The Federal Bureau of Investigation brought a Russian encryption expert into custody Monday at his hotel in Las Vegas for allegedly releasing software that cracks a assortment of formulas used to secure e-books.
The apprehension was first accounted by Planet eBook.
Sklyarov is an employee of Elcom, a Moscow-based company and the publisher of the Advanced eBook Processor, a computer program that breaks the encryption security on Adobe’s eBook format, converting it to Adobe PDF format.
The bureau admitted Tuesday that it had apprehended security researcher Dmitry Sklyarov for what it alleged was a infraction of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The apprehension came a day after Sklyarov defined the troubles plaguing e-book formats and Adobe’s PDF format at the Def Con hacking conference.
Adobe has registered a lawsuit against the company and, reported he Elcom site, its charges are the author of the warrant behind Sklyarov’s apprehension. Adobe could not be contacted for comment Tuesday morning.
“This is pretty amazing,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “I never thought that the DMCA criminal provisions would be actively used. (Anti-piracy efforts) are usually all about threat and bluster and money.”
The criminal prosecution of the Russian programmer should worry security researchers, alleged Robert Graham, chief scientist for security company Internet Security Systems.
“All security people in this industry are in danger of falling afoul of laws,” he said, adding that the choice of who gets prosecuted by the FBI is typically a matter of bad luck.
“There is so much stuff going on right now; if the FBI doesn’t like you–if you are not squeaky clean–they can get on your case. Most security researchers I know aren’t squeaky clean,” he added.