Auckland, New Zealand - April 2001
Nearly four years ago I was approached by two companies wanting to setup as ISP's in New Zealand,
they needed a main gateway and wanted someone to manage their connection for them, my
suggestion was to setup a server room in the central Auckland area and run all the connections
there, I would provide them with their Internet connections and maintain their system.
The concept would have been one of the first pseudo virtual ISP systems in New Zealand. Another ISP came to me with the intention of using my services. They requested 15 analog lines be provided as dial-up connections and had given us specific dates for installations etc, we leased with Telecom and had arranged for the installations to be done and confirmed the dates with them, they then failed to deliver by the quoted dates and this resulted in the customer pulling out.
By this time the ISDN lines were installed and a second line ISDN was ordered, we also informed our account rep that the analog lines were no longer needed and they were to be disconnected.(I have evidence of this in email format.)
Due to the deal that was worked with the N.Z. telecommunications company Telecom I was able to purchase phone lines at a lower rate than other companies, if memory serves me correctly I could purchase the lines for $35.00NZ per line, the average business rate for a line was $67.00NZ per line, the interesting thing was that I did not have to have the lines installed in my building, as long as they were on the same exchange I would be eligible for the price break.
I started marketing this idea to other companies and offered to provide them cut price phone lines at a rate or $47.00NZ per line per month, that is a pretty good margin for not doing anything and a great saving to the customer.
When it came time for billing we noticed that Telecom had not deactivated the 15 analog lines and that the 2 ISDN lines were not being charged at the same rate, this resulted in a HUGE charge made up of mostly an over billed amount, this went on for 9 months and still there were discrepancies. I was told by one Telecom rep that I should pay up or they would put me out of business.
My original account rep had since left the company with personal problems and according to another rep had left my account in an appalling mess, this is stated in the depositions later in the story.
Telecom came to me and even after acknowledging that they had made a mistake and decided that I was to pay the outstanding amount even though it was still in dispute. I was given very little time in which to do so and was warned that if I failed to adhere to their request they would shut down all my phone lines including the Internet services and any other line associated to me, as this amount was not actually owed and was made up mostly of the over billed amounts I told them I was not prepared to do this and that by disconnecting my lines they would be forcing me out of business (following up on their previous threat).
Telecom contacted a number of my customers and told them that I was a bad payer and that they were going to pull the plug on me, the customers were advised to lease with Telecom and arrange alternative connections. The customers consulted with me and I informed them that there was little I could do to prevent this, I assisted them with sorting out their new connections and moving to the new premises.
So, to say the least I was not impressed with Telecom's approach and my business dealings with them. Another customer that had requested my phone services had all his phone lines cut off by Telecom. Basically we had put a request in to have his phone lines transferred over to my account so he would benefit from the cheaper rate, Telecom failed to meet the dates again, then without warning changed the account over, they then looked at the account and decided to disconnect all the lines leaving this customer without phone services.
When this customer contacted Telecom they told him that I was a bad payer and that because they could not get in touch with me I had done a runner on them owing them a considerable amount of money, this person contacted me immediately. . . funny how he was able to contact me and Telecom was not.
After the smoke cleared and MY customers were setup elsewhere I decided to close down the business, well rather had no choice but to walk away from it, I owned all the equipment so it was not really a big deal, however I was quite disappointed as I knew the business still had potential.
I started to do some contracting to the ISP's mentioned earlier, I was glad that the trust between them and myself had not been broken, and was happy to at least have some work to keep my mind off the earlier events.
Over the next year I was made aware of a Trojan that posed a pretty big security issue, I started looking into the concepts surrounding them and with a couple of other people formed the IRC help channel called #Backorifice, I have written confirmation from others that I was one of the original founding members of this help system and that our aim was to assist infected people with the detection and removal of Trojans etc. . .
During the course of the next year I had been trying to formulate a successful Anti Competitive case against Telecom for putting me out of business, it was apparent that to do things I needed a large sum of money or to find a lawyer that would be able to take the case on under legal aid. This proved almost impossible, the evidence I had was pretty strong and there were even letters of apology and some offers being made by Telecom that showed they were concerned about what was going on.
With my association with #Backorifice it was brought to my attention that more Telecom customers were infected by the Trojan than any other ISP in New Zealand. In fact it was becoming apparent that Telecom customers seemed to be more susceptible than any one else world wide! I decided at this point to go public with this information.
Things were blown out of proportion and I was labeled a hacker by the media. I don't mind being called a "hacker". To me as well as other computer geeks this is a word used to describe a multi talented individual that can turn their hands toward almost anything computer related. I did not label myself a hacker.
The media seemed to take my statements, chop them up and use all the juicy bits, at one stage I was asked "Why are you doing this?", My reply was simple. . For all the times I heard that Telecom had ripped off the little man". A pretty profound statement on its own, but when you put it in context with what was actually going on, and with my background it could paint a pretty dubious picture. . .
Previously I had heard of several people that had been exploited by the Trojan and someone had used their usernames and passwords to gain access into Internet. Telecom at this stage were charging for hourly surfing the Internet and one person in particular had been hit with a $700.00nz Telecom bill! He contacted Telecom and they said that he was responsible for his account and that if he did not pay up they would cut off his phone line. . . Now put that in context with my earlier statement.
Its no secret that I have no love for the corporate giant, and im sure they are not to impressed with me. Earlier when I first went public with these issues there were quotes saying "We don't have any security issues", they then asked for proof and I provided it to them, later they agreed there was an issue and setup a web site for their clients to use and check themselves. (Finally some action and acknowledgment).
Meantime the Telecom legals appeared to be weaving a twisted web, apparently there were memos being sent around the place outlining me to the staff. There were meetings and investigations being formulated and in my opinion there has even been the fabrication of some of evidence.
The media informed me that Telecom had laid a complaint with the police. I was interested as to what the complaint was laid for but it really came as no surprise as the media had pretty much made me out to be some super-hacker I tried to contact the police and after numerous calls found who was handling the case, it turned out that the officer >was based in my local area. I contacted him that day, he informed me that he had not managed to get to the file as it had only just appeared on his desk. I conveyed my concern to him about the effect on my family and suggested that when he was ready he should call me and I would bring myself and whatever he needed up to the station for him.
Around 3 weeks later my wife answered the door, it was the police, there were around 6 police officers and 2 Telecom employees. They searched my house and both my wife and I were detained, it was particularly awkward as my wife had recently had a baby. I was detained outside the house by John Love. He informed me that the telecom people were there. I asked what they were searching and he stated that they were searching my bedroom. . . I was pretty concerned with this statement and it seemed that Mr. Love was trying to get at me for some reason. It worked. I recommended that he remove me from the premisses and place me under arrest as I was feeling pretty violated at this stage, he took me down to the Howick police station where I was subjected to a 2 hour video interview. The interesting factor is that the time on the video was not correct, it was 1 hour out. After the interview Mr. Love took me up to one of the cells, at this stage I was feeling the effects of being grilled and the thoughts of telecom going through my personal belongings, I was starting to experience what I now know as trauma, later I was diagnosed by a specialist as being highly traumatized by the incidents.
Earlier I revealed to John Love that I had a pocket knife in my possession (this was a little Swiss Army knife given to me by my wife) in the cell I became despondent and the effects of the traumatic experience were beginning to show through. I was seriously contemplating suicide and to this day I do not know why I felt this way but it was certainly a very scary feeling. Mr. Love ordered that the officers take my belt and boots off me in case I tried to hang myself. . .
I was taken to the Otahuhu cells and processed, there they found the knife and took it off me. I was processed and let go, miles away from home and with no money I was dumped outside the cells with no way to get home, my wife can not drive so I was pretty much stuck.
The police had confiscated all my tools of trade, they had raided through my workshop and it was well over a year before I was able to face the mess they had made in there, they had broken open boxes and strewn stuff over the floor. It looked lie something you see in the movies.
Depositions were pretty basic, there were some interesting things that came up, things like the person that took the computer was not a member of the police department in N.Z., he had not even been sworn in, he was classified as a computer forensic person and was put in charge of the computer gear, it turns out that he has no formal computer training. . . the only training he has had is as a fingerprint specialist!
Then we got to the testimony of several telecom people. Two of them denied the existence of certain documents and said there was no such document. Then later the document was uncovered. One telecom employee who was my old account rep accused me of attempting to engage into personal relations with her. What actually happened was she had just lost he fiancé and had a miscarriage, I invited her to the movies out of sympathy along with my wife and a couple of other people. What does THIS have to do with the alleged hacking????
In depositions there were some things uncovered about the search that were a little concerning, apparently Telecom had been given access to the computer and data before it was secured. Also it was found that quite a number of the Telecom people had destroyed their diary notes and other information pertaining to the investigation. This was strangely thought not to have been important.
Later during depositions it was found that the JP's hearing them owned shares in Telecom. A clear conflict of interest. They asked me to make the decision weather they were to stand down or not, I said that I DID feel uncomfortable with them hearing the case knowing that, and that I would prefer if they stood down. It was sad because I did feel they had a lot to contribute to the case and had been responsible for uncovering the supposedly "non existent" document. We finished depositions shortly after that, when we were given a trial date.
Prior to trial we have a pre-trial hearing. I was alarmed to find out that the NEW judge we were given actually requested the case be given to him. Later I found out that he lectures at Auckland University on IT Law. My concern is that he made enough of a noise to get the case and that I was informed of this. I have my own assumptions as to the possible agenda of people taking on this case and my suspicions were confirmed when we applied for certain charges to be dismissed.
During the hearing to ascertain if a case should be heard or should certain charges be dropped it became apparent to me that the judge was not even entertaining the thought that I may have been innocent, he kept stating that "When this case gets to trial. . .". Now, our objective there was to find out IF there was a case. . . also it seemed that he was not listening to what my council had to say on any of the issues.
Later in that meeting the Crown requested that they be allowed to do a demonstration to the jury at trial, the judge requested to see the demonstration and this was the first time I got to see my computer since it was confiscated over two years ago. The buttons on the front had been broken off, and there was a sizable dent in the case. The Crown stated that this was a clone of my computer and in fact not my computer. But I know my hardware and the giveaway was the words WATER written in black felt tip on the front panel.
When the supposed "CLONE" computer was started we were told that it would function exactly like mine as all the files were in fact "identical". We waited with baited breath as it sprung to life, Windows 98 finally started. . . Now here is the interesting thing. The background was not one that I use.. I voiced my concern about this and was told that because they did not have my Windows login or password they were using the default settings. . . This interested me because I do not use a login or password.
Another issue was the screen resolution, it was set at 640X480, when this system was confiscated it was running at 1024X768, again the Crowns "expert" stated that this was due to them not knowing the username or password.
Another issue came about. In depositions the forensic person put in charge of the computers could not remember if the computer was on or off. I know it was ON as I was recovering a system for a client, I had two computers linked together and the recovered files were being sent to the one called "water". Before they turned the systems off I tried to tell him that they needed to be shutdown properly or data would be lost, he ignored my warning and just pulled the plug on the computers, one was an NT4 system the other was the "water" Win98 system. . . It was no surprise that when the NT system was returned to my clients quite a bit of the data was not there.
To make the duplicate of the hard drives the police use an application called 'Encase'. I have since found out that Telecom is the New Zealand agent for Encase and provided the police with their training on how to use it. In the manual it states that IF the computer is being used to transfer data it should not be turned off as this will corrupt data.
I have always maintained that if I have broken any laws I would serve whatever sentence is dished out to me, but quite simply put, the legal fraternity and the government are using this as a test case, when was the law that is supposed to be written in a concise format allowed to be stretched to include things that it was never intended for?
Not to mention where is the requirements or prerequisite of having to have intentionally committed certain crimes before you are convicted?? Further more how can it be allowed that these learned people use this type of thing and at the expense of the taxpayer to further their careers.
Notes of interest:
I have been on bail for over 2 years. I am classed as unemployable due to the impending case and have a family to support. I am lucky in the respect that I do qualify for legal assistance (legal aid).
Now if the crime actually has taken place there has to be a dollar amount attached to it and there are certain other pre requisites. Judging from the amount of time that is being spent to stitch me up and the effort on Telecom's behalf, even though they now claim that they have no part in the case. and working out how many police have been involved and judges, JP's lawyers etc.. Im guessing that the costs so far are going to be totaling at least $200'000.00 + If the charges are in fact correct it was noted in depositions that to total amount was ...... $0.04
Yes that is four cents!
Now I do agree that it makes no difference weather its 5 cents or 5 million dollars, a crime is a crime but this one is bordering on the ridiculous and is pretty shonkey, all its doing is screwing up the life of myself and my family.
And for a little on my background. . .
I will be interested to see what become of me at trial, we have applied for a trial by jury as I think this is the only way I can be sure that there will at least be some fairness.
Left: Press photo of Kiwi doing volunteer work at Howick Historical Village, NZ.
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