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Greek police "spam arrest" ongoing muddle
November 2, 2005 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Register article on Greek arrest of well known programmer I'ved been watching this story since it surfaced at the rixstep.com page here and here; also covered at Techdirt.com in a couple of threads. Worth a look.
posted by hank (16 comments total)

 
Maybe he's innocent, but making statements like this is a little absurd:
Downes operates an Apple Mac machine and is an expert in low level functions so there was no way his machine was compromised to send the offending messages

Oh, I see, he has a mac and thus cant possibly be associated with spammers or have a worm or get hacked or whatever.
posted by H. Roark at 10:21 AM on November 2, 2005


From the Register article, it sounds as though the Greek police have no technical evidence at all.
posted by russilwvong at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2005


"We tried to explain to the police that what most likely happened is that the travel agent's computer is compromised and that her address book (including the addresses of her two friends who've met Rick) has been harvested for use by spammers, but they did not understand this. They were very unsophisticated in terms of computers and seemed to believe spammers met people and collected email addresses one by one," Phillips said.

Yeah, that does seem to be how things worked. It's very bizzare.

This is the second paragraph in the article

But these credentials cut little ice with Greek tourist police who arrested Downes on 26 October and confiscated his main computer. Local police were acting on complaints made by a travel agent business acquaintance and two other people who received nearly identical spam messages (advertising drugs such as Viagra and Valium) soon after meeting the software developer and his wife, Sydney Phillips.

I mean, WTF?
Downes operates an Apple Mac machine and is an expert in low level functions so there was no way his machine was compromised to send the offending messages
Oh, I see, he has a mac and thus cant possibly be associated with spammers or have a worm or get hacked or whatever.


Uh, running a Mac makes it much less likely that his machine is a zombie, and being a low-level computer expert would make it exceedingly un likely that his box would be compromised.

This story is so strange. Guy meets person, person gets spam, and so guy gets arrested for it? What the hell?
posted by delmoi at 10:26 AM on November 2, 2005


The really strange part is that the Register didn't make an egregiously snarky comment about the programmer using an Apple. That's usually their bread and butter.
posted by Rothko at 10:29 AM on November 2, 2005


Maybe he's innocent, but making statements like this is a little absurd:
Downes operates an Apple Mac machine and is an expert in low level functions so there was no way his machine was compromised to send the offending messages

Oh, I see, he has a mac and thus cant possibly be associated with spammers or have a worm or get hacked or whatever.


Actually, yeah, not impossible but exceedingly unlikely. Using Occam's razor, which of the following scenarios are most likely:

1. Computer security expert and spam fighter leads a secret double life as a spammer.

2. Mac owned by a security is hacked/infected and is a zombie spammer.

3. Naive computer user is infected, her address book is harvested, and spam is sent out impersonating the people in that address book.

Now, I don't know often 1 and 2 happen, but based on my job at a major web and email host number 3 happens thousands and thousands of times a day.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:48 AM on November 2, 2005


Is that like a Boston marriage?
posted by taursir at 11:13 AM on November 2, 2005


Do the police plan to throw the suspect's computer into a pond to see if it sinks and is therefore innocent?
posted by fleetmouse at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2005


Law enforcement authorities are generally appallingly ignorant of computer-related laws, and those designated to enforce them are, by and large, no more knowledgeable about how computers work than beat cops.

I remember that about 2 years ago when we had an FBI "specialist" come to talk to the company where I worked about "hacking" (I worked at the online arm of a bank then), I and my more knowledgeable colleagues really had to work hard at not busting a gut while the guy spoke. I thought it was bloody amazing that even in 2003 "computer expertise" according to the FBI was little more than the ability to recite common urban myths and old wives' tales about so-called "hacking". It was so ridiculous that we wondered for some time after whether the guy wasn't just pretending to know nothing about it, for whatever reason.
posted by clevershark at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2005


Clevershark, is it possible that management brought him in to try to goad a suspected hacker into outing himself by correcting the "specialist"?
posted by fleetmouse at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2005


Critique of the Register article by the programmer who's the subject of this mess, here, from his web page for his software.
posted by hank at 4:12 PM on November 2, 2005


fleetmouse writes "Clevershark, is it possible that management brought him in to try to goad a suspected hacker into outing himself by correcting the 'specialist'?"

There were at least 20 people in the room that could have corrected the "specialist" on a wide array of topics... and that was just the session I was in. It was comical. He started by evoking the stereotype of the "hacker" (really a cracker) as the acne-marked teenage kid operating out of his mother's basement... and it actually went downhill from there.

With guys like that in charge it's clear that a systems-oriented cracker has little to fear from the FBI, and only risks getting in trouble once he starts involving actual people (like Mitnick did), or starts bragging on IRC.
posted by clevershark at 7:12 PM on November 2, 2005


Greece is the country that banned all videogames (I believe they are still techinically banned and the case is at the European Court), and notoriously tried to jail a busload of English planespotters for spying. They should be forced to develop a grown-up justice system or be kicked out of the EU. (As if utterly lying about their economic situation in order to be allowed into the Eurozone wasn't enough).
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:07 PM on November 2, 2005


his own page
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:19 PM on November 2, 2005


Thousands of hackers, upon reading of the tech-savyness of the greek police, pack their bags and head for Greece.
posted by spazzm at 5:59 AM on November 3, 2005


This isn't the first time stuff like this happens in Greece. Unfortunately the technological ignorance of even the "Electronic Crime Squad" - let alone the regular police - is stunning in its sheer buffoonery. There was a huge brouhaha over last year's arrest of a web artist for "computer-fraud", which anyone with basic knowledge of html. I blogged about it then, and the artist has a page about the incident.
posted by talos at 8:39 AM on November 3, 2005


greek police had NO EVIDENCE when they arrested the artist (Fotiou) for his project.
I also dont mean "they don't have strong evidence", I mean absolutely NO EVIDENCE!

this is very bad for the country, cause when we are talking about computers, we are talking about "data", which means YES or NO! it means either SOMEONE DID IT or NOT.

the worst thing is that this police has every right to arrest people just because they ONLY look like "suspicious" to its overzealous policemen. (thats according to greek law!!!). then one gets imediately involved to a judgment process, and has to spend lots of money, lots of time, lots of energy to face a situation, which is definately clear from the begining that will spoil his life.

just because we are talking about computers, greece is still at its prehistorical age, and computers look like something that comes from another civilization, probably an alien one. thats the MESSAGE they are trying to give to common people, in order to produce fear and have the complete control of new technology (in order not to loose their lovely job positions and authority). even LAYERS ARE AFRAID NEW TECHNOLOGY CASES because both layers and judges are uneducated on computers and they need specialists to explain things starting form "what is windows"! i will be surprised if i hear that they have e-mails and they use it. most of their e-mails are handled by their lovely kids.

by the way, the artist, must be presented to the police station at the begining of each month like a common criminal until his final court.
not to mention the amount of money he has paid to layers...
not to mention how useful the whole situation became for his name and his work in a country called "Greece"...

i beleive greece needs to find a solution on this theme IMIDIATELY!!!
posted by deep forest at 3:21 AM on November 5, 2005


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