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Hackers claim Symantec offered $50K in hush money to keep them quiet

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Who do you believe?
Symantec’s popular programs, PCAnywhere and Norton Antivirus, were evidently hacked by a group called the Lords of Dharmaraja, and according to the hackers, Symantec offered to pay them $50,000 to destroy the pilfered code and publish a public statement saying that they never had the code in the first place.

Symantec’s version is that they were extorted into paying the money to stop the hackers from making the source code public and that the whole episode was really a sting operation to catch the hackers.

Symantec was tricked

One of the hackers, going by the name of Yamatough, said the hacking incidents were done to embarrass and humiliate Symantec. He denies that his group tried to extort any money from Symantec and that, quite the opposite, the company made the first move in offering them cash to keep quiet.

Yamatough said to Reuters:

"We tricked them into offering us a bribe so we could humiliate them. You won't believe it but Symantec offered us money to keep quiet."

Free upgrades

Symantec did, however, previously announce to users of PCAnywhere to disable the program because of security issues. It also offered free upgrades to those who used older versions.

Symantec now says that current versions of PCAnywhere are perfectly safe to use.

The sting
Symantec maintains its position that the offer of payment to the hackers was an elaborate scheme to catch them red-handed and that the operation was conducted by an unnamed law enforcement agency.

A fake contact person was fabricated by Symantec to communicate with the hackers. The company tried to stall for time in making the $50K payment but talks ended abruptly when Yamatough had enough of the delays and said:

“...we can not proceed with you on the conditions offered. We give you 10 minutes to decide which way you go. After that two of your codes fly to the moon PCAnywhere and Norton Antivirus totaling 2350MB in size (rar)... This time we've made mirrors so it will be hard for you to get rid of it."

Not a sting

Yamatough announced on Twitter that the source code to Norton Antivirus would be uploaded to the Internet. He also scoffed at Symantec’s story that the $50K payoff scheme was a sting operation.

Via ArsTechnica

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Written by: Frank Ling on Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - 12:31 PM