't unlawful interception anything since it was sent to a domain he owned. It would be like a letter from someone else ending up in my mail box and cause i took it outta my mail box its tampering with the mail.
      • Re:Scummy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:17PM (#40431539)
        No, it'd be like if you had your name legally changed to Mitch Romney, moved in across the street from Mitt Romney, waited until you inevitably got some of his mail and then threatened to release it to the public unless he paid you a consulting fee. What this guy did was wrong, but sadly this is very likely going to result it poorly written court decisions or even laws that end up being used powerful people and organizations to squelch competition. Much like existing cyber squatting laws have been abused.
        • Re:Scummy (Score:4, Interesting)

          by sirlark (1676276) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:52PM (#40432883)

          I've always wondered about this sort of thing. Specifically how useful those disclaimers are at the end of company emails; This email may contain confidential information intended solely for the recipient. blah blah blah. Well the recipient (in the technical sense) is whoever the email is addressed to; bob@company.com or bob@compnay.com are two different recipients. Also, these emails are almost always sent in clear text, making it pretty clear the sender doesn't give a rat's ass about the recipients right to privacy. Yes this guy was being a dick, but I wouldn't call it illegal. I would argue that it's not like moving in next to Mitt Romney. It's more like renting the post box next to his, and people sending mail to mitt romney at the wrong postbox number without using envelopes. Sender's fault.

          Of course, to be fair, the domain squatting thing is more like renting thousands of post boxes all over the place, and reading everyone's mail... except it's still all postcards and unenveloped stuff. And he still didn't do anything illegal, since email isn't protected under the second ammendment or the laws preventing post from being opened is it? Before anyone bitches about violation of privacy of emails, they should encrypt their mail. This applies especially to companies, who are in the perfect position to make it easy, convenient and MANDATORY for clients to use public key encrypted email.

      • I agree if he bought the domains legally and mail was sent to those he didn't unlawful interception anything since it was sent to a domain he owned.

        He bought the domains with the primary aim of intercepting mail that wasn't his... Same as if I changed the number on my house and setup a mail box that looks like my neighbors.

        I'm sure this angle can be argued in the court. Whether it holds I don't know. I kind of hope it does, there's a reason why judges are human, the world made of ones and zeros. Regardless of who much we all wish we were was Neo :)

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:42PM (#40432157)

          This is one in a class of issues where the conclusion that makes perfect sense to an (intelligent and educated) technician is directly opposed to the conclusion that makes perfect sense to an (intelligent and educated) non-technician.

          The technician sees a system with clear and unambiguous rules. You get an address, you send to an address, stuff goes to that address. Breaking THOSE rules seems obviously punishable to a technician (like making stuff go to a different address than the one to which it was sent, for example), but when following those rules (to the letter) all is fair. If you send to the wrong address (which nobody forced or tricked you into doing), that is your own fault, all responsibility is on you.

          The non-technician sees the deliberate and conscious setting of a trap that will result in the receipt of communication that was not intended for you. Furthermore, if the trap had not been set, those communications would have harmlessly bounced-back and gone to nobody. The setting of the trap created a hole that was not there before, because now that the trap is set the communications will seem to be delivered when in fact they were "intercepted." The technical details of how this trap was set are completely irrelevant. The fact that someone else (an actual criminal) could easily have set the same trap and spied on you without your knowledge indefinitely is also completely irrelevant.

          Generally speaking, the non-technical position is the one that wins whenever such issues go to trial.

          • Perhaps we should redirect our discussion from the mis-spelled domian name to the user name. The culprit either deliberately set up one or more specific user names, or set up his mail system to accept any user name that was presented, a-la mailinator. In either case it seems to me that his actions can be seen as deliberately trapping (and opening) communications not intended for him. If he set up specific mail boxes such as joe.smith@hisdomain then perhaps some sort of impersonation charge could be broug
        • by Golddess (1361003)

          He bought the domains with the primary aim of receiving mail that wasn't his.

          FTFY. The problem with calling it "intercepting" is that it implies that the email would somehow magically make its way to the intended destination if the typoed domain wasn't registered. Now I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that an email sent to bob@gooooogle.com would not ever make it to bob@google.com, even if gooooogle.com was unregistered. Such an email would simply go no where.

          • by fnj (64210)

            If you're going to say "FTFY", make sure your re-writing at least makes logical sense. Otherwise you run the risk of looking dumb when you're really not.

            The primary aim was NEITHER "intercepting mail that wasn't his", as originally written, NOR "receiving mail that wasn't his", as you put it. The problem isn't with the choice of verb (intercepting or receiving). The problem is with the qualifier "that wasn't his". He duly registered a domain and set himself up to receive email sent to that domain; then some

            • Perhaps there is an opportunity to add "on the Internet" to a criminal activity and get a patent. Then you as an otherwise uninterested third party could join the fray with a patent suit brought in East Texas...

            • by Larryish (1215510)

              The Canadian's biggest problem can be summed up as follows:

              GoDaddy.Com

              What sort of "security researcher" uses GoDaddy on purpose?

              I mean, seriously?

          • by LordCrank (74800)

            By registering these domains he prevented the senders from getting a message that the url in the address they were sending to did not exist. Presumably he also made it so whatever catch all for the typoed domains wouldn't report an error. If he hadn't set up these domains then the senders would have received automated messages informing them their emails weren't delivered. While he didn't violate the law in stopping these emails from bouncing with errors, his behavior certainly wasn't ethical and did disrup

            • by Golddess (1361003)
              I was not aware that any sort of bounce message would have been sent back to the sender in the event that the domain was unregistered. Thanks for informing me about that.
          • FWIW gooooogle.com redirects to digforgold.com.
      • by grahammm (9083) *

        I agree if he bought the domains legally and mail was sent to those he didn't unlawful interception anything since it was sent to a domain he owned. It would be like a letter from someone else ending up in my mail box and cause i took it outta my mail box its tampering with the mail.

        And not only ending up in your mail box, but also having your name and address on the envelope. ie It was correctly delivered according to the sender's instructions.

        • by CycleMan (638982)

          And not only ending up in your mail box, but also having your name and address on the envelope. ie It was correctly delivered according to the sender's instructions.

          IANAL and other disclaimers. But his name was not on the envelope. He caught every piece of mail that came to his domain. Here's a more true parallel: I bought a house, which has a defined postal address. Other people used to live here and so mail comes to their name at this address. Do I get to open their mail? No I sure as hell do not. If they address it to "Occupant" or to "Person XYZ or Current Resident" then I am entitled to access it. Otherwise, since the sellers didn't give me a good forwardi

    • if they're making a federal case out of it (pardon the pun), then intent is at the very heart of the matter. It can be proved via cc records and details in the ICANN registry that he bought the domains, so that's not even on the table for discussion. It's for the Feds to prove that his intent was to extort money from "rightful owners" of the domains. I put that in quotes because they missed the boat - he bought the domains, he rightfully owns them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by suutar (1860506)
        Lockheed-Martin's UDRP proceedings show a precedent (I don't know how strong; it was arbitrated since Kenzie registered the relevant sites through GoDaddy) for considering this behavior to be "operating in bad faith".
      • Re:Scummy (Score:5, Informative)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:23PM (#40431583)
        I'm no lawyer, so I'm not talking about legal standards, but the last link in the summary mentions that at least some other similar schemes this guy pulled off, he essentially threatened to post the e-mail contents, which he said were sensitive, on his blog for all to read. Which to me is a pretty clear indication he did intend to extort.

        It also points out that this is a scheme that is at least 14 years old, hard to claim that he bought all these domains without realizing they were very close to other domains.

        Again I'll point out that I'm not a lawyer, so I'm talking common sense standards here, not legal standards, which usually make no sense to me.
  • by CajunArson (465943) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:37PM (#40431301) Journal

    The title makes it sound like this guy is a legitimate academic who just wants to cure cancer for the benefit of all WomynKind is being harrassed by whatever evil megacorp is at the top of the 2 minutes of hate list today on Slashdot. Then you figure out that this guy is just another scumbag fraudster and he doesn't sound like such an innocent "researcher" at all.

    How about a "bank security researcher" who does vital Nobel prize winning research about the response time of police and ambulances when he shoots up a bank during a robbery? I'm sure everyone on this site wants there to be more "research" to make things interesting.

    • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:56PM (#40431417)

      That's the problem with you softies, always getting in the way of good science. I bet you work at Black Mesa.

      Now if you excuse me, I have some banks to go rob. For science.

      • by evanism (600676)

        Aperture Science, for REAL science! Not your phony universe hole tearing girly science!

        This is Cave Johnson, for science!

    • by dAzED1 (33635)
      agreed. If the argument is that anyone trying to figure out and/or exploit security flaws is a "security researcher" then someone busting your car window to steal the iphone you left on the center console is also a "security researcher." Is subby a similar type of "researcher," thus the sympathy/misnomer?
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @03:38PM (#40431309)
    The summary didn't tell me who to root for so I am completely confused.
  • by houghi (78078) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:03PM (#40431459)

    He own the domain. People send the mail to him. So I hope that they trow that part out. The receiver can not be responsible, the sender should be.

    This does not mean that I agree with what he does. He did a lot things wrong, but unlawful interception isn't one of them.

    If they will allow it, whenever you get a mail by mistake, YOU will be responsible. For now the stoopid signatures that legal adds to your external mail mean nothing. For now!

    • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:13PM (#40431517)

      He specifically took action to create a destination for the incorrectly addressed emails.

      If he had not done that then the emails would have been rejected by the sender's system and kicked back to the sender.

      And the way he did that was to register misspellings of legitimate email domains.

      He is responsible because he chose to do that.

      • then any ad-farm sites that rely on misspellings should be sued for depriving the correctly spelled url's ad revenue?
      • by longk (2637033)

        Yeah, because slasdot.org would never use a info@ e-mail address if slashdot.org was already using it.

      • by oxdas (2447598)

        The question for me is should it be illegal to create a domain with a similar name to an active domain and setup an email server with similar names? I don't see anything wrong with this. There could legitimately be two companies with similar names. If the companies received each other's emails, would a crime or tort have been committed?

        This seems to me to be one of those cases where the wrong laws are being applied. He used legitimate tools to further a criminal enterprise. In my opinion, he should be c

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          I don't think this is a case of the wrong laws being applied at all and I don't think this even raises issues with similar named companies. Like much of the law the intent of the persons actions need to be taken into account, this scumbag is intentionally registering similar names in order to intercept incorrectly spelled addresses, hence his goal was to intercept emails, the means by which he did it is secondary.
      • by jcdill (6422)

        There are legitimate reasons to setup a mail server that accepts mail for *@example.com.

    • He own the domain. People send the mail to him. So I hope that they trow that part out. The receiver can not be responsible, the sender should be.

      No, people didn't send mail to him. They sent mail to the intended recipient, something went wrong on the way, and he set up his domain intentionally to benefit of these mistakes. What went wrong was the user making a mistake while typing the email address; that doesn't change who the intended recipient was, and it doesn't change that the mail was intercepted intentionally.

      • by Gr8Apes (679165)
        Sorry. Send a postcard, expect it to get read. Be careless enough to send it to the wrong person....It's irrelevant as to why he set up the domains, or that he receives incorrectly addressed postcards. He's not advertising, or anything else. Is he scum? Perhaps. Is he doing something illegal? No.
  • by magic maverick (2615475) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:07PM (#40431483) Homepage Journal

    For those of you, like me, who weren't sure what UDRP meant, it means Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy [wikipedia.org] and ICANN has a page on it [icann.org].

    Anyway, this indicates a major problem with the domain name system. One which could be solved by a simple, careful and widespread application of OpenPGP [faqs.org]. That is, if everyone encrypted emails for recipients, people like this would not be able to read them.

    Also, if I were this "security researcher" I would set up legitmate looking websites at the various domains. Perhaps giocondolaw.com could be a website for Grand International Operations. ConDoLaw., a website trying to put together a convention about law for lay peoples, run by GIO, an organisation setup by our hero... Or something. You know, it doesn't even have to be clever, just appear to actually have a real use for the domain name. In the case of the lockheedmartun.com website well, maybe a shell company called Lockhe, which makes an editor (ed) called Martun, Lockhe Ed Martun. Perhaps repackage and sell (for only $5000 a seat, this wonderful software, complete with source code, and what we won't tell you unless you buy it, is that it's just GNU EMACS or perhaps VIM (depending on what you hate the least).

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:09PM (#40431495) Journal

    Kenzie clearly does not understand how e-mail works. What he is doing is clearly an attempt to extort money for owners of legitimate domains. I don't know if he is doing anything that will pass muster in court of law but he is obviously stupid, a fraud, and prick.

    Still though he does even though he does sorta point out a weakness in mail even if his solutions are off base. The correct way to handle this is as follows:

    1. Sign all mail, and really try to convince recipients to validate signatures. This will give you integrity and irrefutably when sending; at least if you tell all your recipients, if its not signed to assume its a fraud.

    2. Use SFP this will allow recipients to know mail really did come from your domain even if they can't check signatures. It will also help guard against innocent miss configured sending clients and servers, on similar but legitimate domains. It will also keep your domain off RBLs if someone tries false flag spamming to get your domain listed.

    3. Encrypt anything you send if any of it is remotely confidential. Not only will this offer protection from interception, it will also cover you in the case you send to a black hole domain like Kenzie likes to set up by mistake; he won't have the ability to decrypt.

    If we did these things routinely the over all security picture of Internet E-mail would be enhanced to the point that would be "good enough" to thwart most serious threats. Kenzie is dipshit but he is correct about the weakness of e-mail. Perhaps this security researcher should do a little more research and a little less "consulting" until he learns a thing or two. He is just best ignored.

    • But the law firm couldn't have done any of that to fix the "problem". The problem is their clients are typing their email address wrong. Until the whole world follows your 3 rules for email security it won't so much good.
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @04:12PM (#40431511)

    What this guy did is certainly not ethical but shouldn't be illegal. You shouldn't have a right to every domain similar to one that you have bought just because you are a big corporation. If a company wants to own all variations of a domain, fucking pay for all of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The new TLDs could potentially make this much worse, for example, if someone has applied for .cmo and/org .con which are two easy typos of .com, it wouldn't take much to set up a wildcard redirect to the correct .com site, but also log all the stuff coming through.
    Or even iframe it with google ads or something.

    • by Kalriath (849904)

      Applying for a TLD costs almost a quarter of a million dollars. Your theorised situation is implausible at best.

  • Who are the most sue-happy people on earth? IP Lawyers. If you so much as sneeze in their direction you'll get sued.
  • by thoughtcancer (465644) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:05PM (#40431857)

    First, he's not a security researcher; calling him that gives him an air of credibility he DOES NOT deserve. He's a sleazy typosquatter giving himself the title of "researcher" to gain a veneer of respectability. I am the risk manager for an organization hit by this guy; his intent is made perfectly clear in the extortion snail-mail he sends his victims: I have your mail, pay me what I ask or I go public. He might wrap it up in a "i'm just an unsolicited security researcher trying to help you", but any attempts to discuss the "vulnerability" with him (the "vulnerability" being that my company didn't register every possible misspelling of our trademarks across all possible TLD's), he will refuse to do so until we signed a consulting contract with him.

    Complete scumbag who abuses the system for his own benefit. He started this scam going after smaller companies with no InfoSec staff or Risk Managers, offering to settle for $295; once that worked a couple of times, he moved up to mid-sized companies, provincial government assets, international law firms, banks, and finally the big boys like Lockheed Martin. While he may have succeeded on some of the smaller companies, every bigger organization saw through his scam and either passively ignored his demands or is suing him into oblivion.

    He is not welcome in the information security or information risk management communities as long as persists in this behaviour. HDMoore at Attrition.org has has been acting as a clearinghouse for this dude's activities; one read-through and you'll understand that Kenzie has unclean hands.

    This guy is a Sith and does not deserve your empathy. When justice is meted out, he will never work in IT again.

    • Sorry to self-reply, but I misattributed.

      HDMoore = Jericho

      Sorry for the brainfart.

    • by whitesea (1811570)
      Please, mod the parent up. There is so much speculation in this thread; we can all benefit from actual facts of this story.
  • Good read from UDRP on Lockheed Martin case, format was easy to read and I understood the claims, etc. w/o having to read for hours and click through a bunch of sites. Hmmm, the courts were able to read "his intent" when he registered the names... ;)

    This reminded of a related, but opposite case, individual has name first but corp. wants it: Mr. Nissan's battle from years ago. I clicked on his site today to see how he was faring, and was surprised to find that what the Nissan Motor Corp. lawyers started in

    • by Kalriath (849904)

      After looking at Nissan.com though, I'd say neither party should get to have the domain. Nissan Motors because they're being douches, and Nissan Computers for having the worst designers ever.

  • Uh, can someone explain to me how a firm with all of 4 attorneys counts as "A major New York intellectual property lawfirm"?

    I'm aware of a few major IP-only law firms, and they are several hundred attorneys apiece. Good or not, I've never heard of these guys before, and likely will never hear of them again.

  • I took a closer look at the actual complaint in the case itself and the UDRP decision in the Lockheed case. Here is why I think Kenzie's conduct IS going to be found illegal under U.S. laws here: 1. Intentional Cybersquatting: Cybersquatting is illegal under US federal law and is punishable by a fine up to $100,000.00. To prove Kenzie is guilty of cybersquatting, the law firm only needs to prove that Kenzie adopted the confusingly similar domain name intentionally and in bad faith, that is, without a b
  • Why do we continue to call these sorts of clowns "researchers"?
  • He's a scumbag alright, but what he does isn't illegal. Sure the mail might have been intended for someone else, but it was sent to him. If the courts support the bullshit "if you are not the intended recipient..." boilerplates of e-mails, I have a couple things I'd like to write down there. The keyword being intended.

    That said, I am a security researcher and consultant. Here's a free bit of security advise: The proper answer to making sure your communication can not be read by someone who may intercept it

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