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Would-Be Akamai Spy Busted By Feds 171

itwbennett writes "Elliot Doxer, an Akamai Technologies staffer, was charged on Wednesday with wire fraud. The case began in June 2006 when Doxer sent an e-mail to the consulate of a foreign country (referred to as 'country X') in which he 'expressed his desire to help that country with whatever information he could obtain in his position,' according to an article on ITworld. 'The foreign consulate that Doxer contacted turned his e-mail over to law enforcement authorities, and a little over a year later, he was contacted by an FBI agent posing as a representative of 'country X.' Over the next 18 months, Doxer left confidential business information such as customer lists and contracts at a designated spot called a dead drop, acts captured via video surveillance.'"
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Would-Be Akamai Spy Busted By Feds

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  • An Akamai employee is using an analog dead drop? Surely he could have set up some sort of digital delivery served up by his employer, no?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by entrex ( 580367 )

      Not as fun as playing spy.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:07AM (#33824080) Homepage

      An Akamai employee is using an analog dead drop? Surely he could have set up some sort of digital delivery served up by his employer, no?

      It made him feel more like a secret agent, so they humored him. His handlers did have to tell him not to wear the mask and cape, though. It was creeping out the locals.

      • by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:16AM (#33824192)

        It made him feel more like a secret agent, so they humored him.

        It doesn't look like espionage was his goal. From the article:

        He also seemed preoccupied with ill will toward his ex-wife, writing at one point that "not enough bad things can happen to her if you know what I mean." And he offered to drop his request for monetary compensation in return for information or pictures of his son.

        It sounds like it was more about retribution. His ex-wife apparently disappeared in "Country X" with their son.

        • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:24AM (#33824338)
          As someone who has a family member who lost their child to international kidnapping I have to say I feel for the guy. There's really nothing worse than having your child ripped from you and being physically separated with little hope of ever seeing them again.
          • I can quite honestly say I would have probably tried something similar, but probably not treason. I know if it was me I would do anything in my capability to get my child back. I wouldn't be quite as stupid about it of course. If its caught so easily its not going to succeed in getting your kid back to begin with.

            Its different if its a court battle over custody or something, but once someone crosses the line into actually kidnapping your child, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Treason definitely isn't

          • Dunno, dude... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moraelin ( 679338 )

            While I have sympathy for your situation, I see nothing so far except unsuported postulates that his situation is the same.

            I don't actually see anywhere the piece of info that his ex-wife actually kidnapped his son or disappeared anywhere. A more common -- and Occam's Razor compliant -- assumption would be that she simply won the custody.

            Also note that this wasn't even the payment he originally asked for. He first just asked for $3000, and there was no mention of his son at all. Only when they tried to hagg

            • by afidel ( 530433 )
              Who said I was cheering? I said I felt for him having experienced a similar/same situation. It doesn't absolve him from guilt and it doesn't mean I at all support his tactics, just that as a human being who has experienced something similar I can feel the pain he must have felt. I also have empathy for other victims of crimes including battered spouses that kill their abuser, that doesn't mean I think they shouldn't face justice for their actions.
              • But that's exactly the question, innit? Is his situation actually all that similar in the first place? Because from everything I can find about it -- and yes, I even spent some time googling, not just TFA -- there is absolutely no mention of any kidnapping being involved or alleged or anything. And again, even his demands and behaviour, don't seem to even remotely resemble any kind of rescue.

  • What kind of moron (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:05AM (#33824046)
    automatically assumes that a foreign country is interested in pedestrian industrial espionage, particularly when there is no technology involved, just business contact and contract info? Oh boy, pays Akamai $200/month to host their images, that was totally worth the expense and risk of a diplomatic incident!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Assmasher ( 456699 )

      I'm sorry but you're extraordinarily naive about big business if you don't think that some countries, like China - oops - I mean Country X, don't use state resources (people/money/intelligence) to assist their economy illegally. The likely reason that 'Country X' turned this moron in is because they have this information in some other fashion and thought that political capital to be gained from burning this guy was worth it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Industrial espionage is great if it provides a benefit commensurate to the cost and risk. Like I said, if there was some secret technology to be gained, or some other private information of significant economic value to be gained, I'd understand it. But I'm not seeing Akamai customer lists (trivial to divine simply by seeing which sites load against Akamai servers) as that valuable. I suppose the contract values might be mildly helpful in negotiating rates with Akamai if Country X was trying to help its own
        • I agree about what he offered, the problem is, dancing with the devil is dangerous. As soon as he'd turned over 'relatively innocent items', they'd immediately be able to pressure him into giving them things they'd really be interested in. Pressure him into doing things he wasn't initially prepared to do, et cetera.

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            Exactly. Drag you in, extort you to go deeper and deeper, and then hang you out to dry.

            Before involving one's self in espionage, it might make sense to read up on the exploits of James Jesus Angleton and the tradecraft.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          Yup, what kind of moron would do industrial espionage for $3000.00??

          My price starts at $3,200,000 deposited into my SwissBank account 438-342-675487-317 Then email me at the URL of the flikr image you embedded your requirements inside of using basic stenography. encrypt the text with a simple Xor using the HTML source code for the google front page for today.

      • by Bill Wong ( 583178 ) < minus language> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:25AM (#33824344) Homepage
        Country X in this case is Israel. Doxer identified himself as jewish when he tried to set this up in the first place. (source [])
      • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:28AM (#33824368)

        China is hardly the only country guilty of this. I've heard more stories from co-workers about issues in France than anywhere else, to the point that it is against company policy to take a company issue laptop there. And I don't mean random guy approaches you in the bar and asks what you do for a living, I mean coming back from dinner to find 3 suits and 2 uniformed cops in your hotel room that all refuse to tell you what they were doing there.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by davFr ( 679391 )
          Really. co-workers meaning several people having the same issue multiple times ? I beg for details.

          When travelling back from Israel, custom agents took my laptop from me for an hour, just to check if the battery could be some kind of explosive. Of course, I could not stay around while they checked. I have missed my flight, and had to fly in a crappy El-Al plane.
          • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

            They must have read

          • The example given was the most extreme of the ones I've heard (from people I know and trust). Other examples are similar to yours, with customs running of with equipment for some length of time, security checkpoint people insisting (against policy and the law) to see the contents of classified Currier bags, a suspicious number of laptops that have gone missing, and a suspicious amount of interest in work expressed by strangers (basically my random stranger in a bar scenario above). The reason that France

            • Airbus is a subsidiary of the EU governments.

              If you have information valuable to Airbus the EU is no place to keep it unencrypted.

              If I worked for Boeing I would send all sorts of misinformation into France in unencrypted volumes.

              I'd have them spending billions building a new SST that will never be viable.

              • by makomk ( 752139 )

                There's a fair amount of evidence that Boeing have been obtaining confidential Airbus documents via US Customs and the US government, but I'm not aware of the reverse happening. Which isn't to say that it isn't, of course.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by santax ( 1541065 )
          Hmmz, to me the US is the worst. Not only do they want shit like fingerprints and my bankinginfo before I travel there... When you get there with a laptop they want to search it, every single time. It's idiotic and they have absolutely no right to do so, but they just say: well officially this isn't american soil so what ya gonna do about it? I am pretty sure that the US is the biggest economical spy in the world, followed by Israel, Russia, China and probably the Brits. I see France under the Brits.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Lumpy ( 12016 )

            Honestly have you not paid attention to what has been happening here?

            Your laptop needs to be empty, sanitized, clean. put all important stuff on a memory device you can smuggle in on your person or in a different way (memory card in a camera get's past our idiot guards)... Treat coming here like entering North Korea.

            Most people have known this for years that entering the United states is identical to entering a fascist dictatorship country.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Maybe they also felt that they couldn't trust him not to betray their relationship and get egg on everyone's faces.

        Also, depending on what country 'X' is, they might have been genuinely affronted by the brazenness in suggesting that they murder his wife. Even people in deeply immoral lines of work often like to think of themselves as being bound by ethics, and will be offended if you treat them as if they have no ethics.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Assmasher ( 456699 )

          Yes, in light of his apparently 'lack of mental balance' they figured they'd have a loose cannon on their hands. As a poster replying to my initial post pointed out, it seems very likely that the country in question is Israel. I figured that the people most likely to benefit from this type of information would be China (and I was apparently wrong.)

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

        I have seen this before first hand:

        1: Would be spy working for company "A" calls up someone at company "B" who competes with "A" saying they have some cool secrets.
        2: Company "B" notifies company "A" about the would be spy.
        3: Would be spy gives the juicy stuff to what he/she thinks is someone who will pay him/her big bucks.
        4: ?????
        5: No big bucks happen; would be spy ends up with shiny new metal bracelets on wrists and a new domicile.

        The problem is this: Even though two companies might be bitter rival

      • by Old97 ( 1341297 )
        You are right about China, but even some western countries have been caught spying on behalf of their corporations. France has been notorious in this regard for years. There have been stories over the years of French penetration of IBM France and the IP and business secrets they were acquiring. I'm sure you can find a few in the Computerworld archives. I'm sure that France and China aren't the only ones either. The U.S. on the other hand is better known for using it's corporations to spy on other nations
        • I think it is important to remember the maxim "Nations do not have friends, they have interests..." ;)

    • Actually, Israel would kill to see those contracts. While Doxer is just finance, he would have said who is working on what projects and which projects are going to say Iran. Then Israel would try to locate somebody that is working on those projects and offer up 100K or even 1 million to be allowed to place a package in the work. Simple as that.
  • I hated playing as that stupid wolf.
  • Israel? (Score:5, Informative)

    by zerro ( 1820876 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:17AM (#33824212) [] Jewish Internet company employee arrested for selling secrets October 7, 2010 (JTA) -- A Jewish employee of a Boston-area Internet company was arrested on suspicion of selling confidential information to a foreign company. Elliot Doxer, 42, who works in the finance department of Akamai Technologies Inc., was charged Wednesday with wire fraud for providing confidential business information to an undercover FBI agent that he believed was a foreign government agent. The information included contract details, employee information and customer lists. The country was identified in the indictment as Country X. "I am a Jewish American who lives in Boston," Doxer reportedly wrote in an e-mail to a foreign country's consulate in Boston. "I know you are always looking for information and I am offering the little I may have." Doxer, who had access to invoices and customer contact information, also said in a later message that his goal was "to help our homeland and our war against our enemies." He informed the agent that his company served the U.S. Department of Defense, Airbus and several Arab companies. Doxer reportedly asked for $3,000 in compensation for his actions. According to the complaint, Doxer provided the agent with a list of Akamai's customers, several contracts and a list of employees and their contact information. Doxer and the agent first made contact in September 2007.
  • by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:26AM (#33824352) []

    "I am a Jewish American who lives in Boston," Doxer reportedly wrote in an e-mail to a foreign country's consulate in Boston. "I know you are always looking for information and I am offering the little I may have."

    Doxer, who had access to invoices and customer contact information, also said in a later message that his goal was "to help our homeland and our war against our enemies."

    He informed the agent that his company served the U.S. Department of Defense, Airbus and several Arab companies. Doxer reportedly asked for $3,000 in compensation for his actions.

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:36AM (#33824466)
    This guy's second mistake (after thinking he was capable of any espionage at all) was to approach a foreign consulate. This isn't the 1940s anymore people. Consulates are not the hotbeds of espionage that they used to be. If he wanted to be an agent for a foreign intelligence organization, he should have tried to contact them directly in a manner not easily intercepted by SIGINT such as an old fashioned letter (or even better, contact them through a sympathetic radical political organization). Don't think that a nation's State Department or Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going to have time or interest in your petty cloak and dagger.

    (The previous is no more than commentary and opinion and should not be construed as encouragement or advice to commit treason/fraud/etc.)
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      You don't contact them initially at all. You just give them some information they can use. Then you contact them with more information, and what you want. HOWEVER, the odds of any country just trusting someone they haven't groomed is pretty weak these days.

      • I guess the problem for this guy had to do with "information they can use." All he could provide was customer information from Akamai. He didn't have technical or research information. Even if he did, Akamai's core technologies are in web and search, fields that a foreign power might not exactly find useful. If he was deployed by a defense contractor, that might have been a different story.
        • by Plekto ( 1018050 )

          If you think logically about what countries might want such technology, he should have waited at least until he was on a business trip over there and done something(from a don't be a total moron perspective - ethics aside, of course). You have to assume that everything that you say or do in whatever country that you are in is being recorded or filed away somewhere "just in case" there's a future problem. You and I have no secrecy or privacy. If the Government wants information on us for anything at all,

      • by rgviza ( 1303161 )
        And how, exactly, do you know this? Spying for Dummies? Are you a spy yourself? /chuckle
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Actually, I think they burned him because they already have or or more moles in Akamai doing what he offered to do, possibly at rather elevated levels of the company. So they don't need him, don't need the risk exposure of having more moles than they need, and didn't want to take the chance that he was counterintelligence.

  • Doesn't something seem wrong with the response of the foreigner who informed on him. Wouldn't the proper response be to say something like, "we value transparent relations with the US and wouldn't want to jeopardize them" instead of turning over the man's emails to the US.

    Think of this in reverse. Let's say the man worked for Baidu, the Chinese Internet search engine and his loyalty was to the US. The man emails a member of the US government saying, if they wanted help he'd be willing to help them out.

    • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @10:53AM (#33824668)
      There's value in making a very public example of folks like this. Consulates don't want to be bothered with Joe Everyman and his get-rich-quick scheme.

      Besides, this could easily be a test of loyalty from a friendly nation. You wouldn't want to damage decades of political negotiations over a penny-ante commercial information leak.
    • Shouldn't the US or anyone else in that situation just say "thanks, but no thanks" instead of starting these cloak and dagger games?

      And that pays your salary how?

  • This story supports the assertion that more spies are busted through snitching rather than sleuthing

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