The United States District Court in Idaho ordered that a developer’s computer be seized and files copied as part of a pending lawsuit for fear that the defendant’s affinity for “hacking things” made it likely that files critical to the case may be destroyed.
The plaintiff also petitioned the court to have the defendant’s website disabled and that all postings with references to two software programs be removed while the Battelle Energy Alliance vs. Southfork Security case continues.
“Pending before the Court is plaintiff Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC’s Ex Parte Application for a Temporary Restraining Order (Dkt. 2). Battelle asks for an order (1) requiring defendants to disable Southfork’s website (http://www.southforksecurity.com) and take down all internet postings related to computer programs known as Visdom and Sophia (which are described further below), and (2) permitting Battelle and its computer forensic expert to ‘image or copy’ defendant Corey Thuen’s ‘computer(s) hard drive(s) and the data thereon to hold in escrow for the purpose of preserving critical evidence,’ the court’s memorandum decision and order stated.
The case centers around a dispute over licensing software designed to protect critical energy infrastructure Thuen helped develop while an employee of Battelle. The company is not allowed to commercially develop the software, and so opened a bidding process for the opportunity, and Thuen’s company Southfork was created in order to take part in the bidding process.
Thuen withdrew from the process and subsequently began offering what Battelle contends is an open-source version of the disputed software, leading the company to bring suit for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and several other instances of damages.
Concerns over data destruction came about because Southfork’s website states “We like hacking things and we don’t want to stop.”
The court justified the seizure of Thuen’s computer by stating “the defendants have identified themselves as hackers, as discussed above. A well-known characteristic of hackers is that they cover their tracks… This makes it likely that defendant Thuen will delete material on the hard drive of his computer that could be relevant to this case.”
“The tipping point for the Court comes from evidence that the defendants – in their own words – are hackers. By labeling themselves this way, they have essentially announced that they have the necessary computer skills and intent to simultaneously release the code publicly and conceal their role in that act. And concealment likely involves the destruction of evidence on the hard drive of Thuen’s computer. For these reasons, the Court finds this is one of the very rare cases that justifies seizure and copying of the hard drive,” the court continued.
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