2much Hit By Cyber Theft

MONTREAL – 2much Internet Services has suffered an interruption of their Live Video Chat services as a result of having their software sabotaged and its source codes stolen by an unnamed former employee.

"It was an inside job," said Greg Jones, Media and Communications officer for 2much.net. "We're faced with calling in the Royal Canadian Mountain Police and the FBI, because of the obviously organized nature of the crime. We have to deal with several parties from both Canada and the United States who were responsible, and who are now facing civil and criminal charges," said Jones.

According to Mark Prince, president and founder of 2much.net, "It couldn't have come at a worse time. The software was stolen to create another company that could compete with us and the source code was erased to cripple us."

Source code is the computer language editable by human programmers which is then compiled (or translated) into far more complex machine-only readable code which cannot be corrected without the original source code, and cannot be "translated" back into that code either; without source code, an error in a program cannot be tracked down or corrected.

Prince described the severity of the problem to XBiz, stating that "The problems with the network are greater than we first realized. As models log in, they can chat for only a few minutes at a time before all models are kicked out. Customers see only a "Connection error, please try again" or similar message."

"Yesterday we realized that the problem was in fact a hard-coded "time-bomb" that was placed by an ex-programmer of one of the key modules of the LCN operating system. This programmer was fired from 2Much for illegal activities back in August, and legal proceedings against him are already under way. Other bugs and anomalies in the system caused by this person have been discovered and fixed, but this one is more persistent," Prince told XBiz.

Before the sabotage, according to Jones, at least two of 2much.net's customers had abruptly dropped 2much.net's system for another which resembled LiveCamNetwork 1.9 more than coincidence could account for. "Actually, we can see our code and programming in the user-side interface of their new sites," said Prince.

Previously, 2much had been forced to pull the plug on a site which had been operating unethically and violating terms of service contracts. This site was owned and operated by an employee of 2much, who was subsequently fired for misconduct. "Or he arranged to have a confrontation about his misuse of our software, and didn't like us pulling the plug. So before leaving, upon termination of his contract, he accessed our servers, uploaded our software somewhere - and then erased the code," said Jones.

Although 2much wants justice done, the company is busy writing the new version 2.0, which is targeted for a January launch, and trying to repair version 1.9, the current sabotaged version. "We have to do it manually," Prince said. "Since the thieves erased the source code. We don't want our clients, chat hostesses and employees to lose too much revenue over what this guy did."

"The new version of our chat software will take this situation into consideration," Jones said. "That is, it'll feature a revised back-up structure and more highly secure access, so no one person will have the power of life and death over any part of the network hierarchy - except Mark."

For the moment, recovery of the 1.9 source code is the company's priority, above and beyond the crime or its punishment. "We're at the point of considering letting go 20 office and studio employees, which I find unacceptable. This many people shouldn't suffer because of what this one person has done," said Prince.

This assault will not knock 2Much out of the business, however, as Prince explained to XBiz: "We would like everyone to know that the programmers and support staff of 2Much are working very hard to resolve this issue. With the enormous intellectual resources available, 2Much expects to have this key part of the system completely re-coded and even optimized with a few new fun features put in, in a lighting-fast 2 weeks."

"I would like to take a moment to thank our team: Ye, Mariette, Qi, Greg, Wenlien, Chelli, Tracy and Sue for all of the hard work they have been putting in so far. It has been one of the busiest and stressful weeks of our almost 8 years in business, as well as the most challenging," added Prince.

"The act was obviously malicious," said Jones, adding that "Just acquiring the source code would have been enough. It shouldn't have been erased."