Ticketmaster will pay $10 Million fine over hacking a competitor

Pierluigi Paganini January 02, 2021

Ticketmaster agreed to pay a $10 million fine for hacking into the computer system of the startup rival CrowdSurge.

The news is disturbing, Ticketmaster has agreed to pay a $10 million fine after being charged with illegally accessing computer systems into the computer system of the startup rival CrowdSurge. The intrusions into the competitor’s systems took place repeatedly between 2013 and 2015.

 A Ticketmaster executive explained that the goal was to “choke off [victim company]” and “steal back one of [victim company]’s signature clients,”

The attacks aimed at stealing information to gain an advantage over CrowdSurge, which was acquired by Warner Music Group (WMG) in 2017.

“Ticketmaster Used Passwords Unlawfully Retained by a Former Employee of a Competitor to Access Computer Systems in Scheme to “Choke Off” the Victim’s Business” wrote the DoJ.

According to the investigators, the company used stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence.

“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme.  “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.  Today’s resolution demonstrates that any company that obtains a competitor’s confidential information for commercial advantage, without authority or permission, should expect to be held accountable in federal court.”

In 2017, CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations, it accused Ticketmaster of illegally access to confidential business documents, including client lists, contracts, and credentials of victim’s tools.

Ticketmaster hired a former employee of CrowdSurge, Stephen Mead, to gain access to the systems of the rival company.

Mead was CrowdSurge’s general manager of U.S. operations, he provided Zeeshan Zaidi, the former head of Ticketmaster’s artist services division, and another Ticketmaster employee the passwords to Artist Toolbox, which is an app that allows victim’s customers to view real-time data about the sale of sold tickets.

“In early May 2014, a senior executive of Live Nation (Corporate Officer-1) asked Zaidi and others how Ticketmaster’s presale online offering compared with the Toolbox.  Coconspirator-1 was then asked to “do a screenshare/demo” at an upcoming “Artist Services Summit.”  Coconspirator-1 agreed to “pull together a list of the log-ins and URL’s that I still have access to for this so I can give the team as much insight as possible.”  At least 14 Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees attended the Artist Services Summit, in San Francisco.” continues the DoJ. “There, in front of those employees, Coconspirator-1 used a username and password he had retained from his employment at the victim company to log in to a Toolbox, and provided a demonstration.  Coconspirator-1 later also provided Zaidi and other Ticketmaster executives with internal and confidential financial documents he had retained from his employment at the victim company.”

Both Mead and Zaidi were fired by Ticketmaster in 2017.

On October 18, 2019, Zaidi pled guilty for his participation in the hacking activity.

Ticketmaster already paid $110 million in 2018 to settle a civil suit brought by Songkick, which merged with CrowdSurge in 2015

Ticketmaster will pay a criminal penalty of $10 million and will maintain a compliance and ethics program to prevent and detect violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and other applicable laws. has to prevent the unauthorized and unlawful acquisition of confidential information belonging to its competitors. 

Ticketmaster will also report to the US Attorney’s Office annually over the three-year term of the agreement regarding these compliance measures. 

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, TicketMaster)

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