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  1. Piracy is a hot topic around the world and in Australia the issue has made mainstream headlines over the past week. After the announcement of a new anti-piracy scheme and the news of copyright trolls coming Down Under this week, VPN usage has surged to unprecedented levels. This week news broke that the makers of Dallas Buyers Club have the court’s approval to go after 4,726 alleged movie pirates in Australia, opening the door to many more copyright lawsuits. Around the same time the country’s largest Internet providers submitted their online anti-piracy code, announcing that 200,000 piracy warnings will be sent out each year. Facing increased monitoring and potential legal action many file-sharers have taken counter measures, hiding their IP-addresses so their sharing activities can no longer be linked to their ISP account. Early March, the initial announcement of the warning letters already increased interest in VPNs and other anonymizing services, but this week’s surge broke new records. Data from Google trends reveals that interest in anonymizing services has soared, with searches for “VPN†quadrupling in recent weeks. This effect, shown in the graph below, is limited to Australia and likely a direct result of the recent anti-piracy threats. The effects are clearly noticeable at VPN providers as well, in both traffic and sales. TorGuard, a VPN and BitTorrent proxy provider, has seen the number of Australian visitors spike this week, for example. “Over the past week TorGuard has seen a massive jump in Australian subscribers. Traffic from this region is currently up over 150% and recent trends indicate that the upsurge is here to stay,†TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt tells us. “VPN router sales to Australia have also increased significantly with AU orders now representing 50% of all weekly shipments.†TorGuard traffic from Australia The recent events are expected to drive tens of thousands of new users to anonymizing services. However, it appears that even before the surge they were already commonly used Down Under. A survey among 1,008 Australians early March showed that 16% of the respondents already used VPNs or Tor to increase privacy. The Essential survey shows that anonymizing tools are most prevalent among people aged 18-34. While copyright holders don’t like the increased interest in these evasion tools, it may not all be bad news. In fact, to a certain degree it shows that pirates are spooked by the new initiatives. Where some decide to go underground, others may choose to pirate less. And for the “trolls†there are still plenty of unsecured file-sharers out there. https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-threats-trigger-massive-surge-in-vpn-usage-150411/
  2. After years of debating U.S. Internet subscribers now have Government regulated Net Neutrality. A huge step forward according to some, but the full order released a few days ago reveals some worrying caveats. While the rules prevent paid prioritization, they do very little to prevent BitTorrent blocking, the very issue that got the net neutrality debate started. In 2007 we uncovered that Comcast was systematically slowing down BitTorrent traffic to ease the load on its network. The Comcast case was the first to ignite a broad discussion about Net Neutrality. It became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which wasreleased three years later. This Open Internet Order was the foundation of the Net Neutrality rules the FCC adopted two weeks ago. The big change compared to the earlier attempt is that ISPs can now be regulated as carriers under Title II. Interestingly, the exact language of the new rules remained secret until three days ago. The broader concepts, including a ban on paid prioritization and blocking were known, but the fine print was kept secret until everything was signed off on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the full text has quite a few caveats. When we read the new rules it’s clear that the “copyright loophole†many activists protested against in the past is still there. In short, ISPs can still throttle or block certain types of traffic as long as it’s related to copyright infringement. In its most recent order the FCC has listed the following rule: “Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.†The FCC argues that copyright infringement hurts the economy, so ISPs are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for. “For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,†the FCC explains. Interestingly, this issue has been pretty much absent from the discussion in recent months. This is curious as many activist groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), protested heavily against the copyright loophole in the past, issuing warnings over massive collateral damage. “Carving a copyright loophole in net neutrality would leave your lawful activities at the mercy of overbroad copyright filtering schemes, and we already have plenty of experience with copyright enforcers targeting legitimate users by mistake, carelessness, or design,†the EFF wrote at the time. So why was there little outrage about the copyright loophole this time around? TF contacted EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh who admits that the issue didn’t get much attention, but that it’s certainly problematic. “The language about ‘lawful’ content and applications creates a serious loophole that seems to leave it up to ISPs to make judgments about what content is lawful or infringes a copyright, subject to challenges after the fact about whether their conduct was ‘reasonable’,†Walsh says. “It’s one thing to say that ISPs can block subject to a valid court order, quite another to let ISPs make decisions about the lawfulness of content for themselves,†he adds. According to Walsh the issue is particularly concerning because many ISPs also have their own media properties. This means that their incentive to block copyright infringement may be greater than the incentive to protect fair use material. For example, although the Net Neutrality rules prescribe no blocking and throttling, ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as an anti-piracy measure. Throttling BitTorrent traffic in general is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management. A related concern is that ISPs can use privacy invasive technologies such as Deep Packet Inspection to monitor users’ traffic for possible copyright violations. The FCC didn’t include any protections against these practices. Instead, it simply noted that people can use SSL, VPNs and TOR to circumvent it. “The FCC’s response to concerns about deep packet inspection is that users can just use SSL, VPNs and TOR,†Walsh says. “Of course SSL, VPNs, and TOR are great tools for Internet users to preserve their privacy, but this approach of leaving users to fend for themselves isn’t a great start for the FCC on protecting the privacy of broadband subscribers,†he adds. The above makes it clear that Net Neutrality has its limits. The problem remains, however, that it’s still unclear how far ISPs can go under the “copyright†and “network management†loopholes. Previously, the EFF seriously doubted if it was a good idea at all to give FCC control over the Internet. However, as things stand now they are happy with the new rules, even though they aren’t perfect. Title II regulation with forbearance was the main goal, and that was achieved. In addition, the EFF is also content with the bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful†traffic. “We won a large portion of what we argued for, thanks to a broad coalition of advocates and the voices of four million Americans, but we did not get everything we wanted. We’re clearly better off overall with the order than without, but we’re not going to hesitate to criticize the areas where the FCC gets it wrong,†Walsh says. Fingers crossed…. Torrentfreak
  3. The Pirate Bay has welcomed several moderators back on board. After initial security issues were resolved site staff have now regained access to the backend. The moderators got to work right away and have already removed hundreds of fake torrents in an effort to restore the site to its former glory. The Pirate Bay has been back online for three weeks now and most of the site’s former users have found their way back. While the notorious torrent site appeared to function normally, things were pretty hectic behind the scenes. TPB had to switch hosting providers on several occasions after being kicked out following copyright complaints. At the same time, scammers were populating the site with fake torrents and scammy comments. Since TPB decided to restart without a moderator crew for security reasons, most fake torrents remained online for days, driving downloaders to malware and other malicious content. Locking out the moderators initially led to mutiny among the staff and concerns among users, but this week several long-time moderators came back on board. Close to a dozen moderators now have access to the site again and they started cleaning up the place right away. Spammer accounts were banned and hundreds of fake files have already been deleted. “I don’t know how many torrents have been removed so far, but it is in the hundreds. Some fakers had eight or nine pages under their account,†TPB moderator Agricola tells TF. The moderators describe the site as a “crap heap†and there’s still plenty of work to be done. However, for security reasons, no new “helpers†will be allowed to join. “No new staff will be recruited, so the helper status will be gone. The staff will only consist of moderators,†Agricola says. For the time being no new accounts can be registered, which makes the clean up a little easier. Spammers will have to use old existing accounts and these will become harder to find. Earlier this week TPB operator Winston told us that registrations will eventually be opened as well, but not before everything else is running smoothly. With the moderators back on board the site will slowly and steadily return to what it was before the raid, marking the end of some of the most challenging weeks in the site’s history. http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-mods-are-back-on-board-for-massive-cleanup-150220/
  4. Four hundred police officers raided 121 homes today in a crackdown on the popular linking site Boerse.bz. The homes are believed to be connected to active uploaders of the site but no arrests have been made. The Boerse.bz website itself switched to a new provider but remains online. Last week news broke that police in Germany had carried out raids looking for the operators of Kinox.to, a manhunt that’s still ongoing. The police actions are part of a large investigation into the local piracy scene in Germany which are today followed by one of the largest anti-piracy raids in history, involving the link forum Boerse.bz. Police headquartered in Cologne have just announced that they carried out raids on 121 homes across the country. The police are gathering evidence on the operators of the popular linking forum and many of the raided homes are connected to active contributers to the site. The police raids involved around 400 police officers who seized numerous computers, hard drives and other storage media. No arrests have been made thus far but some suspects have reportedly been willing to cooperate. According to the authorities the suspects have shared a considerable number of movies, music albums, software and e-books via various cyberlockers and Boerse.bz over a long period of time. These files were shared among an estimated 2.7 million Boerse.bz users and the uploaders reportedly earned referral commissions of up to several thousand euros per month through various cyberlockers. The raids are the result of a criminal complaint filed by German anti-piracy outfit GVU. According to GVU, Boerse.bz is offering more than 100,000 files without permission from rightsholders, including 61,776 movies and 13,560 TV-shows. Most of the evidence the police acted on was provided to the police by GVU, who say that Boerse.bz is a highly structured operation with a clear division of labor. Despite the massive police force that was used in today’s raids and those of last week, both Kinox.to and Boerse.bz remain online. The alleged operators of the sites are still on the run. http://torrentfreak.com/german-police-raid-121-homes-in-pirate-site-crackdown-141104/
  5. Four hundred police officers raided 121 homes today in a crackdown on the popular linking site Boerse.bz. The homes are believed to be connected to active uploaders of the site but no arrests have been made. The Boerse.bz website itself switched to a new provider but remains online. ​ Last week news broke that police in Germany had carried out raids looking for the operators of Kinox.to, a manhunt that’s still ongoing. The police actions are part of a large investigation into the local piracy scene in Germany which are today followed by one of the largest anti-piracy raids in history, involving the link forum Boerse.bz. Police headquartered in Cologne have just announced that they carried out raids on 121 homes across the country. The police are gathering evidence on the operators of the popular linking forum and many of the raided homes are connected to active contributers to the site. The police raids involved around 400 police officers who seized numerous computers, hard drives and other storage media. No arrests have been made thus far but some suspects have reportedly been willing to cooperate. According to the authorities the suspects have shared a considerable number of movies, music albums, software and e-books via various cyberlockers and Boerse.bz over a long period of time. These files were shared among an estimated 2.7 million Boerse.bz users and the uploaders reportedly earned referral commissions of up to several thousand euros per month through various cyberlockers. The raids are the result of a criminal complaint filed by German anti-piracy outfit GVU.According to GVU, Boerse.bz is offering more than 100,000 files without permission from rightsholders, including 61,776 movies and 13,560 TV-shows. Most of the evidence the police acted on was provided to the police by GVU, who say that Boerse.bz is a highly structured operation with a clear division of labor. Despite the massive police force that was used in today’s raids and those of last week, both Kinox.to and Boerse.bz remain online. The alleged operators of the sites are still on the run.
  6. A major fork of the popular Popcorn Time project is currently being subjected to a massive DDoS attack. The whole project has been hit, from the site hosting its source through to its CDN, API and DNS servers. The team tells TorrentFreak that the attack amounts to 10Gbps across their entire network. Every year sees periods when sites in the file-sharing sector are subjected to denial of service attacks. The attackers and their motives are often unknown and eventually the assaults pass away. Early in 2014 many torrent sites were hit, pushing some offline and forcing others to invest in mitigation technology. In May a torrent related host suffered similar problems. Today it’s the turn of the main open source Popcorn Time fork to face the wrath of attackers unknown. TorrentFreak spoke with members of the project including Ops manager XeonCore who told us that the attack is massive. “We are currently mitigating a large scale DDoS attack across our entire network. We are currently rerouting all traffic via some of our high bandwidth nodes and are working on imaging and getting our remaining servers back online to help deal with the load,†the team explain. The attack is project-wide with huge amounts of traffic hitting all parts of the network, starting with the site hosting the Popcorn Time source code. ATTACK ON THE SOURCE CODE SITE – 980MBPS Also under attack is the project’s CDN and API. The graph below shows one of the project’s servers located in France. The green shows the normal traffic from the API server, the blue represents the attack. ATTACK ON THE FRANCE API SERVER – 931MBPS Not even the project’s DNS servers have remained untouched. At one point two of three DNS servers went down, with a third straining under almost 1Gbps of traffic. To be sure, a fourth DNS server was added to assist with the load. ATTACK ON THE DUTCH DNS SERVER – PEAKING AT 880MBPS All told the whole network is being hit with almost 10Gbps of traffic, but the team is working hard to keep things operational. “We’ve added additional capacity. Our DNS servers are currently back up and running but there is still severe congestion around Europe and America. Almost 10Gbps across the entire network. Still working on mitigating. API is still online for most users!†they conclude. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and it’s certainly possible things will remain that way. Only time will tell when the attack will subside, but the team are determined to keep their project online in the meantime. http://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-hit-by-massive-ddos-attack-140814/