Pastebin tries to ditch hacked content; Anonymous is unlikely to leave
Pastebin has been the exhibition point of choice for stolen data; now its owner wants to clean up its act
Every attention-seeker needs a stage from which to perform. Online that usually means Twitter, blogs or, in the case of hackers, the defaced sites of their victims.
The hacktivism of Anonymous, juvenile sabotage of LulzSec and politically motivated attacks of any number of other hacker singles and teams needed a different stage.
They needed somewhere they could post evidence they'd cracked the U.S. Senate, or the CIA, or the Israeli government or Arizona cops, or Symantec or any of the 104 million personal-identity accounts that were violated during 2011.
They needed a site where a person could post some text – sometimes a lot of text – without leaving behind any trace of who did it.
Pastebin.com isn't run for that purpose.
It was supposed to be a neutral, anonymous spot programmers could use to trade code, tips or whatever.
The Acceptable Use policy asks users not to post email addresses, login information, stolen code, passwords, stolen personal information or other evidence of digital wrongdoing.
Those are the kinds of things its most famous user group, Anonymous, posted on it, however.
After seeing the site blocked in Pakistan and Turkey after stolen data from those countries was posted on it, site owner Jeroen Vader decided to clean up the hackery.
He only takes down posts after receiving a complaint about them. He gets about 1,200 per day, according to HelpNet Security.
The process is manual, takes too much of Vader's time and doesn't allow the site to respond quickly enough to complaints about stolen data or illegal posts, Vader told the BBC. So he's hiring more people to help him evaluate and/or delete "sensitive" posts more quickly.
It's not a popular decision. Pastebin has been DDOSed at least once a day for the past three months.
The site makes money by selling ads and gets about 17 million unique visitors per month, compared to 500,000 two years ago, when Vader bought the place, according to TheRegister.
That's a lot of growth in a short time, most of it attributable to the notoriety and outré content posted by Anonymous, which Vader promises to take down more quickly.
Doesn't seem grateful, somehow, does it?
On the other hand, it doesn't seem realistic, either.
It's hard to get a site from 500,000 readers per month to 17 million. It would be even harder to go back again.
It's far more likely that Vader will find, as Kim Dotcomm did at Megaupload, that it's much too profitable to let pirates play on the site as long as you can justify the illegal data as a minor part of the total content available from the site.
Of course, that didn't work out so well for Megaupload, so fear of retribution or prosecution may drive Vader into more rigorous policing of his own site than he might prefer when looking at his traffic reports.
I just don't see Anonymous being as willing as Vader is to have hacktivists give up the site.
Once you find a stage, an audience with which you really click, it's hard to give that up. Even when it's the owner of the stage who's trying to kick you out.