When the Drink or Die warez-group was busted in late 2001, a Swedish cracker known as Znip3r was arrested. However, the district court acquitted him even though he had confessed to cracking and uploading software to private leech servers. Yesterday he appeared before the Swedish court of appeal.
Back in January 2005, the district court argued that most of the programs that were cracked, were demo or trial versions. Thus, installing the software was entirely legal. And the cracking, or reverse engineering, was not illegal since he was allowed to install the software.
However, the prosecutor is claiming (in his appeal) that Znip3r was committing an offence by installing the software and testing his cracks and patches.
The district court also meant that Znip3r didn’t distribute the cracked software to the public – only to a restricted circle of about 100 people. The prosecutor obviously disagrees, and suggests that the cracks should be considered tools for committing crime. Hence, creating and providing cracks is a crime.
Since this is the first case of its kind in Sweden, it is very unclear as to how the law should be interpreted. Yesterday’s trial was all about how Swedish law should be interpreted, not whether Znip3r had or hadn’t cracked the software. At times there seemed to be total confusion in the court room – both the prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer hesitated on several occasions when questioned by the judge.
It was pretty obvious that the judge, the prosecutor and the lawyer weren’t into warez and FTPs and drop boxes on a day-to-day basis.
Znip3r says that DoD was never trying to distribute the cracked software that they produced. In fact, they tried to avoid just that, so as not to get into trouble with the police. Instead they got their kick from the actual cracking, and the competition against other cracking groups within the warez-scene.
Now, at the turn of the millennium, DoD didn’t crack the kind of software that you or I would use in our everyday lives. (In 1995, though, they cracked and released Windows 95.) Instead they were into very specialized, technical/engineering/simulation business software, some costing as much as $16,000. Those types of software were much better protected and were much more of a challenge to crack.
I have always been interested in maths and problem-solving, the 27-year-old said in court.
It seems he was pretty good at what he did, too. At the end of year 2000, Znip3r was declared the top cracker of the fourth quarter.
It was actually pretty darn good fun, he commented during the lunch break.
However, when Znip3r was cracking for DoD, US authorities had a paid informant within the group. To identify Znip3r, the informant (known as Bcre8tiv) offered him a laptop. For the delivery, Znip3r sent Bcre8tiv his real name and address. The laptop he was sent was broken, so he sent it back – which gave the informant further verification of his identity.
The Swedish police didn’t arrest him and search his house until two days after the main international raid, so he heard of the operation and had time to destroy his hard drives and throw them in a skip. The data was unrecoverable, but he cooperated fully with the police ever since he was arrested.
Anyway, here’s the weirdest part of my story: As I was reading up on the case before the trial yesterday, I saw that the police had raided a flat in the block of flats that I live in now. So, during the lunch break, I asked Znip3r which floor he lived on.
The second, he said. Cool, I thought –
Same as me. I then asked him if he lived in the flat which was straight ahead from the staircase, and yes, he did. Just to make sure we were talking about the same floor (the Swedish numbering of floors, like the British, is slightly counter-intuitive) I said that, well, I lived on … not the ground floor, but the first floor. He said that’s where he lived too.
So now I know I live in a flat that was raided by police in a major international operation to bust one of the most famous warez-groups of the 90’s.
Better check for any bugging machines left behind…