A look at the evidence alleging that Giganews is an FBI operation

As recently reported by Cryptome, a Giganews ex-employee has leaked to them what he claims is evidence that Usenet provider Giganews, with subsidiaries PowerUsenet, Usenet.net, RhinoNewsgroups and VPN company VyprVPN are logging customers downloads and work for the FBI. I downloaded all of the evidence Nick Caputo presented and I researched it to find out how substantive his accusations are. Assume nothing, believe nothing, allow the evidence to speak by itself.

Nick Caputo first claim is that he used to work as a system administrator for Giganews, to prove this he sent Cryptome photos of his employee badge and payslips, both look authentic and a recent post in Giganews blog admits that he is indeed an ex-employee. Based on this, it is out of question that Nick Caputo is a former Giganews system administrator, nobody disputes that.

The second claim Nick Caputo makes is that due to a misunderstanding with GigaNews CEO, Ron Yokubaitis, he removed three groups carrying child pornography from Giganews list and that he was subsequently disciplined by Giganews/Data Foundry administrators for doing that, with subtle references to an FBI investigation in progress, the child porn groups were later on restored by one of the administrators from Data Foundry back ups. There is no hard evidence supporting any of the facts, you have to take Nick Caputo’s word at face value.

FBI agent Scott Kibbey and Charles Riley

FBI agent Scott Kibbey and Charles Riley

The ex-employee, claiming to be upset over what he believed was Giganews facilitating child porn downloads, decided to contact the FBI a few months later. Special Agent Scott Kibbey and FBI agent Charles Riley had a meeting with him in unlisted FBI Austin offices located at 12515 Research Blvd, Building 7, Suite 400, during that meeting Nick Caputo was told that the agents were friends with Giganews CEO and they would give him his old job back under a new identity, Nick Caputo also claims that both FBI agents worked at Giganews data center undercover and as evidence of all this he attachs various text files with email headers of the email exchange he had with them as well as a scanned copy of both FBI agents contact card.

I did a whois on the computer IP that shows in the email headers and the IP is listed as being part of the “FBI Criminal Justice Information Systems”, I also searched in DuckDuckGo for “Charles Riley FBI” and a LinkedIn page comes up listing him as a Detective for the City of Austin working in the Digital Forensics Unit. Based on this, I believe that Chris Caputo had a real meeting with these two FBI agents but what was said in that meeting is another matter that can not be proven. Something that does not make sense is that the FBI would offer Nick Caputo his job back in Giganews under a new identity, surely, his co-workers would know his face even when using a different name.

Another bizarre claim of Nick Caputo, with no supporting evidence, is that the Chinese government has access to VyprVPN Hong Kong server and it was brought down by a Chinese employee the day of Tiananmen Square anniversary. All I can say, is that he gives zero proof of this claim and it is weird.

There is an equally weird Giganews blog post saying that the company doesn’t work for the FBI and they pretend to prove it by saying that Giganews has SSL for Usenet downloads and a VPN. That means nothing, owning the servers they can see what goes on, and Giganews forgets to mention something very important of which there is ample evidence. Giganews is the only Usenet provider that is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation, for those who don’t know, the IWF is a British organisation that works for the police trying to remove child pornography from the Internet and tells Internet Service Providers what pages to block.

I don’t believe it has been proven that Giganews is an FBI honeypot, the evidence given by Nick Caputo shows that he used to work for Giganews and that he had a meeting with FBI agents to discuss something, but beyond that,  it is impossible to know what was spoken or said at the workplace and in the meeting with the FBI agents, and both parts, Giganews and Nick Caputo, have a personal interest in descrediting each other.

I am a Usenet downloader myself and I don’t use Giganews, they are clearly overpriced and after the Snowden leaks I try to reduce my reliance of USA based companies. If anybody cares to know, I am currently using Tweaknews.eu in the Netherlands, and Altopia in the USA, one is offshore, and the other one is too small to be of interest for a global gagging order, and they both have their own hardware, don’t censor groups, and are not resellers.

Read more in Cryptome

  1. 24 September, 2014
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