Friday, January 28, 2011

Hacking Ke$ha off

Der Spiegel has the story of Deniz A and Christian M, two young hackers from Germany who have been vexing Sony and others by - allegedly - taking materials off the hard-drives of record company staff and pop stars and selling it on.

It's quite a sad story, because it seems like the motivation isn't malicious or greedy. There are demands for money, and blackmail, but it's all so poorly thought-out as to be heartbreaking:

In April, Deniz hacked into the computer of Jason Clarkson, the brother of American singer Kelly Clarkson. Using his computer, he managed to infiltrate the pop star's laptop and downloaded 19 new songs from the hard drive. He would have preferred Lady Gaga, he later told the police, but he couldn't get into her computer. Nevertheless, Kelly Clarkson wasn't half bad, he added. Soon afterwards, he sent an e-mail to a woman from the German Kelly Clarkson fan club, asking if she was interested in buying the next album -- the whole thing. The woman notified the star's management, negotiated a price with DJ Stolen and eventually got all the songs from him for €250. She also kept a copy of the entire chat.
I suppose it's something of a surprise to see that anyone has found a way to make serious money out of selling music online.

More seriously, if you're ripping off Kelly Clarkson, who would think the best place to start would be her biggest fan?

The use of apparently "embarrassing" photos of Ke$ha taken from her laptop to get her to record "drops" is less amusing, but reads like the actions of someone who doesn't realise the gravity of what he's doing. It doesn't make it right, but given the material is meant to be of a career-destroying degree, the demands Deniz made seem pretty small.

The real question the story raises is while the police concentrate on hobbyists who leave their digital fingerprints over their unseasoned attempts at extortion, what are the more experienced hackers getting away with?

[Thanks to Michael M for the link]