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Hackers tried to extort $50,000 from Symantec after stealing source code

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 7:45PM EST

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A group of hackers demanded that Symantec pay $50,000 to prevent it from releasing stolen source code for several of the firm’s software titles. Symantec reportedly confirmed that it was cooperating with a sting operation while communicating via email with a group of hackers claiming ties to notorious hacktivist group “Anonymous.” Those ties have not been confirmed. The email conversation was posted to Pastebin on Monday, and a Symantec representative confirmed to CNET that the emails were authentic. Read on for more.

A person identifying him or herself as Yamatough contacted Symantec in January and claimed to be in possession of the company’s proprietary source code for its Norton Antivirus and PCAnywhere software. The hacker provided code samples to prove possession of the code in question, and then demanded a payment of $50,000 to prevent the release of Symantec’s code. Conflicting reports suggest Symantec’s initial actions were not part of a sting, however, and the firm attempted to offer a bribe to the hackers in order to prevent them from releasing the company’s source code.

“In January an individual claiming to be part of the ‘Anonymous’ group attempted to extort a payment from Symantec in exchange for not publicly posting stolen Symantec source code they claimed to have in their possession,” a Symantec spokesperson told CNET in a statement. “Symantec conducted an internal investigation into this incident and also contacted law enforcement given the attempted extortion and apparent theft of intellectual property. The communications with the person(s) attempting to extort the payment from Symantec were part of the law enforcement investigation. Given that the investigation is still ongoing, we are not going to disclose the law enforcement agencies involved and have no additional information to provide.”

Negotiations between Symantec and the hacker reportedly broke down however, culminating with an email on Monday that threatened to release the company’s source code if Symantec didn’t deliver funds within 10 minutes. “Since no code yet being released and our email communication wasnt also released we give you 10 minutes to decide which way you go,” Yamatough wrote. “After that two of your codes fly to the moon PCAnywhere and Norton Antivirus totaling 2350MB in size (rar) 10 minutes if no reply from you we consider it a START this time we’ve made mirrors so it will be hard for you to get rid of it.”

The Symatec employee who had been the point of contact with the hacker made an attempt to delay the code’s release, replying with, “We can’t make a decision in ten minutes. We need more time.” Yamatough was apparently unwilling to afford the company more time, however, as a 1.2GB file titled “Symantec’s pcAnywhere Leaked Source Code” was posted to the Pirate Bay Monday evening. Symantec has not yet confirmed whether or not the code within the file is authentic.


Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.