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Feds identify TSN, LiveU as victims in Tim Burke hacking case

The identities were revealed in recently-filed court records after Burke's alleged co-conspirator plead guilty to his role.

The identities were revealed in recently-filed court records after Burke's alleged co-conspirator plead guilty to his role.

The main studios of TSN (The Sports Network) in Toronto.
The main studios of TSN (The Sports Network) in Toronto. TSN is owned by Bell Media. (Courtesy photo)

A Florida journalist who obtained and leaked raw video clips of Fox News programs had access to content from other broadcasters over the period of several months, federal prosecutors revealed this month.

In court documents obtained by The Desk, prosecutors say former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke and a Washington resident he met on Twitter swapped usernames and passwords belonging to video transmission service LiveU and Canadian sports broadcaster TSN (The Sports Network), which allowed Burke to access raw video files associated with sports and news programming.

Since last May, prosecutors investigating the case have been quiet on confirming the identities of the victims whose websites were illicitly accessed, though sources confirmed to The Desk that Burke’s access to LiveU allowed him to watch and record raw video transmissions associated with Fox News Channel shows, including “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

TSN’s status as a victim in the case was not known until April, when Burke’s alleged co-conspirator, Marco Gaudino, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors where he admitted to passing various online credentials to Burke since early 2022.

Gaudino admitted providing Burke with the username and password to an online file system used by a national sports league, one that prosecutors still have not identified by The Desk has learned was the National Basketball Association (NBA). Messages reviewed by The Desk show Burke attempted to download files from the NBA’s servers, but found it difficult to complete the task because the files were extremely large and would not finish downloading before his connection timed out.

In June 2022, Gaudino handed over a password that allowed Burke to access an online server used by TSN, the messages show. The server contained video files, graphics and documents related to live sports programming, including headshots of Canadian football players.

Gaudino acknowledged the usernames and passwords were located in documents he found on the Internet, and that some appeared to belong to contractors used by TSN. It wasn’t clear if the sports network knew its online servers had been compromised. A spokesperson for Bell Media, the Canadian telecom giant that owns TSN, did not return a request for comment.

Court documents reveal an exchange between Florida journalist Timothy Burke and Washington resident Marco Gaudino. (Graphic by The Desk)
Court documents reveal an exchange between Florida journalist Timothy Burke and Washington resident Marco Gaudino. (Graphic by The Desk)

Two months after the TSN passwords were exchanged, Gaudino provided Burke with credentials allowing him to access LiveU, the messages reveal. The password belonged to CBS News, and was found on the website of a CBS News Radio affiliate that accidentally published them during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the LiveU credentials that allowed Burke to access and record Fox News programming, clips of which he later gave to Vice News and Media Matters for America. In court filings, attorneys for Burke do not dispute that he was the source of that material or that he accessed LiveU’s systems, but say his behavior was not criminal.

Prosecutors disagree. Last May, federal agents executed a search warrant on Burke’s home, seizing dozens of computers, phones, hard drives, servers, notebooks and other materials. Burke asked a federal judge to compel the government to return the items, saying they were journalistic in nature. The judge largely denied his request, though he did order the government to give back material that was unrelated to their investigation. Burke’s attorneys have appealed the decision, and the appeal is still pending.

In February, prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment charging Burke with over a dozen criminal counts related to computer trespass, conspiracy and electronic interception. Through his attorneys, Burke continues to profess his innocence.

Gaudino was charged around the same time, and quickly reached a plea deal with prosecutors. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss all but one felony charge, and Gaudino has agreed to cooperate in the case against Burke.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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