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  1. The PR disaster for geo-unblocking software Hola has deepened with a report from cybersecurity firm Vectra. In addition to revealing a console within the software that allows an attacker to "accomplish almost anything", Vectra has discovered that Hola had already been exploited by "bad guys" before reports surfaced against the company last week. After a flurry of reports, last week the people behind geo-unblocking software Hola were forced to concede that their users’ bandwidth is being sold elsewhere for commercial purposes. But for the Israel-based company, that was the tip of the iceberg. Following an initial unproofed report that the software operates as a botnet, this weekend researchers published an advisory confirming serious problems with the tool. “The Hola Unblocker Windows client, Firefox addon, Chrome extension and Android application contain multiple vulnerabilities which allow a remote or local attacker to gain code execution and potentially escalate privileges on a user’s system,†the advisory reads. Yesterday and after several days of intense pressure, Hola published a response in which it quoted Steve Jobs and admitted that mistakes had been made. Hola said that it would now be making it “completely clear†to its users that their resources are being used elsewhere in exchange for a free product. Hola also confirmed that two vulnerabilities found by the researchers at Adios-Hola had now been fixed, but the researchers quickly fired back. “We know this to be false,†they wrote in an update. “The vulnerabilities are *still* there, they just broke our vulnerability checker and exploit demonstration. Not only that; there weren’t two vulnerabilities, there were six.†With Hola saying it now intends to put things right (it says it has committed to an external audit with “one of the big 4 auditing companiesâ€) the company stood by its claims that its software does not turn users’ computers into a botnet. Today, however, an analysis by cybersecurity firm Vectra is painting Hola in an even more unfavorable light. In its report Vectra not only insists that Hola behaves like a botnet, but it’s possible it has malicious features by design. “While analyzing Hola, Vectra Threat Labs researchers found that in addition to behaving like a botnet, Hola contains a variety of capabilities that almost appear to be designed to enable a targeted, human-driven cyber attack on the network in which an Hola user’s machine resides,†the company writes. “First, the Hola software can download and install any additional software without the user’s knowledge. This is because in addition to being signed with a valid code-signing certificate, once Hola has been installed, the software installs its own code-signing certificate on the user’s system.†If the implications of that aren’t entirely clear, Vectra assists on that front too. On Windows machines, the certificate is added to the Trusted Publishers Certificate Store which allows *any code* to be installed and run with no notification given to the user. That is frightening. Furthermore, Vectra found that Hola contains a built-in console (“zconsoleâ€) that is not only constantly active but also has powerful functions including the ability to kill running processes, download a file and run it whilst bypassing anti-virus software, plus read and write content to any IP address or device. “These capabilities enable a competent attacker to accomplish almost anything. This shifts the discussion away from a leaky and unscrupulous anonymity network, and instead forces us to acknowledge the possibility that an attacker could easily use Hola as a platform to launch a targeted attack within any network containing the Hola software,†Vectra says. Finally, Vectra says that while analyzing the protocol used by Hola, its researchers found five different malware samples on VirusTotal that contain the Hola protocol. Worryingly, they existed before the recent bad press. “Unsurprisingly, this means that bad guys had realized the potential of Hola before the recent flurry of public reports by the good guys,†the company adds. For now, Hola is making a big show of the updates being made to its FAQ as part of its efforts to be more transparent. However, items in the FAQ are still phrased in a manner that portrays criticized elements of the service as positive features, something that is likely to mislead non-tech oriented users. “Since [Hola] uses real peers to route your traffic and not proxy servers, it makes you more anonymous and more secure than regular VPN services,†one item reads. How Hola will respond to Vectra’s latest analysis remains to be seen, but at this point there appears little that the company can say or do to pacify much of the hardcore tech community. That being said, if Joe Public still can’t see the harm in a free “community†VPN operating a commercial division with full access to his computer, Hola might settle for that. https://torrentfreak.com/hola-vpn-already-exploited-by-bad-guys-security-firm-says-150602/
  2. Rightscorp, a piracy monetization company that works with Warner Bros. and other prominent copyright holders, has been sued for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Two victims filed a complaint at a Georgia federal court accusing the company of placing intimidating robocalls and text messages. Piracy monetization firm Rightscorp has made headlines over the past year, often because of its aggressive attempts to obtain settlements from allegedly pirating Internet users. Among other tactics the company sent DMCA subpoenas to smaller local ISPs in the United States, urging them to reveal the personal details of subscribers. While the legitimacy of these requests is in doubt, most Internet providers complied. This is also true for the City of Monroe, Georgia, which offers cable Internet to its residents. Rightscorp used the personal information of the Monroe residents to offer the alleged copyright infringers a settlement. The offers start with a snail mail letter, but if these are ignored things get worse. In a complaint (pdf) filed at a federal court in Georgia, Melissa Brown and Ben Jenkins accuse Rightcorp and its clients of using intimidating robocalls and text messages to solicit settlements. “Once Rightscorp obtains a consumer’s contact information, it commences autocalls and text messages in an attempt to intimidate the consumer into settlement,†the complaint reads. The victims, who deny having downloaded any infringing material, note that they never gave Rightcorp permission to contact them. On the contrary, after requesting that the letters, calls and texts stop, Rightscorp continued to press for settlements. “Jenkins sent Rightscorp numerous emails instructing Rightscorp to cease their calls, text messages, emails and letter solicitations to him and Brown. Regardless, Rightscorp continued to place calls and text messages to Plaintiffs’ cellular and home phones.†The complaint accuses Rightscorp of willfully violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which forbids companies from contacting people through robocalls and text messages without their consent. Brown and Ben Jenkins demand damages for each violation, which may run into the thousands of dollars, and hope that this will also stop the intimidating settlement requests. This is not the first legal battle Rightscorp has been involved in recently. A few weeks ago the company and its clients were sued for fraud, harassment and abuse for their controversial settlement scheme. If the piracy monetization firm loses, it’s not unlikely that other accused file-sharers will follow the example. http://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-robocalls-150220/
  3. The Canadian based anti-piracy firm Canipre is known for hounding file-sharers with lawsuits and copyright infringement notices. Ironically, however, the company may want to start cleaning up its own house first as a blog affiliated with the company has been frequently "pirating" news articles. Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other. We see it happening time and time again with lawyers, lawmakers, anti-piracy groups and copyright holders. In Canada the local anti-piracy group Canipre is running into the same trap. The blogcopyrightenforcement.ca, which is linked to one of the company’s top executives and often used to post Canipre press releases, has been making a habit out of lifting articles written by hard-working journalists. Most of the articles that appear on the site are copied from other news sources, including TechCrunch, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, TorrentFreak and many others. At TF we publish our content under a CC license, so there’s no foul play there, but the other news sites are not all copy friendly. In fact, the publication of most of the lifted articles amounts to blatant copyright infringement. While fair dealing exists, posting full articles, some of which are behind a paywall, generally doesn’t fall into this category. And it’s not only the text that’s being copied but also the images which are often independently copyrighted. After becoming the first company to go after individual Canadian file-sharers in court, this week Canipre announced a new campaign to send copyright infringement warnings to ISPs under the notice-and-notice program. However, as University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist points out, they may have to start sending piracy notices to their own staff first. “Canipre would likely offer its services to the media companies whose work is affected, yet it might want to take a closer look at its internal conduct before throwing stones in the form of thousands of notices alleging infringement,†Geist notes. Making matter even worse, this isn’t the first time that Canipre has been linked to unauthorized copying. Two years ago the company’s own website blatantly used photos that were ripped-off from independent photographers. http://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-firm-caught-pirating-news-articles-150107/
  4. Rightscorp, a prominent piracy monitoring firm that sends settlement requests for Warner Bros. and other copyright holders, may soon go out of business. The publicly listed company is losing millions of dollars per year and says it desperately needs a fresh cash injection to survive. For years the entertainment industries have been complaining that online piracy hurts their revenues. This problem has motivated people to start anti-piracy companies such as Rightscorp, a company that uses standard DMCA takedown requests to send settlement offers to alleged copyright infringers. Rightscorp had big plans and went public last year on the NASDAQ exchange, aiming to help the biggest entertainment companies turn piracy into profit. Thus far, however, the results have been rather disappointing. Despite teaming up with prominent names such as Warner Bros. and BMG, the company hasn’t been able to turn a profit. In their latest SEC filing published earlier today the company reports a total loss of $2.2 million for the current year. This brings the total loss since its founding in 2011 to more than $6.5 million. “The Company had a cumulative net loss from inception to September 30, 2014 of $6,540,194. The Company has not yet established an ongoing source of revenues sufficient to cover its operating costs and to allow it to continue as a going concern,†the SEC filing reads. For Rightscorp to remain in business it desperately needs extra investment. The current revenue stream of $250,000 per quarter from piracy settlements doesn’t come close to covering operating costs. In a word of caution to investors, Rightscorp warns that without extra funding the company may have to cease its operations. “If the Company is unable to obtain adequate capital it could be forced to cease operations. Accordingly, these factors raise substantial doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern,†the filing reads. Investors appear to have foreseen Rightcorp’s troubles as the companies stock price continues to nosedive, straight to the bottom. This week it reached a new low of 13 cents per share. One of Rightscorp’s problems is that they can only reach a fraction of U.S. Internet subscribers. Most large ISPs, including Comcast, have thus far refused to forward their settlement demands. Several smaller providers are not eager to forward the “settlement†DMCA notices either. In an attempt to force them to do so the company recently obtained several DMCA subpoenas against local ISPs, but these are also being protested. Whether Rightscorp will be able to survive these setbacks has yet to be seen. One thing’s for sure though, profiting from piracy is not as easy as they had hoped. http://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-firm-rightscorp-on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy-141114/
  5. After being challenged by Grande Communications, piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp has withdrawn its request to identify the hundreds or thousands of customers who it earlier accused of piracy. The ISP is not letting Rightscorp walk away that easily though, and has asked the court for sanctions. For several months Rightscorp has been sending DMCA subpoenas to smaller local ISPs in the United States. Unlike regular subpoenas, these are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from the Court clerk. This practice raised questions because DMCA subpoenas are not applicable to file-sharing cases, which is something courts determined more than a decade ago. Perhaps unaware of the legal precedent, most ISPs have complied with the requests. Until last week, when small Texas provider Grande Communications stood up in court after it was asked to reveal the account details connected to 30,000 IP-addresses/timestamp combinations. Soon after Grande filed its objections Rightscorp decided to drop the request entirely. While ISP is pleased that its customers no longer have to be exposed, the company is not letting Rightscorp off the hook. In an advisory to the court (pdf) the ISP notes that Rightscorp’s actions suggest that it’s merely trying to avoid having a judge look at their dubious efforts. “The abrupt withdrawal of the Subpoena is consistent with the apparent desire of Rightscorp and its counsel to avoid judicial review of their serial misuse of the subpoena power of the federal courts,†Grande’s attorneys write. The ISP still wants Rightscorp to pay for the costs run up thus far. In addition, Grande also believes that sanctions for misusing the federal court’s subpoena powers may be in order. “The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California may consider ordering Rightscorp and its counsel to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for misusing the federal court’s subpoena powers,†the advisory reads. The ISP points out that if it hadn’t challenged the subpoena, the personal details of hundreds or thousands of subscribers would have been shared based on a faulty procedure. Since similar requests are being sent to other ISPs, the matter warrants further investigation. “It appears clear that Rightscorp and its counsel are playing a game without regard for the rules, and they are playing that game in a manner calculated to avoid judicial review. Hopefully, they will not be permitted to continue much longer,†Grande’s attorneys conclude. Rightscorp’s withdrawal of the subpoena also contradicts earlier comments the company’s CEO Christopher Sabec made to TorrentFreak. Sabec told us that the company believes that earlier decisions on the legitimacy of DMCA subpoenas in file-sharing cases were wrong, and will be overturned should the issue reach the Supreme Court. Apparently, this was a veiled threat, perhaps to discourage Internet providers from starting a battle that could get very expensive. Instead, with possible sanctions pending, things may now get expensive for Rightscorp. http://torrentfreak.com/isp-wants-court-to-sanction-piracy-monitoring-firm-140915/
  6. Hot on the heels of its Gecko acquisitiona few days ago, Google has now gone and purchased cloud visual effects rendering firm Zync for an undisclosed amount. Zync Inc., now five years ago, is responsible for providing visual effects rendering technology for companies via the Internet so that companies need not maintain their own render farms to produce movies and games. Zync Inc.’s rendering technology, known as Zync Render, will be integrated into Google’s Cloud Platform, said representatives familiar with the matter. “We are thrilled to announce that ZYNC has joined Google!…Pairing this history with the scale and reliability of Google Cloud Platform will help us offer an even better service to our customers – including more scalability, more host packages and even better pricing (including per-minute billing),†ZYNC said about the acquisition at its website. While Zync concerns itself with more affordable packages for those who can’t afford their own render farms, Google is likely more concerned about acquiring ZYNC Render’s technology to cater to its current customers, such as ephemeral messaging app company Snapchat and game company Rovio. This year alone, Google has acquired not only hardware design company Gecko, but also photo analysis company Jetpac, small business promotional company Directr, surveillance company Dropcam, maps company Skybox Imaging, language translation startup Quest Visual, Israeli Internet startup SlickLogin, artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies, and Smart Thermostat company Nest, as well as Timely Alarm app company Bitspin, and drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, among others. The search engine giant has now acquired 30 companies or so this year.
  7. With the goal of better protecting user data, the social network buys a company known for just that. Looking to make user data more secure, Facebook announced Thursday that it has acquired secure server technology company PrivateCore. PrivateCore, which was founded in 2012 and is based in Palo Alto, Calif., develops software that authenticates and secures server data. The company's goal is to protect servers from malware, unauthorized access, and malicious hardware devices. This type of software would be useful to Facebook, given that the company runs tens of thousands of servers. The social network has more than 1 billion monthly active users, which means a lot of data that could be vulnerable without the right protections. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a Facebook spokesperson did confirm that the social network plans to add PrivateCore's technology to its server stack."Facebook has done more than any company to connect the world, and we want to use our secure server technology to help make the world's connections more secure," PrivateCore CEO Oded Horovitz said in a statement. "Working together with Facebook, there is a huge opportunity to pursue our joint vision at scale with incredible impact." "PrivateCore and Facebook share a vision of a more connected, secure world," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET. "We plan to deploy PrivateCore's groundbreaking technology into Facebook's server stack to help further our mission to protect the people who use our service." http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-acquires-server-security-firm-privatecore/