In an effort to get closer to the location of the site and then presumably its operators, Rights Alliance filed requests with Cloudflare and subsequently filed a lawsuit in Sweden against VPN provider OVPN.
According to Rights Alliance, The Pirate Bay had used OVPN to shield its location and the company should therefore have useful information to share.
The case has taken multiple twists and turns since but on the whole, a successful outcome in the case appears to have been leaning in favor of OVPN, which insists that as a no-logs provider, it has nothing useful to hand over.
Testimony From Expert VPN Company Penetration Tester
Earlier this month, however, Rights Alliance handed testimony to the court from an expert with substantial experience with VPN services. Jesper Larsson works at security company Ox4a but is involved with Cure 53 where he says he “regularly” performs penetration tests against the ten largest VPN providers in the world.
We covered his opinion in detail in our earlier report but it essentially concluded that it should be “considered extremely likely” that the user or identity associated with the specific type of VPN configuration allegedly used by The Pirate Bay would have been stored in a database at some point.
“OVPN should thus be able to search its VPN servers for the given IP address, or alternatively search in their user databases or in backups of these to locate a given user or identity,” the opinion read.
While in ordinary circumstances that would be a reasonable conclusion to reach, in our report following the filing of the expert’s opinion, we published statements from OVPN indicating special circumstances, ones that suggested that it is unable to search its userbase or recover data from backups from the period in question. This is something that Larsson probably wasn’t aware of at the time.
Has the Expert Hired By Rights Alliance Reconsidered?
OVPN founder David Wibergh is part of a pretty large Telegram group which has around 339 members. According to screenshots made available by him, Jesper Larsson is also a member of that same group.
On August 22, 2020, a user of the group posted a link to our article of August 21 which reported that Rights Alliance had hired Larsson to assess the security and potential logging abilities of OVPN. As previously noted, the article also presented comments from OVPN on the limited usefulness of databases and backups in this matter, which were only made public after Larsson’s opinion was filed.
As the image posted by OVPN and reproduced below reveals, a discussion ensued – including a response from Larsson himself.
All comments are in Swedish but Wibergh has provided commentary and translations.
“[T]hree days after his remark in the Patent and Market Court – [Larsson] seems to have changed his position in a group conversation on Telegram. In the conversation, Jesper comments on our business. Jesper first states that he ‘believes that ovpn has clearly done a good job with its integrity and privacy’,” Wibergh writes.
In a follow-up comment, Larsson says: “I guess the account with the static IP-address is not linked to any ounce of PII data that can be traced to any person or organization”
Wibergh notes that ‘PII data’ stands for Personally Identifiable Information about an individual.
“The security specialist’s statement in the group conversation thus seems to be in direct conflict with his conclusions in the statement to the court,” Wibergh says.
“It will be exciting to see what the Rights Alliance now comes up with as their own expert agrees that OVPN does a good job regarding integrity and privacy, and that he does not believe that there is any identifiable information to retrieve.”
For clarity, it’s worth noting the sequence of events. While Larsson appears to have changed his opinion on the existence of useful information at OVPN, that came after Wibergh’s commentary on the company’s backup procedures. These were a response to statements made in the earlier technical opinion, suggesting that backups (if they exist) would be useful.
Other Events Over the Course of the Case
Rights Alliance’s case against OVPN has been running all summer but it hasn’t been straightforward. First of all, it is based on a simple and direct conflict – Rights Alliance insists that OVPN has information to hand over on The Pirate Bay and OVPN insists that it does not.
The battle, therefore, has centered on both parties trying to convince the court that the other is wrong, with both sides producing statements and testimony, such as that provided by the third-party security expert, to back up or add weight to various claims.
However, OVPN is questioning the claim that Rights Alliance “is run by independent consultants” since the movie companies’ case is being run by Rights Alliance chief Sara Lindbäck who has presented comments by her colleague Anders Nilsson (concerning how OVPN’s systems work) as ‘evidence’ when OVPN’s lawyer believes it shouldn’t be considered as such.
“With regard to the memorandum referred to as ‘evidence’, it is noted that – as previously submitted memorandums – it was written by an employee at the Rights Alliance, ie. the applicants’ representatives,” OVPNs lawyer wrote.
“In OVPN’s view, this is to be seen as a supplementary submission to the Applicants rather than evidence,” he continued, adding that in any event, the submission is “speculative and vague” since the person writing the memorandum doesn’t appear to know how the company’s system works at all.
OVPN suggests that this type of educated guesswork, carried out by outsiders who have no real knowledge of how the company operates, has become a feature of the case on more than one occasion. However, the bottom line is that it does not have the information requested so cannot hand it over, no matter how the requests are framed.
OVPN believes that a final decision from the Patent and Market Court (PMC) should arrive in September.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.