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Businesses Crime Piracy Sony

Sony Pictures Leak Reveals Quashed Plan To Upload Phony Torrents 130

retroworks writes Motherboard.vice offers an interesting scoop from the hacked Sony Pictures email trove. A plan championed by Polish marketing employee Magda Mastalerz was to upload false versions of highly-pirated Sony programming, effectively polluting torrent sites with false positives. For example, a "Hannibal"-themed anti-piracy ad to popular torrent sites disguised as the first episode. Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them. There were plans in WW2 to drop phony counterfeit currency to disrupt markets, and I wonder why flooding underground markets with phony products isn't widespread. Why don't credit card companies manufacture fake lists of stolen credit card numbers, or phony social security numbers, for illegal trading sites? For that matter, would fake ivory, fake illegal porn, and other "false positives" discourage buyers? Or create alibis?
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Sony Pictures Leak Reveals Quashed Plan To Upload Phony Torrents

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  • Quashed? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:07AM (#48599751)
    Youtube is full of phony videos about "full movies" with a stupid blonde talking, or with malware links. Last time I started reported them, a received a message back as was flagging to many movies.
    • by N1AK ( 864906 )

      Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them

      Is Youtube a torrent site? The summary is pretty clear that it was the status of torrent sites that stopped them, so it neither relates to Youtube or does anything to suggest they wouldn't do something similar with 'legal' video sharing sites.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by ruir ( 2709173 )
        Will you use you head a little please? That what it is there for, ya know? Instead of focusing on the technicalities, what I am conveying here is that they have no qualms about uploading fake videos, and this is just a stupid PR in a very convenient time frame. Oh poor us, we have been hacked, and we are so benevolent and law abiding... what a load of bull crap.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Will you use you head a little please? That what it is there for, ya know? Instead of focusing on the technicalities, what I am conveying here is that they have no qualms about uploading fake videos, and this is just a stupid PR in a very convenient time frame. Oh poor us, we have been hacked, and we are so benevolent and law abiding... what a load of bull crap.

          Really? Did you RTFA? This isn't a press release - it's data taken from the leaked emails. So your theory is that Sony knew they were going to get hacked and planted fake emails talking about this to make themselves look good rather than taking action to stop the hack?

          What I don't understand is how Sony's legal department could claim that torrent sites themselves are illegal. IANAL but I'm pretty damned sure that if I were to go to the Pirate Bay (RIP) and find a link to the latest Debian distro, there

          • I think that is the point...they are not illegal and therefore this is potentially someone in PR being clever and "not condoning" using "illegal channels" to fight back against the terrible pirates.

            Smacks of bullshit to me also...they will use whatever means at their disposal regardless of legality.
          • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @10:17AM (#48600587) Journal

            Sony's lawyers will want to emphasize that generally, it is unlawful to build something specifically designed to be part of an unlawful act. Court rulings vary based on the actual facts , the jurisdiction, and the particular court, but in general building HollywoodTorrent.com, which has links to torrents of the top grossing movies of the week on the front page, would be PART OF an unlawful plot.

            This makes sense of you think about another unlawful act, such as a bank robbery. Suppose I gather together some body armor, ski masks, a getaway car, etc. and hand them to my friends so that they can go into the bank and rob it. I'd rightfully go to jail because I willingly participated in the plan to rob the bank. Not only the team members who went into the bank are guilty- the guy driving the getaway car, the gal monitoring the police scanner, and the guy who acquired and assembled the equipment are all part of the robbery gang.

            Contrary to what some believe, the law is not dumb; this does not imply a sporting goods store that sells winter apparel is guilty because they sell ski masks along with boots and coats. The store is selling things to keep you warm, the bank robbery guy is assembling the items for a bank robbery - his intention is to help people commit the unlawful act of bank robbery . Not the same thing at all.

            Similarly, Google provides an index of the web. The entire web, all 5 billion pages. That's not unlawful. Maintaining a site full of unlawful material for the purpose of assisting people in unlawful activity, as links, is generally unlawful.

          • IANAL but I'm pretty damned sure that if I were to go to the Pirate Bay (RIP) and find a link to the latest Debian distro, there is absolutely nothing illegal about that regardless of which site

            Legal: yes, sensible: no. Get your links from a reputable Debian mirror.

          • It is the uploading part that is considered illegal.
      • thepiratebay was full of those !!
    • Unlike youtube though, pirate sites are usually rather well curated to weed out fakes. Naturally, Sony's plan here never would have worked anyways. For TV shows, usually people are using an automated episode snatcher of some kind (my personal favorite is sickrage) and have it configured to only download from users flagged as VIP, trusted, etc. Not doing this very often yields fakes, passworded archives, etc.

      Nobody who posted only fake material would get that kind of a reputation.

      People who download manually

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:07AM (#48599753) Journal
    Why get your hands dirty with that sort of thing when there are so many contractors in the world?
    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      I do not believe a single word of this "not recommended" ideia, this seems just like a misguided PR article. And youtube is full of that shit, so the "strategy" is certainly being used.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That is the most stupid thing I have read all day and I went on 4chan earlier.

    Pirate sites are illegal, so that OBVIOUSLY means anything uploaded to them are illegal.
    This is the kind of retards that work in business.
    This doesn't even get on to the fact that they aren't exclusively pirate sites most of the time.

    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:40AM (#48599905)

      Pirate sites are illegal, so that OBVIOUSLY means anything uploaded to them are illegal.

      Pirate sites aren't in themselves illegal. It's the content, such as movies and such, that is illegal.

      • And posting fraudulent forms of movies may not be illegal pirated material, it would sort of be illegal as fraud.

        • by ADRA ( 37398 )

          It could only be barely considered illegal if the channel in which the media is presented has some form of 'official' character. If Google published a video under their official YouTube publishing tag, one could say that the video should be as specified, but if spliff666 published "Attack of the Clones" to their YouTube account, there's exactly zero assumption of the video being in any form 'legitimate', which a charge of fraud would first have to establish--- IMHO IANAL.

      • by ADRA ( 37398 )

        That in fact depends on the host country's law regarding this. In the US, facilitating the illegal use of copyright is enough to get into trouble, which is why there aren't Illegal content torrent sites in the US, and why many old peer software sharing services like napster no longer exists.

      • That didn't prevent Napster or Pirate Bay from going down. When you play on the fine line of illegal, you're playing with fire.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Pirate sites are illegal, so that OBVIOUSLY means anything uploaded to them are illegal.

        Pirate sites aren't in themselves illegal. It's the content, such as movies and such, that is illegal.

        Keep in mind that the movie studios are trying to get the sites declared illegal just based on what they do.

        Of course that doesn't make them illegal on its own. However, if you're trying to make the case that even so much as downloading a Debian CD from TPB is illegal, you don't want opposing council pointing out that your own company uses the site for non-infringing uses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That wasn't their point. Their point is that they *want* the pirate sites to be illegal, whether or not they currently are, which varies by jurisdiction. Their legal logic (which I think is sound) is that by uploading to a site they would like to be illegal, they might be implicitly forfeiting their claim that such sites are/should be illegal, and they would do themselves more damage than good by posting.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For that matter, would fake ivory, fake illegal porn, and other "false positives" discourage buyers?

    That's basically what law enforcement does with undercover agents pretending to sell drugs / cruise for sex in public places / trade under-age porn. Not only do they do this, they make it known that they're doing it, with the intention of scaring people away from it.

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:32AM (#48599867) Homepage

    Because it doesn't work?

    It takes a handful of comments to stop a fake torrent being seeded any further, and why would you continue to seed a fake-torrent anyway? It's just sucking up bandwidth for something that you know is worthless.

    Similarly with CC numbers - if you flood a ton of fake ones, it'll be next to no time before someone flags which ones work and which don't, and which uploaders were reliable and which not.

    As such, it's a pathetic idea to do either.

    How about you offer a DRM-free copy in a reasonable format for a half-decent price on a half-decent timescale? Or is it too hard to DO WHAT YOU'RE PAID TO DO? Make a movie, sell it to the masses.

    The Imitation Game I went to see in the cinema - my first cinema movie in about 10 years. Unless I want to pay full-price again, I have to wait until the DVD comes out to watch a movie I'm interested in again. When will that be? God knows. But I can't watch it until they choose to bring it out. And then it will be region-protected, copy-protected and almost certainly won't work on my laptop (like most Disney movies).

    I'm sure they'd rather I went to the cinema multiple times, like my ISP would rather I take out multiple lines. I'm sure they'd rather I pay a fortune for a DVD I can't backup or watch on a laptop, like my car company would love to be able to stop me adding on third-party components and only use them. I'm sure they'd rather I wouldn't be able to download it or stream it until it's a 10 year old movie or more and generating no income for them, like I'm sure my local McDonald's would rather give me an old piece of lettuce instead of a new one.

    But if you want to keep your customers, it might be an idea to not seed fake torrents, and spend your time in court shutting down torrent site, but sell your damn product in a less restrictive way in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Both invisibility (blocking/deleting) and camouflage (data pollution) have failed in the past. I thought the question was which was more likely to work. Your answer is neither, that they should sell the product differently. But in an earlier /. article, about a year or two ago, a study showed that pirate sites were being used even when free legal download was available. So that doesn't work, either.
      • But in an earlier /. article, about a year or two ago, a study showed that pirate sites were being used even when free legal download was available. So that doesn't work, either.

        "A study"? Well that solves it then. If a study has been done then you can't possibly argue with that. I know of no such legitimate free download site, so if it did exist they clearly didn't advertise very well, nor give it much of a chance to succeed. And if it was an industry site then I'll bet my right nut it wasn't as simple as search for content->download->consume which is what we want. There would be some long winded process involved that was cumbersome to use, then once you finally got it, ther

    • So you mean that they would need some way to stop people from seeing the reports that the torrent is fake?

      Kind of like there would be some good content (accurate comments) and they would need to hide it somehow, maybe using some bad content.

      Hmmm...... perhaps this is already a solve (non-)problem. We should get the astroturfers on it right away!

    • The Imitation Game I went to see in the cinema - my first cinema movie in about 10 years. Unless I want to pay full-price again, I have to wait until the DVD comes out to watch a movie I'm interested in again. When will that be? God knows. But I can't watch it until they choose to bring it out. And then it will be region-protected, copy-protected and almost certainly won't work on my laptop (like most Disney movies).

      I wish the economy worked on a "shut up and take my money" system for digital content.

      There is an obscure show that I want to watch the second season of, but the company that owns the rights to distribute in the U.S. are not producing a DVD and there are neither discs in other regions nor are the episodes even available via BitTorrent. This after finding the first season on the Netflix streaming library.

      And the second season aired in the UK over a year ago. If anyone's curious, it's a very well-produced c

    • For credit cards anyway. Put a bunch of "fake" credit cards out there. Some of them "work" but are actually traces. Users of these CC numbers get investigated and arrested immediately, because there are NO authorized users.

      --PM

      • How do you trace them? And what percentage of the world's police force would you like to dedicate to protecting credit card company revenue?
    • They could easily create fake accounts to post comments such as "Works for me, try VLC, ___ player, or update your codecs".

      It would create enough confusion that it would create a lot more work for you to getting your movie, and possibly push you to just pay Amazon the $8 because your time is more valuable than dicking around with the "scene".

      This is happening on usenet now, on nzb search engines that don't have a comments section, where you'll see 20 uploads of a movie, and probably 18 or 19 of them have li

    • It's because the authenticity checks are essentially crowdsourced. It takes no time for the counterfeits to be identified and segregated.
  • by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:36AM (#48599879) Homepage

    Uploading a fake torrent would only work for about an hour before all the leechers find out it's bad and stop downloading, reducing the number of seeders to less than a dozen.

    All these studios (not just Sony) need to realize that people don't want to subscribe to an entire suite of channels just to watch 1 show. HBO seems to get this, but I imagine their new service will only work in the US, meaning the rest of us will have to get Game Of Thrones the usual way.

    • Doesn't anybody really think that Sony, and all the others, haven't been trying this for years? Without success of course.

      I suspect this is a lie from the summary of the article:
      "Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them."

      I'm sure it was quashed because it had already failed. More likely, this is just their spin in order to spread the notion that these sites are "illegal".

    • If popularity is based on seeder count, it's easy for Sony to game that on a single computer with multiple IP addresses.

  • IIRC, there was a Madonna music video from many years back (before YouTube had pretty much every much video available), where the pirate sites were flooded with a fake video of Madonna bad-mouthing pirates, posing as the real music video.

  • by Bohnanza ( 523456 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:39AM (#48599897)
    So, real cash?
  • That was my first thought when I read this in TFS:

    There were plans in WW2 to drop phony counterfeit currency to disrupt markets, and I wonder why flooding underground markets with phony products isn't widespread. Why don't credit card companies manufacture fake lists of stolen credit card numbers, or phony social security numbers, for illegal trading sites? For that matter, would fake ivory, fake illegal porn, and other "false positives" discourage buyers? Or create alibis?

    Oh shit, did I just give him an id

  • Go to usenet, you'll see countless copies of mainstream movies and shows, usually just a few hundred K. In addition a lot of the downloads are pretty poor quality.

    Torrent sites don't have that. They have ranking mechanisms and other techniques that allow real users to say whether something is real. They get rid of the crap pretty quickly.
    • Or password protected RAR's which is even more infuriating because they're the correct size but the password collection thing is just a scam... I don't know how to get SABnzbd to stop downloading them and I don't know how to get Sickbeard to select a different one...
  • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:42AM (#48599919)
    Chances are the fake films are better than the one you thought you were getting.
  • um yea no (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @08:50AM (#48599937)

    As someone that gets pretty much all of my media from peering... they didn't "Quash" anything. They (or someone) used to upload all kinds of fake files to try and disrupt the community a few years back. They even got clever and would intentionally fake seeders so it'd look very popular.

    That's why the aggregate sites have a comments and up-vote section. There are usually dozens of versions of any particular movie and you can sort by vote. That effectively killed the attack. They don't really try this anymore because their fake will get down voted almost instantly. You can even preview what you're downloading in most clients.

    To be honest, I think they should be happy with the system they have now. It's pretty hard to get something before it hits DVD in a quality that's worth watching. If you want to see what's new and hot, you need to go to the theater. Getting a DVD or better quality version of a film is difficult enough that I bet most people just buy it. Their real problem is their continued fight against modernizing with some sort of streaming service. For example, imagine if you had a "Pandora" television station... TV shows were sent to you, you upvoted/downvoted them, etc... I'd pay for that. Keeping track of thousands of files for my kids TV shows is a PITA.

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      As someone that gets pretty much all of my media from peering... they didn't "Quash" anything. They (or someone) used to upload all kinds of fake files to try and disrupt the community a few years back. They even got clever and would intentionally fake seeders so it'd look very popular.

      That's why the aggregate sites have a comments and up-vote section. There are usually dozens of versions of any particular movie and you can sort by vote. That effectively killed the attack. They don't really try this anymore because their fake will get down voted almost instantly. You can even preview what you're downloading in most clients.

      To be honest, I think they should be happy with the system they have now. It's pretty hard to get something before it hits DVD in a quality that's worth watching. If you want to see what's new and hot, you need to go to the theater. Getting a DVD or better quality version of a film is difficult enough that I bet most people just buy it. Their real problem is their continued fight against modernizing with some sort of streaming service. For example, imagine if you had a "Pandora" television station... TV shows were sent to you, you upvoted/downvoted them, etc... I'd pay for that. Keeping track of thousands of files for my kids TV shows is a PITA.

      You get all your media from "peering" wtf does that mean?

      People fake upload shit all the time, if you paid attention to TPB before it went down, you'll get an uploader loading 20+ movies/tv/whatever that were all fake. It was pretty noticeable.

      As for your getting a DVD or better is difficult. No it's not. For example, I had a conversation earlier today that went like this. "I download the 1080p of The Equalizer last night, 9gb" "how? That isn't out yet." "Ya, almost all movies get released to the

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        As for your getting a DVD or better is difficult. No it's not. For example, I had a conversation earlier today that went like this. "I download the 1080p of The Equalizer last night, 9gb" "how? That isn't out yet." "Ya, almost all movies get released to the scene about a month before you can get them in the store." "Oh really, how was the movie Lucy?" In other words, almost all movies make it to the various torrents/usenet/whatever about a month before they get released, unless you get a DVD screener of it out first.

        But it's usually far more than a month between theaters and DVD release. For example The Equalizer was released September 26th, DVD release is December 30th. So you get to watch it a few weeks before the others waiting for the disc, but you're still long after those who saw in in theaters stopped discussing it. Not to mention the chance of accidentally reading or hearing major spoilers, a month after release people don't put up the big spoiler warnings anymore. It sucks more for some kind of movies than oth

    • Yeah they tried this before, it didn't work. Magda should perhaps stick to marketing.

  • ... if there weren't some jurisdiction in which Sony could enlist a proxy to do the deed, without blowback.
  • I can't speak to the other fake flooding ideas, but I do recall hearing a story where the reporter was shocked to learn that many who sell compromised CC lists offer a refund for any CC numbers that don't work. Putting out a long list of free numbers might district a few newbies, but the people with the experience and the financial backing wouldn't have been distracted by such free lists of dubious origin.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    for this sort of practices --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrent_poisoning

    • by sudon't ( 580652 )

      I was gonna say...

      I swear, when I have mod points, I can find no place to apply them. And vice-versa.

  • Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them.

    I don't think 'sites' are illegal, only the content that is distributed is illegal. That's like saying a Ford Mustang is illegal because sometimes they are used to transport illegal drugs, so don't ride in one of them.

    • I was going to say something similar, but you brought a car analogy to the game so I'm folding.

  • BUT! Sony reportedly considers the leaked data itself worthy of uploading phony torrents.

    http://www.theguardian.com/tec... [theguardian.com]

  • by cacheMan ( 150533 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @01:10PM (#48602225)

    It is amazingly simple to create a script to:
    While (1) {
            1. Open your browser and go to Amazon, Google, Ebay, etc with embedded "search" for random words out of the dictionary or strings of words out of a text.
            Note: Search terms can be embedded in URL
            2. Pause (some of these sites will stop you from doing it X times per second)
            3. Close browser
    }

    I've run a script like this before. What follows are some amusing Amazon recommendations.

    I've always wondered what would happen if my script searched for some hot button NSA phrases? What would happen to the market cap of these customer information based sites if everyone started running this script? Do these have the intelligence to distinguish between my searches and the script's searches?

  • by WillgasM ( 1646719 ) on Monday December 15, 2014 @02:44PM (#48603241) Homepage
    I was under the impression that the sharing of copyrighted material was the problem. I don't see what's illegal about Sony uploading an anti-piracy ad and naming it "DOWNLOAD Fury (2014) 720p BrRip x264" so long as they own the copyright on the ad. I mean, it's a pretty horrible name for an ad, but whatev. I was unaware that the protocol itself had been outlawed.
  • Back in 2005-ish a friend of mine worked for a MPIAA contractor. His job was to seed bad torrents. THat is torrents that would go to 99% complete but never finish (I forget the trick for that, I think it was to control.remove all the 100% seeds after a couple days or something). Another was to simply mis-label torrents, give people a PBS show or something instead. The thing is, all the torrent sites are self-moderated, which roots out the shady torrents pretty quickly.
  • "I wonder why flooding underground markets with phony products isn't widespread."

    it is, it's called 'made in china' a bit stereotypical but anytime a corporation convinces one group of people to pay more than fair market value, on come the copiers who make substandard duplicate items.

    "Why don't credit card companies manufacture fake lists of stolen credit card numbers, or phony social security numbers, for illegal trading sites?"

    credit card number the first 4 id the bank the last 4 the account number with t

  • I thought Sony already did that with P2P networks. Did I confused with something else?
    • by doccus ( 2020662 )
      No, I don't think so.. back when Limewire was popular, they had all sorts of fakes courtesy of some company that specialised in that (don't recall who, now). The torrents are new. I don't know how they deliver their "payload", perhaps when trying to start them., they usually deliver a message such as "This is not a valid torrent".. an improperly constructed one might appear once in a while, but when 3 out of 4 give you that message, something is up.
  • Everybody else went ahead with their phony torrents. They're all over the web, and usually have a worm or somesuch. We all know this.. so somehow Sony decided NOT to follow through with it? Suuure..

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