Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Fallout From Overstalk


The Patrick Byrne-Judd Bagley circus is becoming more grotesque by the minute. It now seems that pals of Overstock.com's clownish CEO have been planting spyware in posts in the Investor Village Overstock message board, to snoop on people who wander by just to read IV posts.

This is not speculation -- it's a cold, hard fact that becomes obvious if you closely examine a whole bunch of IV posts.

Seems that cyberstalkers planted invisible "web bug tracking images" in IV messages that transmit back the IP addresses of people reading the posts. They can then presumably be transmitted back to Bagley's antisocialmedia.net smear website, for whatever use will satisfy Byrne's craving for lies about his critics. This can happen on IV because its software allows customers to put images in their posts, which can be abused by cyberstalkers to hide spyware.

Read all about it in posts here, here and here.

The third "here" describes how the software "bugs" track back to outside parties, three of which are traceable directly to Bagley, based on the use of the same code as Bagley's blog. This post describes how another would-be spyware-planter revealed a link to yet another Bagley-related outfit. (The links in the post were swiftly deleted after appearance of this item -- see update.)

All this spyware was planted after Bagley became Overstock's "director of social media," but before it was revealed that he runs the "antisocialmedia" cyberstalking site.

This is top notch computer forensic detective work. But read these posts fast, just in case IV's harebrained management listens to Bagley/Byrne or their pals and nukes the posts for "clogging" or some other shabby pretext.

The legality of such software "bugs" is questionable at best. Investor Village, no doubt anxious to repair the damage to its reputation -- after knuckling under to pressure by removing posts critical of Byrne -- will certainly act quickly to put an end to this activity, and kick out cyberstalkers who abuse its site.

Or at least I hope so. If past is precedent, the cyberstalking will continue to be tolerated by one of the most irresponsible message board proprietors I have ever stumbled upon.

But dealing with a few message board cockroaches is the easy stuff. More difficult is what this says about Overstock's nonexistent corporate ethics and laughable board oversight, and how Overstock's beleaguered shareholders have yet one other ticking time bomb to worry about.

UPDATE: The spyware-infected IV posts linked in this post mentioned earlier were deleted by IV's crackerjack management shortly after this item appeared. However, they are available (here, for instance) from Google Cache for viewing by those of us lacking subpoena power.

By the way, if IV really wants to implement a zero-tolerance policy toward cyberstalking, the idea is to nip it in the bud, not to delete embarrassing evidence.

(A few weeks later, it was discovered that Bagley had been planting spyware in posts on the Silicon Investor messge boards. See an analysis posted here.)

© 2006 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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