nCircle purges posts after researcher's arrest for explosives
Won't say why
Security and compliance firm nCircle quietly purged several blog posts written by a former researcher who was arrested this week by Canadian authorities in charge of securing the G8 and G20 summits taking place in Ontario.
Byron Sonne, a certified information systems security professional who has been highly visible in research circles for almost a decade, was arrested on Tuesday in Toronto. Officials with Canada's Integrated Security Unit haven't officially fleshed out the charges beyond the contents of this press release (PDF), which lists "Intimidation of Justice System Participant by Threat," "Intimidation of Justice System Participant by Watch and Beset," "Mischief interfere with property," "Attempt mischief," "Possess explosive for unlawful purpose," and "Weapons dangerous."
An ISU spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday, other than to say a bail hearing in the case is scheduled for Saturday.
Friends and colleagues of Sonne say they've never known him to be violent and suspect the charges are in response to recent videos like this one, in which he documented the erection of a security fence in preparation for the G20 event or Tweets such as those here and here, in which he criticized summit officials for training surveillance cameras on protester gathering spots and advised people questioned by police to simply "walk away."
Within 48 hours of the arrest, nCircle removed at least four posts Sonne made to the company's blog in 2005 and 2006. "Have people forgot what it means to be a real hacker?" he asks in this censored post that's still available (for now) in Bing's cache. "To explore and learn about the world. To create and reveal new knowledge. That is where respect should come from." Elsewhere, he spars with Weev, one of the hackers behind the mass compromise of iPad users, who coincidentally was himself arrested last week.
The purges have stuck in the craw of Sonne's supporters, among them Mike Murray, who was Sonne's boss in the mid 2000s when both worked at nCircle.
"They've derived benefit from having his stuff up for five years since he left the company," said Murray, who is now a managing partner with Mad Security. "It seems a little two-faced and disingenuous. You have the presumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty in Canada and the US. They're distancing themselves from him."
A spokeswoman for nCircle declined to comment.
According to this report from The Globe and Mail, Sonne's common-law wife has also been arrested and their home has been extensively searched. It went on to say that police have accused both of collecting ingredients to make powerful explosives commonly associated with terrorist bombings and possessing potato guns with the aim of endangering the public.
A Facebook group here indicates Sonne recently participated in a group formed out of "surveillance issues around the upcoming G20 summit." Murray suspects this may also have played a role in the arrest.
"I think Byron was going around pointing out things very publicly that other people didn't want pointed out," he said "It's an overreaction to arrest someone and his wife and rip their house out for 24 hours for a bunch of Tweets and stuff he bought online. They're treating him like he's Timothy McVeigh." ®
"... possessing potato guns with the aim of endangering the public..."
Hanging's too good for that sort!
> collecting ingredients to make powerful explosives commonly associated with terrorist bombings
Yeah, me too. TATP can be made from common household chemicals so that would probably go for many of us. Anyone with a fireplace in their home could be charged with this.
> possessing potato guns with the aim of endangering the public
Deary me. A *potato* gun. Very nearly a WMD, that is. Saddam had plans for building one, or so they say. Burn him, BUUURN him! Is rule-of-law dead yet...?
BTW: roll != role.
Viva la revolucion!
What a story! Reg readers and commentards, do follow the links for a fuller and deeper appreciation.
Dan, please stay on top of this amazing story as it unfolds. Keep us posted, because inquiring minds will need to know.
Sonne sounds like a good old-fashioned hactivist, who has now seriously tickled the belly of the beast. Unfortunately for him and his s.o., "el hombre" don't like that AT ALL.
I hope the couple's arrest (on somewhat intriguing and vague charges) does not progress beyond a simple "preventive detention" and wrist slapping (BTW what IS the current penalty for being an expert wise-ass?).
But in today's climate...who can say? South of the border, they could both be wearing orange jumpsuits after a little intensive "therapy" in some tax-payer funded building.
Then again, ordering components that could be used to make explosives along with potato guns (and then blogging and tweeting about why and how he did so), was probably just that one step too far...even if he was licensed.
Sadly, the current security "paradigm" that has made this event possible is also helping to bleed Western civilization dry. It is not really improving "security" and may even be helping some real bad guys win some serious points and supporters. The world wiil never be completely safe from dedicated nut-cases, particularly if we keep electing them.
Our governments will continually try and bankrupt our economies to make us feel safer. Part of that process involves making the public feel "unsafe", otherwise why would we have to spend all this money?
It's time to roll back this nonsense. I for one, do not feel particularly safer today, despite our governments' best (and expensive) efforts, au contraire.
In fact today, I suspect that a seriously large number of people are feeling a lot poorer and less safer to boot. Isn't it time for a re-think?
Before the flames descend, note that I do NOT believe civil disobedience or protest should regress into the destruction of private or public property or anything else that threatens human life or safety. Even in what is left of our democratically elected surveillance-societies, there is still a line that is best not crossed.
And yet, I often wonder how long it will be before that line finally shifts too far (in either direction). As such, this man's case needs to be watched closely, by all who care about such things.
Mr. Sonne was definitely tight rope walking on this invisible line, but I am not sure he should be arrested for it. In fact, I would prefer to see him interviewed by more mainstream journalists and maybe run for office. its time to talk about these things in the open.
To be fair, some G-n protests have turned pretty nasty in the past (which explains the Canuck authorities reaction to this guy, no doubt encouraged by Big Brother). Yet this will start happening now more and more, in today's ever safer and more secure (and more restricted) universe. Kind of gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling all over, doesn't it?
For a comparison, look at what happened in Geneva, Switzerland during a previous G-conference. Remember that Geneva is a place where professional/amateur radicals and revolutionaries (and a few fringe nuts) prefer to use democratic referendums to implement their nefarious ideas and proposals (as opposed to "direct action/activism"). The nice thing about this is that the Swiss political system will allow a publc referendum once you get 100,000 signatures. It simply reeks of direct democracy and people power. Their president is elected for one year and kept deliberately weak. Most people couldn't name the current Swiss president if they tried. They also police their population quite effectively and safely.
When the Swiss saw people (many bussed in from out of town) breaking windows and setting cars on fire in one of their many quiet city centers (assisted by local yobs who were probably bored by the constant peace and quiet) they were shocked, to put it mildly. It was definitely not cool. I believe that's because the Swiss have other ways to protest before they reach for bandanas and baseball bats.
So I have some sympathy reserved for clever pranksters and thinkers like Byron because they can bring their government's many shortcomings into a glaring spotlight for all to see. It successfully re-quashes the "security by obscurity" myth with a resounding crunch.
Gentlemen and Ladies, it is now exam time:
Tricky question 1: how many G-20 countries routinely use public referendums as part of their political and democratic process? Brownie points for the closest answer and a year's supply of vinegar soaked hankerchiefs.
Tricky question 2: how much G-20 public spending over the last 10 years has been devoted to improving "security" (public and military adventures included). A box of free hankerchiefs (no tear gas will be needed here) for anything approaching a remotely accurate answer. I suspect it won't be re-assuring. value: x
Tricky question 3: Has global G-20 GDP increased or decreased over the last 10 years and if so by how much ? value: y
Tricky question 4: If x = y or if x > y how much longer can the current world economic system sustain this progression before disappearing into the abyss? Please provide a graph that demonstrates your answer.
Tricky question 5: if x < y, please check you calculator. Also provide a graph that demonstrates your answer.
Dear G-20 countries you now have 60 minutes to fill in your test papers. With all the computer power you have devoted to fighting terrorism, it should be no problem for you to pull up a few trivial economic statistics. Feel free to share your answers amongst fellow students but no fighting or cheating, please. Stats may come from officially published sources only. Remember that this is a group effort.
A second examination where you may use "non-official" sources will follow next week.