The Subversive Repository


This month’s Vanity Fair has a story on an odd criminal case every programmer should familiarize themselves with, if only for their own safety.

The story involves Sergey Aleynikov’s (unfair, some might say) prosecution for allegedly stealing high frequency trading source code from Goldman Sachs. From the article (and emphasis mine):

In April 2009, Serge had accepted a [new] job …, but had remained at Goldman for the next six weeks, until June 5, during which time he sent himself, through a so-called “subversion repository,” 32 megabytes of source code from Goldman’s high-frequency stock-trading system. The Web site Serge had used (which has the word “subversion” in its name) as well as the location of its server (Germany) [the FBI] clearly found highly suspicious.

… “I thought it was like, crazy, really,” [Serge] says. “[The FBI agent] was stringing these computer terms together in ways that made no sense. He didn’t seem to know anything about high-frequency trading or source code.” For instance, Serge had no idea where the “subversion repository” was physically located. It was just a place on the Internet used by developers to store the code they were working on. “The whole point of the Internet is to abstract the physical location of the server from its logical address.”

I find it interesting that reporter Michael Lewis fails to make it extremely clear to readers that, in this case, failing to use the proper noun form of “subversion” is disingenuous.

(If the picture Lewis paints of the FBI’s conduct in investigating this case is to be believed, their misuse is not surprising; but he misses out on an opportunity to contextualize this misconduct by only hints to readers that the word refers to a software program, not some “repository of iniquity.”)

In any event, there are a lot of reasons to use Git(hub), but “not confusing FBI agents on a crusade to put you in jail” is certainly a new (and compelling!) one.