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Monday, 15 August 2016 10:01

Bots stealing LinkedIn data since December last year Featured

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Bots have been used to steal data from the business networking site LinkedIn since December 2015, the company claims in a case filed in the US District Court, Northern District of California.

The theft has been ongoing since December 2015, according to the suit, which was filed on 8 August in a bid to find out the people behind the attack, according to a published report.

In the court filing, LinkedIn says it has the IP addresses of various attackers and is trying to use the case to make Internet providers give up their identities. In the absence of knowledge of the attackers' identities, the lawsuit cited "Does, 1 through 100" as defendants.

In June, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for US$26.2 billion in cash. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

LinkedIn alleges that some of the attackers set up false accounts and then, using automated programs or so-called bots, scraped data that was available on other public LinkedIn pages. This material was then shared with others. The means by which the other unnamed defendants operated was not specified in the lawsuit.

Business networking.

According to the lawsuit, LinkedIn has 400 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. Of this, about 128 million are in the US.

"To access this information on LinkedIn's site, the Doe Defendants circumvented several technical barriers employed by LinkedIn that prevent mass automated scraping, and have knowingly and intentionally violated various access and use restrictions in LinkedIn's User Agreement, which they agreed to abide by in registering LinkedIn member accounts," the filing said.

It claimed that the perpetrators had violated federal and state laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The company said it had drawn up spreadsheets and other reports tracking the ISPs, networks, and IP addresses used by the defendants, the dates and times of their activity and the number of pages they had accessed.

Also identified were fake member profiles said to have been created by the defendants, all of which were disabled after which additional technical safeguards were put in place to protect against unauthorised access.

The lawsuit said that LinkedIn had also collected information on the whitelisted cloud computing platform that the defendants manipulated to scrape data.

The firm said it expected it would be able to find out the identities of the defendants by serving third-party discovery on various ISPs and networks. "These entities are in possession of information that will help LinkedIn identify the Doe Defendants. LinkedIn intends to file a motion to expedite these discovery requests."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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