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Uber in hot seat with California regulators over drunk drivers

One-fourth—147,000 drivers—of Uber's US workforce operates in California.

8,000 aspiring Uber and Lyft drivers fail state background check

Uber: "Thousands of people have lost access to economic opportunities."

Bad news: Exim hole was going to be patched on Xmas...

Code release for info-leak bug brought forward to this week An information-leaking security hole in widely used email agent Exim – scheduled for repair on Christmas Day – may now be publicly patched earlier, possibly as soon as Friday. System administrators were stunned by the suggestion that a patch for the vulnerability would be released on December 25 when pretty much everyone working in IT will have the day off. An Exim maintainer, Heiko Schlittermann, admitted the timing of the release wasn’t ideal and suggested that holding up the release until after the Christmas festivities would be worse. “We're very sorry for the unfortunate timing,” said Schlittermann. “We got the vulnerability report on Dec 15th, and requested the CVE on 16th. On 18th the patch was ready and passed our tests. We added 7 days to give the distros a chance to prepare their packages and this made up the 25th. “And yes, we know, it is holiday in many countries.

The decision wasn't an easy one.

Delaying some days more would probably hit New Year celebration." In the end, Exim's developers spoke to software distribution makers about hurrying along the bugfix release, and it was decided to bring the update forward to Friday, December 23. Christmas is saved and sysadmins not providing on-call coverage on December 25 and 26 can stick to their plans, whether that's spending time with family, or getting drunk with friends, or sitting at home alone reinstalling Kubernetes, or perhaps all three. The seriousness of the bug that’s going to be fixed remains unclear, although Schlittermann did suggest that the “impact of the update should be very minimal.” The revised software will go from 4.87 to 4.87.1, implying a minor step update. “From what's been said so far, I've no idea how bad the underlying bug might be,” said El Reg reader Ben T, who tipped us off. “It might simply be that you can get disclosure of addresses that have been passed through (which still isn't great), or might be something worse like being able to get the private key used for TLS.” There's only a placeholder on Exim’s bug tracker for the flaw, designated CVE-2016-9963. ® Sponsored: Flash enters the mainstream.
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Lawyer sues 20-year-old student who gave a bad Yelp review, loses...

EnlargeMambembe Arts & Crafts on Flickr reader comments 44 Share this story When 20-year-old Lan Cai was in a car crash this summer, it was a bad situation. Driving home at 1:30am from a waitressing shift, Cai was plowed into by a drunk driver and broke two bones in her lower back. Unsure about how to navigate her car insurance and prove damages, she reached out for legal help. The help she got, Cai said, was less than satisfactory. Lawyers from the Tuan A. Khuu law firm ignored her contacts, and at one point they came into her bedroom while Cai was sleeping in her underwear. "Seriously, it's super unprofessional!" she wrote on Facebook. (The firm maintains it was invited in by Cai's mother.) She also took to Yelp to warn others about her bad experience. The posts led to a threatening e-mail from Tuan Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen. "If you do not remove the post from Facebook and any other social media sites, my office will have no choice but to file suit," he told her, according to a report in the Houston Press on the saga. Enlarge / Lan Cai, social media user and dissatisfied legal customer. Lan Cai Nguyen and his associates went ahead and filed that lawsuit, demanding the young woman pay up between $100,000 and $200,000—more than 100 times what she had in her bank account. "I feel like they're trying to pull every single penny out of me just because I didn't want to be their client," Cai told the Houston Press.

Cai was working six days a week to pay her way through nursing school at Houston Community College. Nguyen said he didn't feel bad at all about suing Cai, adding: "I feel sorry for her, because again, I gave her plenty of opportunities to retract and delete her post and she refused.
She was proud: 'I've got it on Facebook.
I've got it on Yelp,' with no remorse." SLAPP-down Cai didn't remove her review, though. Instead she fought back against the Khuu firm, which had only represented her for a few days.
She found a new attorney, Michael Fleming, who took her case pro bono. Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's social media complaints were true.
Second, she couldn't do much to damage the reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Like many states, Texas has a law allowing for SLAPP suits to be thrown out at early stages of litigation. Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering [PDF] the Khuu firm to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys' fees. "We are very happy with the judge’s correct ruling in this case," Fleming told Ars via e-mail. "Texas law specifically protects folks who are exercising their free speech rights and the statute was appropriately applied in this situation. People should be free to express their opinions without the threat of a lawsuit." The Khuu firm hasn't commented about the case. In the end, Cai's saga will be one more warning sign to anyone seeking to limit US consumers' right to kvetch, whether online or off.

Y2K 2.0: Is the US government set to “give away the...

Christiaan Colenreader comments 254 Share this story UPDATE: 5:53pm EDT: A Texas federal judge Friday denied (PDF) a request by Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas to block the US from ceding the Internet's root zone oversight duties to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Unless a higher court intervenes, the changeover will begin tonight at midnight EDT. Original story: Remember the projected Y2K bug disaster? The world's computers would supposedly go haywire as the clock ticked to January 1, 2000, thus destroying the world and ensuing widespread panic. Didn't happen. Fast forward to today, however, and another doomsday scenario is afoot (albeit with much less fanfare). If many politicians are to be believed, an Internet disaster is set to commence this Saturday.

That's when a tiny branch of the US Commerce Department officially hands over its oversight of the Internet's "address book" or root zone—the highest level of the domain naming system (DNS) structure—to a nonprofit, a Los Angeles-based body called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Calling it an "Internet giveaway," many Republican lawmakers tried to block the changeover, a transition that is strongly supported by the President Barack Obama administration and by Internet giants like Facebook and Google. "Today our country faces a threat to the Internet as we know it...
If Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away the Internet to an international body akin to the United Nations," said lawmaker Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in a recent speech on the Senate floor. "I rise today to discuss the significant, irreparable damage this proposed Internet giveaway could wreak not only on our nation but on free speech across the world." The campaign of Donald Trump, the GOP presidential candidate, offered similar words: "The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful.

Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost." But ICANN, the Commerce Department, and plenty of others, have scoffed at the assertion made by Cruz, Trump, and countless others. "The US government has never, and has never had the ability to, set the direction of the (ICANN) community’s policy development work based on First Amendment ideas," ICANN said in a statement. "Yet that is exactly what Senator Cruz is suggesting.

The US government has no decreased role. Other governments have no increased role.

There is simply no change to governmental involvement in policy development work in ICANN." Cruz has a scary looking website with a countdown clock leading to October 1. With the changeover imminent, US lawmakers have been haggling over the issue all week.
Some, like Cruz, have even attempted to slip language barring the transition into legislation for continuing to fund the US government.

But late Wednesday, that attempt failed.

Conveniently, the government's fiscal year ends September 30, the same day the Commerce Department's oversight of the global DNS is terminated. One other hurdle remains.

A last-minute federal lawsuit (PDF) brought by Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The attorneys general for those states are seeking a court order from a federal judge to block the move.

A hearing has been set for Friday afternoon. "Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the Internet is lunacy," Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said. Overall opposition to the transition appears to be largely political. Many GOP lawmakers (and the Trump campaign) are seemingly arguing that without US oversight, foreign governments or hacking groups from the Internet's dark corners might take over, control the Internet, and censor it dramatically. What's more, these critics suggest that without US oversight, the Internet's infrastructure might crumble entirely.

The World Wide Web would be left in a state of anarchy. That simply isn't true.

Ask other US officials, tech companies, or even Internet architects who helped build the current system, and they'll say the US government's oversight role of the Internet is too small for such doomsday scenarios to occur.
In fact, these proponents of the transition even say that leaving the root zone under US control could cause more harm than good in the long run. Rhetoric aside, US retains vast Internet control Regardless of who's right or wrong in the ICANN changeover debate, one thing nobody can deny is that the United States will continue exercising a powerful hold over a great swath of the Internet—even under the transition.

That's because the companies that oversee the world's most popular top-level domains (.com, .org, and .net) are based in the United States.

These organizations must follow US law and abide by US court orders, and they have to remove websites from the global Internet when ordered to do so. To date, these court orders are how the US government has seized thousands of websites it has declared to be breaking laws about intellectual property, drugs, gambling, and you name it. Kim Dotcom's Megaupload file-sharing site fell because of this in 2012.

The Bodog online sports wagering site was shuttered by the US that same year even though that .com domain was purchased with a Canadian register. What's more, even when a domain is registered under a handle that is outside of the United States' official jurisdiction, the US government has international cooperation agreements with many countries that require foreign registries to abide by US directives.

The most high-profile case of this kind was this summer's shuttering of one of the world's most notorious file-sharing sites—KAT.cr, or the KickassTorrents website. While the site had been playing a game of Internet domain Whac-a-mole to retain a leg up on global intellectual property authorities, it was registered with the .cr domain by the Costa Rican register called NIC when it was shuttered at the request of the US.

The site's alleged operator was arrested in July in Poland and charged by US authorities with varying criminal copyright infringement counts. Enlarge The US often leaves a landing page on shuttered sites notifying Web surfers that sites were "seized pursuant to an order issued by a US District Court." Whether you call it censorship or just following the law, countries across the globe have similar domain-seizing powers that won't be disturbed by the ICANN changeover. The fact that .com, .net, and .org sites are run by US-based companies isn't trivial, either.
Verisign, of Virginia, maintains the global DNS Internet root zone system at the center of the ICANN transition debate, and the company has an indefinite contractual right from ICANN to manage the globe's .com and .net domains.

About 127 million of the world's 334 million top-level domain name registrations worldwide are .com, according to Verisign.

The .net domain comes in fifth place worldwide, and .org is sixth place.

The .org domain is operated by the Public Interest Registry, also of Virginia. Enlarge So what is this ICANN transition about? The most simple answer is that a branch of the US Commerce Department will no longer have technical oversight of a contract (PDF) with ICANN and Verisign over the maintenance of the Internet's DNS. Just like its endless deal to manage .com and .net, ICANN has already ceded Verisign the indefinite contractual rights (PDF) to manage the global Internet's DNS root zone.
Verisign can only lose the rights to renew these contracts if it doesn't perform. At its most basic level, the DNS allows Internet surfers to input "arstechnica.com" into a Web browser to render the Ars news site.

Absent such a coordinated, worldwide naming system, Internet surfers would have to type in Ars' real IP address: (50.31.151.33).
Verisign said its DNS average daily query load was approximately 130 billion queries for the second quarter of 2016, up 17 percent year over year. (Verisign declined to comment for this story.) ICANN was created in 1998 to take over the job of essentially a single person, Jon Postel, who is now deceased and was often referred to as the "God of the Internet." He had run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

That agency (PDF) was consumed by the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a branch of the US Commerce Department.

The NTIA says it only has a "procedural role" in approving zone changes, and the group says it has been planning to remove itself from this role for nearly two decades in order to cede that responsibility to ICANN, which has an organizational chart that would put most private industry to shame. Essentially, this oversight is all that is left of the US government's control of the DNS. Under the transition, the feds will no longer have that role when October begins. Here's what the NTIA told Ars in a recent e-mail: The IANA transition is the final step in a nearly 20-year process to privatize the Internet domain name system.

Two years ago, NTIA announced it would transition our stewardship role related to the Internet domain name system to the Internet multistakeholder community, which includes businesses, technical experts, academics, civil society groups, and other stakeholders.

This move will help ensure that the stakeholders who own and operate, transact business, and exchange information over the myriad of networks that comprise the Internet will continue to make decisions about the technical underpinnings of the Internet just as they do today.

The transition will help preserve and strengthen this multistakeholder approach that has helped make the Internet an engine for economic growth, innovation, and free expression. Government-speak aside, here's what's really happening: when there is a root zone change request from a domain registry, for example, this needs to be approved by the Commerce Department's NTIA "before Verisign can act on it," Akram Atallah, ICANN's president of the global domains division, told Ars in a recent interview. "In reality, the only thing that really changes is that NTIA will no longer approve these changes. We will send them to Verisign, and Verisign will have to update the root zone," he said. According to Atallah, the system works like this: suppose the operator of the .ru domain in Russia, or Egypt's .eg, wants to add an IP address to a new server or wants to change an IP address because a server went down. He said the operators of those domains would send ICANN a request "to add a root zone file change," which is essentially a change in the global Internet address book.

This same thing needs to happen when new generic, top-level domains are rolled out, such as .store or .book and dozens of others. "We send this to Verisign to put in the root zone file. NTIA has to approve this action before Verisign can update the root zone file," Atallah said, explaining how the system works under the Commerce Department's oversight. For its part, NTIA explains its oversight role as this: ICANN comes to NTIA with a root zone change request. NTIA verifies that ICANN followed established protocol for that change, and then NTIA authorizes the root zone change. NTIA's briefing paper (PDF) about the DNS oversight role it is ceding is public and explains things in more granular detail. In all, the NTIA signed off on 1,513 root zone changes last year.

This year, there have been 1,051 so far. "The US government was really never very hands on in terms of its oversight," said Jeremy Malcolm, a policy analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Someone had to be there to make sure that the right processes were being followed so the organization could run.
Its role was not of how it runs, but of ensuring it runs true to its founding objectives and that it remains accountable and transparent." Atallah believes ICANN is now ready to take over that role. "We have tested and demonstrated that we can do this," he said. And Atallah thinks it makes good business sense for Verisign to enjoy an indefinite contract, which includes a maximum $7.85 for each .com registration. Under a competitive landscape, he said, companies may not want to go the extra mile, "because they have no assurances if they invest heavily in the business they will be able to reap the benefits." Atallah said both Verisign and the NTIA have to follow the contractual rules, meaning that neither the NTIA nor Verisign has the power to act on its own—preventing things like unilaterally meddling with the Internet's DNS zoning system to comport with their own wills.

For that matter, ICANN must follow its own rules, too, and it cannot cede to pressure from any single government.

For example, the US government tried to exert its power over ICANN to block it from implementing the .xxx domain, but ICANN approved it anyway in 2011. "Sore point" for others ICANN—which is composed of a multitude of Internet stakeholders, international governments, and technologists—has issued its own report on the transition: The proposal eliminates NTIA’s verification and authorization role for root zone changes, and IANA functions performance oversight is replaced with direct customer stewardship via contracts, service-level expectations, community-led reviews, and increased transparency.

The accountability provisions maintain the advisory role of governments within ICANN, and through bylaw changes, ensure that a government or a group of governments cannot capture or exercise undue influence over the DNS. In short, many people familiar with the transition describe it as a "symbolic" changeover.

They say it will relieve, whether real or perceived, thoughts from the global community that the United States maintains the Web.
In 2011, for example, Russia's Vladimir Putin suggested ICANN could be taken over by the International Telecommunications Union, a branch of the United Nations. "If we are going to talk about the democratization of international relations, I think a critical sphere is information exchange and global control over such exchange," Putin said at the time. Atallah acknowledged that the Commerce Department's involvement "is a sore point for a lot of other governments." That's a mindset Vint Cerf, Google's Internet evangelist and former ICANN chairman, also holds. "It's time to show that the Internet doesn't require government oversight," Cerf told Bloomberg. "Other governments look at that and ask why should the US government have this special position.
It isn't necessary any more." The changeover also has the backing of some of the world's leading, US-based tech companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

They said it was "imperative" that Congress doesn't block the move. "A global, interoperable and stable Internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly twenty year transition to the multi stakeholder model that will best serve US interests," a letter from the companies to leaders of Congress said.

Even the conservative US Chamber of Commerce supports the transition. But others, like Theresa Payton, the former White House chief information officer and now the CEO of security company Fortalice Solutions, paint a doomsday scenario.
If the Commerce Department cedes control, she said, "the United States cannot be assured that if any website is hacked, the responsible party will be held accountable." We cannot be sure if a website is valid. We cannot be sure if one country is being favored over another.

These are all the things ICANN is responsible for and has worked perfectly since the Internet was created. Why change it now and so close to the election? Enlarge Bill Hinton, via Getty Images The evil empire Will ICANN become the evil empire come Saturday because a tiny wing of the US Commerce Department won't be there to rubberstamp root zone changes? Will ICANN suddenly become so drunk with power that a man behind an ICANN secret curtain will flip a switch and ruin the global Internet as we know it? Remember, the Y2K bug was going to cause nuclear annihilation as the year 2000 commenced—or, at a minimum, there would be no electricity, heat, or running water. None of that turned out to be true despite major rhetoric. If your browser is able to point to this story Saturday, none of the ICANN transition fears immediately came true, either.

From file-sharing to prison: A Megaupload programmer tells his story

Andrus Nõmm is the only Megaupload criminal copyright defendant to have gone to prison.Toivo Tänavsuu Soon after the domain was registered in Hong Kong, the now-defunct Megaupload.com grew into one of the world's most popular file-sharing sites.

At its peak, the site engaged nearly 50 million users a day and took up around four percent of the world's Internet traffic. Users uploaded nearly 12 billion files overall. But the infamy of the site's rise is only matched by the infamy of its fall.
In January 2012, US authorities closed down Megaupload.com and the network related to it.

The feds arrested seven people and froze $50 million in assets. The FBI claims that the site not only failed to take down illegal material, Megaupload also helped to spread it. Perhaps it was simply a case of brazen arrogance. When the authorities finally raided founder Kim Dotcom's large villa in New Zealand, they found a number of luxury cars (Lamborghini, Maserati, Rolls Royce) with the license plates "God," "Mafia," "Hacker," "Evil," and "Police." In total, seven men associated with the site were arrested and indicted on 13 charges (including copyright infringement and money laundering).

Dotcom remains notably free and has been continually fighting in New Zealand against his extradition to the USA. Others were not as lucky. Take for instance self-taught programmer Andrus Nõmm.

The now 37-year-old grew up in a small Estonian town called Jõhvi. When he built up the Mega advertising platform Megaclick and the video hosting service Megavideo, Nõmm earned as much as $10,000 a month—more than he could've ever imagined as a child. But when US authorities came after the entire Megaupload operation, suddenly he found himself in the middle of the world's most sensational criminal copyright infringement scandal. The legal saga dragged on for three years.
In 2012, Nõmm was first arrested by authorities in the Netherlands and placed under house arrest. Like Dotcom, Nõmm next spent a significant amount of time fighting extradition.

But eventually in 2015, he voluntarily traveled to the US and was arrested in Virginia. Nõmm pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement and was sentenced to a year and a day in a US federal prison.

The US Attorney General's office called the conviction, "a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in US history.” In court documents, Nõmm acknowledged the financial harm to copyright holders "exceeded $400 million." While in prison, Nõmm's teenage son and Turkish wife lived through all of this drama back in their home in Izmir, Turkey. Today, Nõmm is back with them. He' a free man looking to set his life back on track.

And recently, he agreed to share his side of the story—from Megaupload glory through prison time—with Estonian journalist Toivo Tanävsuu. The following Q&A is made of selected excerpts from Tanävsuu's interview, which was originally published in the Estonian weekly Eesti Ekspress this past April.
It has been translated into English and lighted edited for clarity.
It's reprinted here with permission from Tanävsuu. Tanävsuu: Describe your life in the Netherlands up to February 2015. Nõmm: I lived on Katendrecht Peninsula in Rotterdam.

At first I had to wear a GPS device and stay within 500 meters of my home.

The supermarket was 550 meters away.
I had to walk to the edge of this area and wait there until someone bought my goods and brought them to me.

After a while, they relaxed the restrictions and the area in which I was allowed to move increased until finally the GPS device was removed altogether.
I was allowed to move around everywhere in the Netherlands, except anywhere within 50 kilometers of the border. When my son was visiting and we wanted to go to an amusement park in a town near the border, I had to get a special permit. I wasn’t allowed to go to the airport either.
Since most trains run through Schiphol, I had to drive the long way around to get from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. Why did you initially fight against your extradition? First of all, I couldn’t understand why I was being hunted down.

The Dutch court papers didn’t include at least half of the accusations which had been in the media.

For example, we do not have a single section in the law in Europe about racketeering, which in the USA automatically leads to a 25-year sentence.
Secondly, I did not know what was going to happen to me if I went to the USA.

The maximum possible penalty for all 13 counts would have been 55 years in prison. Were you able to work? The Netherlands wanted me to work.
I didn’t have any money because my bank accounts in Turkey and Hong Kong had been seized and the US government confiscated about $40,000 from them.

The FBI put me on the black list, which meant that I couldn’t transfer my earnings to a bank.
I had to let them transfer my salary to a friend's account. The Americans wanted to use you against Kim Dotcom. What were the FBI’s proposals? They tried to get in contact with me, but when my lawyer asked why, they didn’t reply. I had three lawyers in total.

The first, appointed by the state, didn’t even notify me that the FBI were trying to get in contact.

The second was famous but turned out to be a complete fake—taking money from clients, but not doing much at all and now facing trial. My last lawyer came through Megaupload and was really good.

But Kim never paid the man a single cent.

All Kim ever cared about was how to promote himself on Twitter. He has never given me any real help. In February 2015, you voluntarily decided to fly to the US. Why? The US prosecutors kept insisting that I should talk to them.

Finally, we met with a couple of FBI representatives at my lawyer's office in Amsterdam.

The Americans confirmed that they had strong evidence against me, and that I didn’t stand a chance.

They claimed that I had either uploaded or downloaded some sort of illegal movie in Megaupload.
Since I myself programmed the video converter system for the site, I downloaded and uploaded files constantly without watching them. They wanted me to confess to knowing that Megaupload was earning big money from illegal movies.

This I read only later on the Internet.
I didn’t deal with financial issues in the company. What options did you have? I had the chance to fight for another 10 years and .00001 percent probability of winning in court, to live week-to-week worried about how to support my family.

They would’ve extradited me sooner or later and I would’ve received a tough punishment in the USA: I most likely would have spent 5-10 years behind bars. "I had the chance to fight for another 10 years and .00001 percent probability of winning in court, to live week-to-week worried about how to support my family.

They would’ve extradited me sooner or later." I chose a shortened procedure.
I pleaded guilty to felony copyright infringement and made an agreement with the prosecutors to sit in prison for a year.

All the bigger accusations, such as money laundering, dropped away since I wasn’t the owner of the company.
I also had to sign my name to all of the evidence that had already been collected—for example, to the fact that Megaupload ignored complaints from time to time and did not remove illegal content fast enough.
If anyone had any doubts about a file, Kim always calmed them down and said there was nothing to worry about.
I had to be made an example of as a warning to all IT people who were intending to work in similar companies. Deep down, did you feel guilty of anything? I still think I shouldn’t have been on the list of defendants. At the beginning, the Dutch Attorney-General was involved, then less and less important prosecutors until my case landed in the lap of some random intern.

That shows how important the issue really was.
It turned out that I was the only defendant in the last 29 years to voluntarily go from the Netherlands to the USA.
I was asked to come to the police station 24 hours earlier.

There I was shoved in the punishment cell with all the lowlifes.
Since I’d been playing computer games and talking to my friends from dusk till dawn for two or three days in a row, I was so tired that I immediately fell asleep. Did they think you were some kind of gangster? I quickly learned that if you act normally and don’t do anything stupid, they treat you normally.
I watched some movies during the flight and asked them to loosen the handcuffs while I was eating. Did you fly on an ordinary commercial flight? Yes, we flew to Washington, DC.

From there, I was taken by car to Alexandria in Virginia. I was held in a detention center for a few weeks, and that was worse than prison. You share a closed room which is maybe two by three meters, and you only get out for six to seven hours a day.

There are no beds. You only get a 3-4 centimeter thick piece of polyurethane foam which you can lay down on the concrete floor.

The toilet is in the same room.
If you need to "feed the jaruzel" [Polish saying] as they call it, you try and time it to coincide with your daily walk. There are no books. You just stare at the wall or talk to your cellmate. My cellmate had been caught drunk-driving for the third time. Luckily, we’d both travelled a lot and this made it easy to talk to each other. And outside the cell? You just got to sit around and watch those meaningless American TV shows, take a shower, or eat. Did they give you enough food? They gave us enough so that we didn’t die.
I was starving all the time.

There were three or four different menus with a list of different things: hamburgers, meatloaf, steak.

But no matter what you asked for, they always brought you a tiny, bland burger. Did you go to court? They took me from the detention center to the court across the road about four or five days after I arrived.
Virginia is an army state and its courts have the toughest laws going.
If you do something wrong, do it anywhere else—not in Virginia.
It turned out at the court that the agreement I’d signed in the Netherlands had disappeared! I actually had to sign a paper with counts to which I hadn’t confessed—for example, the claim that I knew that Megaupload was earning millions. Did you feel as if you were being blackmailed? The whole case was blackmail.

They were just waiting for the defendant to get tired of fighting and give up.
It’s not the one who’s in the right who wins, but the one who has the most staying power. We signed the new agreement half an hour before the hearing.

But then the judge started rambling on that the case was big and he needed at least 90 days to decide—something else new! They brought in a bunch of papers again and my financial and psychological profile was compiled.

They used very specific English in court, but nobody was interested in whether I needed an interpreter or not. In the end, you were sentenced to a year and a day in prison with three years’ probation, right? As was agreed.

The lawyer put me under pressure and demanded that I agree to a year and a day because if you are sentenced to a prison for less than a year, then there is no way to be released 15 percent earlier for good behavior. It was said in the media that you gave the FBI valuable information which will help put together a better case against others involved in Megaupload.
Is that true?
I wasn’t interrogated.

They had factual evidence in the form of digital correspondence and Skype logs.
I didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know. Enlarge / Kim Dotcom living the high life. Kim Dotcom You didn’t turn your friends in? Kim wasn’t my friend. We worked in different countries.
I talked to him online a couple of times a year.

The last time we met was at a company party in Hong Kong in 2010.
I was just dealing with technical stuff.
I didn’t get wasted like the others. It was also said that you all had to pay a couple of million dollars to compensate losses. To be precise, the deficit is $450 million! Hollywood lost $500 million in revenue due to piracy, minus $50 million in seized property.
Since I didn’t have a penny and I wasn’t a shareholder of the company, the judge decided I only had to pay $100 in legal costs.
I’ll never get back the $40,000 that was seized by the USA. Did they take you to prison by car? Prisoners in the US are taken from one place to another on grey buses with bars just like in the movies. You’re put in shackles, so you can only take very small steps at a time, and you’re handcuffed.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a high or low security risk.

Everyone’s put on the same bus. You don’t get any food, you can’t go to the toilet, and sometimes you drive for 12 hours straight. They never send you straight to where you’re going. You drive through a number of other prisons first.
If you make trouble, say by complaining to the judge that your rights are being violated, you’re put through this thing called "diesel therapy." They bounce you back and forth between prisons like a ping-pong ball. Did they do this to you, too? I was taken from Alexandria to Brooklyn, from there to Pennsylvania, from there back to Brooklyn, and from there to Pennsylvania again—a total of about 16 hours of driving.

Before I got to where I was meant to be going, I was put in two different prisons, one of which was a supermax prison where they keep the worst of the worst.
I was there for 10 days.

There are more than 2.5 million prisoners in the United States.

Almost one percent of the whole population is in prison, and that’s a huge problem.

But what surprised me most was that there are private prisons in the US.

The more prisoners, the more money you get from the state.
It’s big business. You were sent to Moshannon Valley prison in Pennsylvania. What kind of place is it? Since I was an immigrant, I’d never been to the US.
I went there without a visa and I’d leave without one—they put me in the correctional center for foreigners.
It was in a forest in the middle of nowhere.

An acquaintance of mine wanted to visit me and it took him several hours just to find the place.

GPS didn’t help.

The nearest airport was 6-7 hours’ drive away. The prisoners were in barracks, 80 men to a block.

There were five buildings altogether, each of them with six blocks like some kind of big hospital. We had two large gardens with a soccer field on one side and a baseball field on the other.
In the middle was a large area where you could lift weights. Most of the inmates did sports.
I wasn’t interested in body-building or getting tattoos.
I just walked around for hours or read. There were no walls, just a chain-link fence and barbed wire.

Every now and then some girls drove past and stuck their heads out of the window, waving and screaming. Half the guys rushed to the fence to stare at them. Who did you share your cell with? In Brooklyn, I shared my cell with a young American IT guy. We could talk for days. We played soccer barefoot just to fill in the time.

The worst thing was if you didn’t get tired during the day that meant you couldn’t sleep. What did you do in the prison in Pennsylvania? I read a lot, four or five books a week.
I scribbled some plans and specifications for my projects, or watched stupid American TV series.
I took Spanish and Chinese courses. Not much of either stuck, but at least it took up my time.
I also took alternative energy courses; one of the prisoners was the former owner of a huge green energy company.
In my last few weeks there I myself gave some computing courses.
I talked about how to make a website, what HTML was, and so on. You had computers there? No, I taught them on paper.
I talked about the hardware: what a hard drive is, and a monitor, and a smartphone; why we need passwords.
Some of the men had been in prison for 20 years.

There were Jamaicans, Slavic guys, and Spanish-speaking people in the group. Did the Estonian state support you while you were in prison? Estonia was the only country that didn’t give its people any support.

All the other countries gave their prisoners at least some pocket money.

Even 10-20 euros would’ve been a great help, because you don’t even get normal soap for free there, not to mention shampoo. You’re given toothpaste whose "best before" was in 2005 and two 20 x 40 cm towels for your whole body for half a year. But there’s a shop.
If you have money, you can buy everything.
Some friends and my family sent me money. Did you get your own little corner? I was given a tiny metal box, but it was impossible to lock it.
Still, nobody stole from anyone else. Otherwise they would have been blacklisted.

The guards don’t have full control of prisons in the US.

Each nationality group has its own go-between who, if they need to, sorts out strife.

The Hispanics have their own, the black guys have their own, the Chinese have their own, and so on. Weren’t you afraid? It was a low-risk prison. Most of the inmates had come across the border or been caught living in the US without a passport.

There were some habitual criminals, of course. You just need to know when to keep your mouth shut and walk away.
I come from Ida-Viru County.
I have some experience with people like that.
It wasn’t particularly easy being an Estonian in Ida-Viru County when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union. I only ever saw two fights in prison. One of them started because somebody switched the channel on the TV.

The second one was when somebody made a bad joke about the other guy's girlfriend. Did you also get to work and earn money? Everybody had to work at least 20 hours a week: unclogging the toilets, digging pits, painting, or helping sort the books.

But guess how much we were paid per hour? Twelve cents per hour! A pack of coffee cost $4. You work for a month and get a pack of coffee! One prisoner told me he’d started fighting in his last prison so he’d be sent away.
It was located near a cornfield in Louisiana and the prisoners were working in the field for a dollar a day. What was the most frustrating aspect of the whole experience? You’re like a sheep in the US prison system. When you’re being transported from one place to another and it’s cold outside, they make you stand outside in your socks and T-shirt.
It’s perfectly normal to be put in solitary for three weeks with nothing to read.
It’s your own problem if you go crazy. You don’t have any rights. What about your health? I had a few problems.

All of them were solved with painkillers. You were in prison for 10-and-a-half months.

Then you applied for parole?
If you don’t do anything wrong, freedom’s granted automatically after you’ve served 85 percent of your time.
I was taken to a prison in New York for a few days before my flight home. My release day was 25 November—Thanksgiving.

As this was followed by days off, I was held in prison for five days longer.
I called the Estonian Embassy and said that in my view this wasn’t right.

They didn’t see the problem. Other countries vigorously defended the rights of their own prisoners.
It’s weird how the Estonian government kowtows before the USA. I had two options: either I buy a plane ticket myself or let the US government buy one for me. My family bought me the ticket. One Belarusian guy who was meant to be released on the same day let the officials buy him a ticket.
So he sat in prison for another three months. How are you different today to the person you were a year ago? Prison didn’t change me.
It was like detention in school.

But I’m different today from what I was before 2012.
I have less trust in all sorts of state affairs, especially big countries.
I saw the dark side of the American dream in all its glory. Many people think it’s some paradise.

Actually, it’s just one big system.

The US, China, Russia—take your pick. It sounds like you’ve lost faith in American democracy. Can you call forcing your policies on other countries "democracy?" If you have the money, you have the right.
Since the US is a capitalist country, that principle is particularly relevant. "Kim keeps babbling on about how he helps everybody and is such a great freedom fighter, but the reality is something else. Kim’s always been interested in the well-being of just one person, and that’s Kim himself." I don’t believe the US will help Estonia in any war.

They also promised to help Ukraine, but did they really? What do you regret most? I was a bit blind before.
It cost me several years of my life.
I learned a lot of new things while working in Megaupload.
I met some brilliantly clever people.

But I should have understood better what kind of person Kim actually was. Kim has said that he sent you money during the hard times in Rotterdam. Bramos (Bram van der Kolk, one of the key Dutch players in Megaupload) helped me. His parents transferred some money to me.
I don’t know who was actually behind the transfer.
Some of the guys were flying around in helicopters in New Zealand while I was languishing in Rotterdam. Kim keeps babbling on about how he helps everybody and is such a great freedom fighter, but the reality is something else. Kim’s always been interested in the well-being of just one person, and that’s Kim himself.

As time went by, I realized more clearly that I was fighting on my own. You’re the only one from Megaupload who’s faced court in the USA, right? The police used the special unit, helicopters, semi-automatics, and dogs to catch Kim Dotcom during a raid in New Zealand, which turned out to be a total mess.

A lot of those things weren’t in accordance with the law.

They put on a show of strength to win the favor of the United States.

The whole extradition process got stuck in court.

As for me, everything in the Netherlands was done exactly as in the papers, which means correctly. Andrus Nõmm When did you last talk to Kim? He called me two or three months after all of this began, but we haven’t communicated since. I know how much money they were wasting in the company, and my salary wasn’t worth doing the job for that last year. Kim offered me a million dollars as an option if he would eventually sell the company.

Back then I believed him. He has said he understands your decision to plead guilty, do the time, and move on? He’s only saying that to make himself look better. He even tried to go into politics in New Zealand to win the elections and change the law so they couldn’t extradite him. Does he hold a grudge against you? Even if he does, he’s not stupid. He understands that social media has a massive influence.

Civil war within Megaupload isn’t in his best interests. He’s this martyr, this freedom fighter.... He’ll eventually end up in the US. He’ll most likely throw everyone under the bus. Kim’s only interested in Kim.

The show he gives online isn’t Kim. How did your son cope with all of this? He’s 13. He knows exactly what happened. He’s not a kid any more. At least you’re famous now. Yes, loads of US publications have requested interviews.
I've turned them all down.

For example, Vice TV kept on me for several months.
I'm not interested in the tabloid press.
I was afraid that when I got out of prison, I’d really have to work hard to find a job.

But it wasn’t a problem.
I received all sorts of interesting offers during my last couple of months in prison.
I was asked to contact them as soon as I got home.
I still don’t understand how everybody knew when I was getting out.

There’s enough work, but I avoid sharing any files! So, your life is now back on track? There are still a few problems I have to deal with.
I need to pay my friends back for the Rotterdam period.
I also owe the bank money.

They didn’t care that I was in another country for some time and couldn’t pay my bills. Are the FBI haunting you any more? I’m a 100 percent clean, and that won’t change. However, they might start questioning me if Kim faces court in the USA. What do you dream of? All my dreams were fulfilled by the time I was 25.
I grew up in a poor family and left Estonia in 2000. My goal was to find a decent place to live—not some villa, but not a one-bedroom apartment in a dodgy neighborhood either.
I wanted a normal car, a family, and an income which could get me anything I wanted.
I had all of this before 2006, when I started working for Megaupload.

At the moment, I just want to heal all of the wounds from the last four years.

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