An Internet leak occurs when a party's confidential information is released to the public on the Internet. Various types of information and data can be, and have been, "leaked" to the Internet, the most common being personal information, computer software and source code, and artistic works such as books or albums. For example, a musical album is leaked if it has been made available to the public on the Internet before its official release date; and is still intended to be confidential.
Source code leaks
Source code leaks are usually caused by misconfiguration of software like CVS or FTP which allow people to get source files by exploiting, by software bugs, or by employees that have access to the sources of part of them revealing the code in order to harm the company.
There were many cases of source code leaks in the history of software development.
For instance, as Fraunhofer IIS released in 1994 only a low quality version of their MP3 encoding software (l3enc), a hacker named SoloH gathered the source code from the unprotected servers of the University of Erlangen and developed a higher quality version, which started the MP3 revolution on the internet.
For example, in 2003 a hacker exploited a security hole in Microsoft's Outlook to get the complete source of the video game Half-Life 2, which was under development at the time. The complete source was soon available in various file sharing networks. This leak was rumored to be the cause of the game's delay, but later was stated not to be.
Also in 2003, source code to Diebold Election Systems Inc. voting machines was leaked. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Rice University published a damning critique of Diebold's products, based on an analysis of the software. They found, for example, that it would be easy to program a counterfeit voting card to work with the machines and then use it to cast multiple votes inside the voting booth.
Another case in 2004 involved a partial leak of the source code to Microsoft Windows 2000. Two files containing Microsoft source code were circulating on the Internet. One contains a majority of the NT4 source code and the other contains a fraction of the Windows 2000 source code, reportedly about 15% of the total. This includes some networking code including Winsock and inet; as well as some shell code. It was feared that because of the leak, the number of security exploits would increase due to wider scrutiny of the source code.
In 2004, partial (800 MB) proprietary source code that drives Cisco Systems' networking hardware was made available in the internet. The site posted two files of source code written in the C programming language, which apparently enables some next-generation IPv6 functionality. News of the latest source code leak appeared on a Russian security site.
In 2006, Anonymous hackers stole source code (about 1 GiB) for Symantec's pcAnywhere from the company's network. While confirmed in January 2012, it is still unclear how the hackers accessed the network.
In January 2011 the "stolen source code" of Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2008 was published on the Pirate Bay.
End-of-life leaks by developers
Sometimes software developers themselves will leak their source code in an effort to prevent a software product from becoming abandonware after it has reached its end-of-life, allowing the community to continue development and support. Reasons for leaking instead of a proper release to public domain or as open source can include scattered or lost intellectual property rights. An example is the video game Falcon 4.0 which became available in 2000; another one is Dark Reign 2, which was released by an anonymous former Pandemic Studios developer in 2011. Another notable example is an archive of Infocom's video games source code which appeared from an anonymous Infocom source and was archived by the Internet Archive in 2008.
- In fall 1998, a number of confidential Microsoft documents later dubbed the Halloween documents were leaked to Eric S. Raymond, an activist in the open-source software movement, who published and commented on them on the net. The documents revealed that internally Microsoft viewed free and open-source software such as Linux as technologically competitive and a major threat for Microsoft's dominance in the market, and they discussed strategies to combat them. The discovery caused a public controversy. The documents were also used as evidence in several court cases.
- On January 28, 2008, Nintendo's crossover fighting video game Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii console had a major leak having to do with unconfirmed playable characters. The leak was unintentionally started by the Japanese language www.wii.com website, which released a video that included small images of not-yet confirmed characters within the game. The website fixed this mistake, but the leak still continued. Websites like YouTube contain screenshots and video gameplay of the unconfirmed characters of the game. In August 2014, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U suffered a similar leak, where unannounced fighters and stages were shown through images taken by a supposed ESRB member.
- Recently, several high-profile books have been leaked on the Internet before their official release date, including If I Did It, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and an early draft of the first twelve chapters of Midnight Sun. The leak of the latter prompted the author Stephenie Meyer to suspend work on the novel.
- On January 31, 2014 the original uncensored version of the South Park episode "201" was leaked, when it was illegally pulled from the South Park Studios servers and was posted online in its entirety without any approval by Comedy Central. The episode was heavily censored by the network when it aired in 2010 against the will of series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and was never formally released uncensored to the public. The episode was the second in a two parter and was censored after the airing of the first part as a result of death threats from Islamic extremists who were angry of the episode's storyline satirizing censorship of depictions of Muhammad.
- In 2015 the unaired Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Boston" was leaked online. The episode was set to air during the fifth season, but Adult Swim was forced to pull it to avoid further controversy surrounding the 2007 Boston bomb scare.
High-profile Internet leaks
- 3 October 2003: Half-Life 2 source code
- 13 February 2004: Microsoft Windows 2000/NT source code
- November 2009: Climatic Research Unit email leak, aka Climategate
- The heavenly jukebox on The Atlantic "To show industries how to use the codec, MPEG cobbled together a free sample program that converted music into MP3 files. The demonstration software created poor-quality sound, and Fraunhofer did not intend that it be used. The software's "source code"—its underlying instructions—was stored on an easily accessible computer at the University of Erlangen, from which it was downloaded by one SoloH, a hacker in the Netherlands (and, one assumes, a Star Wars fan). SoloH revamped the source code to produce software that converted compact-disc tracks into music files of acceptable quality." (2000)
- Pop Idols and Pirates: Mechanisms of Consumption and the Global Circulation ... by Dr Charles Fairchild
- Technologies of Piracy? - Exploring the Interplay Between Commercialism and Idealism in the Development of MP3 and DivX by HENDRIK STORSTEIN SPILKER, SVEIN HÖIER, page 2072, International Journal of Communication 7 (2013)
- "Playable Version of Half-Life 2 Stolen". CNN Money. 2003-10-07. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Parkin, Simon (2011-02-21). "The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2 - The story behind the $250 million robbery.". eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
- "Half Life 2 Source-Code Leak Delays Debut". TechNewsWorld. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Catching up with the guy who stole Half-Life 2’s source code, 10 years later by Simon Parkin on Ars Technica (Jun 19, 2016)
- Windows Code May Be Stolen on PC World by Joris Evers (February 2004)
- Treiber-Quellcode von 3dfx im Netz aufgetaucht - Von Nvidia offenbar geduldet by Christian Klaß on Golem.de (7 May 2003, in German)
- NuAngel.net Drivers on nuangel.net
- "SecurityLab". Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "Symantec suspected source code breach back in 2006". Ars Technica. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- Humphries, Matthew (2011-05-25). "Eve Online source code posted online, DMCA takedown quickly follows". geek.com. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
It looks as though someone has posted the source code for the space MMO Eve Online there. As you’d imagine, developer CCP isn’t too happy about this and was quick to issue the takedown request.
- dmca/2011-05-24-cpp-virtual-world-operations.markdown on GitHub
- Oracle Solaris 11 Kernel Source-Code Leaked on Phoronix by Michael Larabel (on 19 December 2011)
- xray on github.com (August 2014)
- xray-16 on github.com
- Larabel, Michael (5 January 2016). "Hyperion Confirms Leak Of AmigaOS 3.1 Source Code". Phoronix.
- amiga-os-kickstart-and-workbench-source-coded-leaked on December 29, 2015
- Hiawatha Bray (2004-01-21). "Diehard pilots keep Falcon flying". Boston.com. Archived from the original on 2004-04-08. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
- Bertolone, Giorgio (2011-03-12). "Interview with Kevin Klemmick - Lead Software Engineer for Falcon 4.0". Cleared-To-Engage. Archived from the original on 2011-03-18. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
[C2E] In 2000 the source code of Falcon 4.0 leaked out and after that groups of volunteers were able to make fixes and enhancements that assured the longevity of this sim. Do you see the source code leak as a good or bad event? [Klemmick] "Absolutely a good event. In fact I wish I’d known who did it so I could thank them. I honestly think this should be standard procedure for companies that decide not to continue to support a code base."
- Timothy (2012-08-07). "Dark Reign 2 Goes Open Source". slashdot.org. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
One of Activision's last RTS games, Dark Reign 2, has gone open source under the LGPL.
- "darkreign2". Google Code. 2011-09-01. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
- Baio, Andy (Apr 17, 2008). "Milliways: Infocom's Unreleased Sequel to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". waxy.org. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
From an anonymous source close to the company, I've found myself in possession of the "Infocom Drive" — a complete backup of Infocom's shared network drive from 1989.[...] Among the assets included: design documents, email archives, employee phone numbers, sales figures, internal meeting notes, corporate newsletters, and the source code and game files for every released and unreleased game Infocom made
- O'Neal, Sean. "An uncensored version of South Park's controversial Muhammad episode has surfaced". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
- Gonzales, Dave. "Banned Aqua Teen Hunger Force Boston episode leaks online". Geek.com. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "BBC NEWS - Technology - Half-Life 2 code leaked online". Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "BBC NEWS - Technology - Q&A: Microsoft source code leaked". Retrieved 15 June 2015.