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Sky: People Can’t Pirate Live Soccer in the UK Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-people-cant-pirate-live-soccer-in-the-uk-anymore-171108/

The commotion over the set-top box streaming phenomenon is showing no signs of dying down and if day one at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 was anything to go by, things are only heating up.

Held at Studio City in Macau, the conference has a strong anti-piracy element and was opened by Joe Welch, CASBAA Board Chairman and SVP Public Affairs Asia, 21st Century Fox. He began Tuesday by noting the important recent launch of a brand new anti-piracy initiative.

“CASBAA recently launched the Coalition Against Piracy, funded by 18 of the region’s content players and distribution partners,” he said.

TF reported on the formation of the coalition mid-October. It includes heavyweights such as Disney, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal and BBC Worldwide, and will have a strong focus on the illicit set-top box market.

Illegal streaming devices (or ISDs, as the industry calls them), were directly addressed in a segment yesterday afternoon titled Face To Face. Led by Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the session detailed the “onslaught of online piracy” and the rise of ISDs that is apparently “shaking the market”.

Given the apparent gravity of those statements, the following will probably come as a surprise. According to Lynch, the UK IPO sought the opinion of UK-based rightsholders about the pirate box phenomenon a while back after being informed of their popularity in the East. The response was that pirate boxes weren’t an issue. It didn’t take long, however, for things to blow up.

“The UKIPO provides intelligence and evidence to industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in London who then take enforcement actions,” Lynch explained.

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded.”

The evidence of that in the UK isn’t difficult to find. In addition to millions of devices with both free Kodi addon and subscription-based systems deployed, the app market has bloomed too, offering free or near to free content to all.

This caught the eye of the Premier League who this year obtained two pioneering injunctions (1,2) to tackle live streams of football games. Streams are blocked by local ISPs in real-time, making illicit online viewing a more painful experience than it ever has been. No doubt progress has been made on this front, with thousands of streams blocked, but according to broadcaster Sky, the results are unprecedented.

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK.

“In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore,” he said.

While progress has been good, the statement is overly enthusiastic. TF sources have been monitoring the availability of pirate streams on around dozen illicit sites and services every Saturday (when it is actually illegal to broadcast matches in the UK) and service has been steady on around half of them and intermittent at worst on the rest.

There are hundreds of other platforms available so while many are definitely affected by Premier League blocking, it’s safe to assume that live football piracy hasn’t been wiped out. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made, in this and other related areas.

Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League, said that pubs showing football from illegal streams had also massively dwindled in numbers.

“In the past 18 months the illegal broadcasting of live Premier League matches in pubs in the UK has been decimated,” he said.

This result is almost certainly down to prosecutions taken in tandem with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that have seen several landlords landed with large fines. Indeed, both sides of the market have been tackled, with both licensed premises and IPTV device sellers being targeted.

“The most successful thing we’ve done to combat piracy has been to undertake criminal prosecutions against ISD piracy,” said FACT chief Kieron Sharp yesterday. “Everyone is pleading guilty to these offenses.”

Most if not all of FACT-led prosecutions target device and subscription sellers under fraud legislation but that could change in the future, Lynch of the Intellectual Property Office said.

“While the UK works to update its legislation, we can’t wait for the new legislation to take enforcement actions and we rely heavily on ‘conspiracy to defraud’ charges, and have successfully prosecuted a number of ISD retailers,” she said.

Finally, information provided yesterday by network company CISCO shine light on what it costs to run a subscription-based pirate IPTV operation.

Director of Intelligence & Security Operations Avigail Gutman said a pirate IPTV server offering 1,000 channels to around 1,000 subscribers can cost as little as 2,000 euros per month to run but can generate 12,000 euros in revenue during the same period.

“In April of 2017, ten major paid TV and content providers had relinquished 3.09 million euros per month to 285 ISD-based streaming pirate syndicates,” she said.

There’s little doubt that IPTV piracy, both paid and free, is here to stay. The big question is how it will be tackled short and long-term and whether any changes in legislation will have any unintended knock-on effects.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Top 10 Torrent Site TorrentDownloads Blocked By Chrome and Firefox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-torrent-site-torrentdownloads-blocked-by-chrome-and-firefox-171107/

While the popularity of torrent sites isn’t as strong as it used to be, dozens of millions of people use them on a daily basis.

Content availability is rich and the majority of the main movie, TV show, game and software releases appear on them within minutes, offering speedy and convenient downloads. Nevertheless, things don’t always go as smoothly as people might like.

Over the past couple of days that became evident to visitors of TorrentDownloads, one of the Internet’s most popular torrent sites.

TorrentDownloads – usually a reliable and tidy platform

Instead of viewing the rather comprehensive torrent index that made the Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Site lists in 2016 and 2017, visitors receive a warning.

“Attackers on torrentdownloads.me may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers or credit cards),” Chrome users are warned.

“Google Safe Browsing recently detected phishing on torrentdownloads.me. Phishing sites pretend to be other websites to trick you.”

Chrome warning

People using Firefox also receive a similar warning.

“This web page at torrentdownloads.me has been reported as a deceptive site and has been blocked based on your security preferences,” the browser warns.

“Deceptive sites are designed to trick you into doing something dangerous, like installing software, or revealing your personal information, like passwords, phone numbers or credit cards.”

A deeper check on Google’s malware advisory service echoes the same information, noting that the site contains “harmful content” that may “trick visitors into sharing personal info or downloading software.” Checks carried out with MalwareBytes reveal that service blocking the domain too.

TorrentFreak spoke with the operator of TorrentDownloads who told us that the warnings had been triggered by a rogue advertiser which was immediately removed from the site.

“We have already requested a review with Google Webmaster after we removed an old affiliates advertiser and changed the links on the site,” he explained.

“In Google Webmaster they state that the request will be processed within 72 Hours, so I think it will be reviewed today when 72 hours are completed.”

This statement suggests that the site itself wasn’t the direct culprit, but ads hosted elsewhere. That being said, these kinds of warnings look very scary to visitors and sites have to take responsibility, so completely expelling the bad player from the platform was the correct choice. Nevertheless, people shouldn’t be too surprised at the appearance of suspect ads.

Many top torrent sites have suffered from similar warnings, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, which are often a product of anti-piracy efforts from the entertainment industries.

In the past, torrent and streaming sites could display ads from top-tier providers with few problems. However, in recent years, the so-called “follow the money” anti-piracy tactic has forced the majority away from pirate sites, meaning they now have to do business with ad networks that may not always be as tidy as one might hope.

While these warnings are the very last thing the sites in question want (they’re hardly good for increasing visitor numbers), they’re a gift to entertainment industry groups.

At the same time as the industries are forcing decent ads away, these alerts provide a great opportunity to warn users about the potential problems left behind as a result. A loose analogy might be deliberately cutting off beer supply to an unlicensed bar then warning people not to go there because the homebrew sucks. It some cases it can be true, but it’s a problem only being exacerbated by industry tactics.

It’s worth noting that no warnings are received by visitors to TorrentDownloads using Android devices, meaning that desktop users were probably the only people at risk. In any event, it’s expected that the warnings will disappear during the next day, so the immediate problems will be over. As far as TF is informed, the offending ads were removed days ago.

That appears to be backed up by checks carried out on a number of other malware scanning services. Norton, Opera, SiteAdvisor, Spamhaus, Yandex and ESET all declare the site to be clean.

Technical Chrome and Firefox users who are familiar with these types of warnings can take steps (Chrome, FF) to bypass the blocks, if they really must.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Aussie ‘Pirate’ Blocking Efforts Switch to Premium IPTV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-pirate-blocking-efforts-switch-to-premium-iptv-171106/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms in recent years and is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are now off-limits by regular means.

More recently the practice spread to Australia, where movie and music industry bodies have filed several applications at the Federal Court. This has rendered dozens of major torrent and streaming inaccessible in the region, after local ISPs complied with orders compelling them to prevent subscriber access.

While such blocking is now commonplace, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios have now switched tack, targeting an operation offering subscription-based IPTV services.

The action targets HDSubs+, a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee, at least versus the real deal.

A small selection of channels in the HDSubs+ package

ComputerWorld reports that the application for the injunction was filed last month. In common with earlier requests, it targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus the subsidiaries.

Access to HDSubs.com appears to be limited, possibly by the platform’s operators, so that visitors from desktop machines are redirected back to Google. However, access to the platform is available by other means and that reveals a fairly pricey IPTV offering.

As seen in the image below, the top package (HD Subs+), which includes all the TV anyone could need plus movies and TV shows on demand, weighs in at US$239.99 per year, around double the price of similar packages available elsewhere.

Broad selection of channels but quite pricey

If the court chooses to grant the injunction, ISPs will not only have to block the service’s main domain (HDSubs.com) but also a range of others which provide the infrastructure for the platform.

Unlike torrent and streaming sites which tend to be in one place (if we discount proxies and mirrors), IPTV services like HD Subs often rely on a number of domains to provide a sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services.

As per CW, in the HD Subs case they are: ois001wfr.update-apk.com, ois005yfs.update-apk.com, ois003slp.update-apk.com, update002zmt.hiddeniptv.com, apk.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg003uix.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg002gwj.hiddeniptv.com, mpbs001utb.hiddeniptv.com, soft001rqv.update-apk.com and hdsubs.com.

This switch in tactics by Village Roadshow and the other studios involved is subtle but significant. While torrent and streaming sites provide a largely free but fragmented experience, premium IPTV services are direct commercial competitors, often providing a more comprehensive range of channels and services than the broadcasters themselves.

While quality may not always be comparable with their licensed counterparts, presentation is often first class, giving the impression of an official product which is comfortably accessed via a living room TV. This is clearly a concern to commercial broadcasters.

As reported last week, global IPTV traffic is both huge and growing, so expect more of these requests Down Under.

Previous efforts to block IPTV services include those in the UK, where the Premier League takes targeted action against providers who provide live soccer. These measures only target live streams when matches are underway and as far as we’re aware, there are no broader measures in place against any provider.

This could mean that the action in Australia, to permanently block a provider in its entirety, is the first of its kind anywhere.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Piracy ‘Fines’ Awareness Causes 13% of Pirates to Stop Pirating, Study Finds

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-fines-awareness-cause-13-of-pirates-to-stop-pirating-study-finds-171105/

Figuring out what to do about the online piracy problem is an ongoing puzzle for rightsholders everywhere. What they’re all agreed upon, however, is the need to educate the public.

Various approaches have been deployed, from ISP-based ‘education’ notices through to the current practice of painting pirate sites as havens for viruses and malware. The other approach, of course, has been to threaten to sue pirates in an effort to make them change their ways.

These threats have traditionally been deployed by so-called copyright trolls – companies and groups who have the sole intention of extracting cash payments from pirates in order to generate an additional revenue stream. At the same time, many insist that their programs are also designed to reduce piracy via word of mouth.

While that might be true in some cases, there’s little proof that the approach works. However, a new study carried out on behalf of the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Center (CIAPC) in Finland suggests that they may have had some effect.

The survey was carried out between 11 September 2017 and 10 October 2017 among people aged 15 to 79-years-old. In total, 1001 people were interviewed, 77% of whom said they’d never used pirate services.

Of all people interviewed, 43% said they’d heard about copyright holders sending settlement letters to Internet users, although awareness rates were higher (between 51% and 55%) among people aged between 25 and 49-years-old. Predictably, awareness jumped to 70% among users of pirate services and it’s these individuals that produced some of the study’s most interesting findings.

Of the pirates who said they were aware of settlement letters being sent out, 13% reported that they’d terminated their use of pirate services as a result. A slightly higher figure, 14%, said they’d reduced their use of unauthorized content.

Perhaps surprisingly (given that they aren’t likely to receive a letter), the study also found that 17% of people who listen to or play content on illegal online services (implication: streaming) stopped doing so, with 13% cutting down on the practice.

“According to the Economic Research Survey, these two groups of respondents are partly overlapping, but it can still be said that the settlement letters have had a decisive impact on the use of pirated services,” CIAPC reports.

The study also found support for copyright holders looking to unmask alleged Internet pirates by compelling their ISPs to do so in court.

“The survey found that 65 percent of the population is fully or partly in favor of rightsholders being allowed to find out who has infringed their rights anonymously on the Internet,” the group adds.

Overall, just 17% of respondents said that rightsholders shouldn’t be able to find out people’s identities. Unsurprisingly, young pirates objected more than the others, with 35% of 25 to 49-year-old pirates coming out against disclosure. That being said, this figure suggests that 65% of pirates in this group are in favor of pirates being unmasked. That appears counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Pirate Party vice council member of Espoo City Janne Paalijärvi says that study seems to have omitted to consider the effects of legal alternatives on pirate consumption.

“The analysis seemingly forgets to fully take into account the prevalence of legal streaming services such as Netflix,” Paalijärvi says.

“Legitimate, reasonably-priced and easy-to-use delivery platforms are the number one weapon against piracy. Not bullying your audience with copyright extortion letters. The latter approach creates unwanted hostility between artists and customers. It also increases the demand for political parties wanting to balance copyright legislation.”

Overall, however, Finland doesn’t appear to have a serious problem with piracy, at least as far as public perceptions go. According to the study, only 5% of citizens believe that unauthorized file-sharing is acceptable. The figure for 2016 was 7%.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

MPAA: Almost 70% of 38 Million Kodi Users Are Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-almost-70-of-38-million-kodi-users-are-pirates-171104/

As torrents and other forms of file-sharing resolutely simmer away in the background, it is the streaming phenomenon that’s taking the Internet by storm.

This Tuesday, in a report by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine, it was revealed that IPTV traffic has grown to massive proportions.

Sandvine found that 6.5% of households in North American are now communicating with known TV piracy services. This translates to seven million subscribers and many more potential viewers. There’s little doubt that IPTV and all its variants, Kodi streaming included, are definitely here to stay.

The topic was raised again Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by the Copyright Alliance in conjunction with the Creative Rights Caucus. Titled “Copyright Pirates’ New Strategies”, the discussion’s promotional graphic indicates some of the industry heavyweights in attendance.

The Copyright Alliance tweeted points from the discussion throughout the day and soon the conversation turned to the streaming phenomenon that has transformed piracy in recent times.

Previously dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs Neil Fried was present to describe streaming devices and apps as the latest development in TV and movie piracy.

Like many before him, Fried explained that the Kodi platform in its basic form is legal. However, he noted that many of the add-ons for the media player provide access to pirated content, a point proven in a big screen demo.

Kodi demo by the MPAA via Copyright Alliance

According to the Copyright Alliance, Fried then delivered some interesting stats. The MPAA believes that there are around 38 million users of Kodi in the world, which sounds like a reasonable figure given that the system has been around for 15 years in various guises, including during its XBMC branding.

However, he also claimed that of those 38 million, a substantial 26 million users have piracy addons installed. That suggests around 68.5% or seven out of ten of all Kodi users are pirates of movies, TV shows, and other media. Taking the MPAA statement to its conclusion, only 12 million Kodi users are operating the software legitimately.

TorrentFreak contacted XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen for his stance on the figures but he couldn’t shine much light on usage.

“Unfortunately I do not have an up to date number on users, and because we don’t watch what our users are doing, we have no way of knowing how many do what with regards to streaming. [The MPAA’s] numbers could be completely correct or totally made up. We have no real way to know,” Betzen said.

That being said, the team does have the capability to monitor overall Kodi usage, even if they don’t publish the stats. This was revealed back in June 2011 when Kodi was still called XBMC.

“The addon system gives us the opportunity to measure the popularity of addons, measure user base, estimate the frequency that people update their systems, and even, ultimately, help users find the more popular addons,” the team wrote.

“Most interestingly, for the purposes of this post, is that we can get a pretty good picture of how many active XBMC installs there are without having to track what each individual user does.”

Using this system, the team concluded there were roughly 435,000 active XBMC instances around the globe in April 2011, but that figure was to swell dramatically. Just three months later, 789,000 XBMC installations had been active in the previous six weeks.

What’s staggering is that in 2017, the MPAA claims that there are now 38 million users of Kodi, of which 26 million are pirates. In the absence of any figures from the Kodi team, TF asked Kodi addon repository TVAddons what they thought of the MPAA’s stats.

“We’ve always banned the use of analytics within Kodi addons, so it’s really impossible to make such an estimate. It seems like the MPAA is throwing around numbers without much statistical evidence while mislabelling Kodi users as ‘pirate’ in the same way that they have mislabelled legitimate services like CloudFlare,” a spokesperson said.

“As far as general addon use goes, before our repository server (which contained hundreds of legitimate addons) was unlawfully seized, it had about 39 million active users per month, but even we don’t know how many users downloaded which addons. We never allowed for addon statistics for users because they are invasive to privacy and breed unhealthy competition.”

So, it seems that while there is some dispute over the number of potential pirates, there does at least appear to be some consensus on the number of users overall. The big question, however, is how groups like the MPAA will deal with this kind of unauthorized infringement in future.

At the moment the big push is to paint pirate platforms as dangerous places to be. Indeed, during the discussion this week, Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid claimed that users of pirate services are “28 times more likely” to be infected with malware.

Whether that strategy will pay off remains unclear but it’s obvious that at least for now, Piracy 3.0 is a massive deal, one that few people saw coming half a decade ago but is destined to keep growing.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Kim Dotcom Wins Settlement Over Military-Style Police Raid

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-wins-settlement-military-style-police-raid-171103/

It’s been spoken about thousands of times in the past half-decade but the 2012 raid on Kim Dotcom’s home in New Zealand was extraordinary by any standard.

At the behest of the US Government, 72 police officers – including some from the elite heavily armed Special Tactics Group (STG) – descended on Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion. Two helicopters were used during the raid, footage from which was later released to the public as the scale and nature of the operation became clear.

To be clear, no one in the Dotcom residence had any history of violence. Nevertheless, considerable force was used to attack rooms in the building, all of it aimed at detaining the founder of what was then the world’s most famous file-hosting site. The FBI, it seems, would stop at nothing in pursuit of the man they claimed was the planet’s most notorious copyright infringer.

As the dust settled, it became clear that the overwhelming use of force was not only unprecedented but also completely unnecessary, a point Dotcom himself became intent on pressing home.

The entrepreneur was particularly angry at the treatment received by former wife Mona, who was seven months pregnant with twins at the time. So, in response, the Megaupload founder and his wife sued the police, hoping to hold the authorities to account for their actions.

The case has dragged on for years but this morning came news of a breakthrough. According to information released by Kim Dotcom, the lawsuit has been resolved after a settlement was reached with the police.

“Today, Mona and I are glad to reach a confidential settlement of our case against the New Zealand Police. We have respect for the Police in this country. They work hard and have, with this one exception, treated me and my family with courtesy and respect,” Dotcom said.

“We were shocked at the uncharacteristic handling of my arrest for a non-violent Internet copyright infringement charge brought by the United States, which is not even a crime in New Zealand.”

Dotcom said police could have simply asked to be let in, at which point he could have been arrested. Instead, under pressure from US authorities and “special interests in Hollywood”, they turned the whole event into a massive publicity stunt aimed at pleasing the US.

“The New Zealand Police we know do not carry guns. They try to resolve matters in a non-violent manner, unlike what we see from the United States. We are sad that our officers, good people simply doing their job, were tainted by US priorities and arrogance,” Dotcom said.

“We sued the Police because we believed their military-style raid on a family with children in a non-violent case went far beyond what a civilised community should expect from its police force. New Zealanders deserve and should expect better.”

Kim Dotcom has developed a reputation for fighting back across all aspects of his long-running case, and this particular action was no different. He’d planned to take the case all the way to the High Court but in the end decided that doing so wouldn’t be in the best interests of his family.

Noting that New Zealand has a new government “for the better”, Dotcom said that raking up the past would only serve to further disrupt his family.

“Our children are now settled and integrated safely here into their community and they love it. We do not want to relive past events. We do not want to disrupt our children’s new lives. We do not want to revictimise them. We want them to grow up happy,” he said.

“That is why we chose New Zealand to be our family home in the first place. We are fortunate to live here. Under the totality of the circumstances, we thought settlement was best for our children.”

According to NZ Herald, the Dotcoms aren’t the only ones to have made peace with the police. Other people arrested in 2012, including Dotcom associates Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann, were paid six-figure sums to settle. The publication speculates that as the main target of the raid, Dotcom’s settlment amount would’ve been more.

But while this matter is now closed, others remain. It was previously determined that Kiwi spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) unlawfully spied on the Dotcoms over an extended period. Ron Mansfield, New Zealand counsel for the Dotcoms, says that case will continue.

“The GCSB refuses to disclose what it did or the actual private communications it stole. The Dotcoms understandably believe that they are entitled to know this. That action is pending appeal in the Court of Appeal,” he says.

Also before the Court of Appeal is the case to extradite Dotcom and his associates to the United States. That hearing is set for February 2018 but whatever the outcome, a further appeal to the Supreme Court is likely, meaning that Dotcom will remain in New Zealand until 2020, at least.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Kim Dotcom Asks Court For $829K to Fund Family Expenses

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-asks-court-for-829k-to-fund-family-expenses-171102/

When Megaupload was shut down in January 2012, US authorities did everything within their power to financially ruin Kim Dotcom and his associates.

Aside from taking much of his personal property, tens of millions of dollars of assets were seized around the world.

Under instruction from the U.S. government, US$42.57m in assets were seized in Hong Kong and since then Dotcom has been trying to claw it back, bit by bit.

Back in July, Dotcom revealed that the Hong Kong High Court had released more of his funds, plus four containers of seized property. Noting that he missed the country, he gave thanks for the lifeline.

“Thanks to a Hong Kong Judge my family can move to Queenstown and my kids will be surrounded by beautiful mountains & lakes instead of spies,” Dotcom said.

That move eventually went ahead, with Dotcom regularly tweeting beautiful waterside views from his new home over the past few months. But of course, nice things tend to cost quite a bit of money, so Dotcom’s legal team have been working hard in Hong Kong to have more funds released.

According to a report from NZHerald, his latest request is fairly sizeable, reaching NZ$1.2m (US$829,400), everything considered.

First up, Dotcom is seeking around NZ$1m (US$691,200) for costs relating to his relocation from Auckland to Queenstown. That’s comprised of two years worth of rent at NZ$40,000 (US$27,648) per month (no typo), plus NZ$150,000 (US$103,680) to cover the actual cost of the move.

On top, Dotcom is looking for NZ$73,000 (US$50,457) per month for living expenses, an amount that’s roughly US$2,000 per month up on the amount he currently receives.

According to the report, Dotcom’s team are also proposing a further amount of NZ$200,000 (US$138,240) to cover emergency items including “medical expenses of the family, car maintenance, household repairs and two holidays of the family”.

It seems unlikely that this will be the final request from Dotcom. According to Gerard McCoy, Dotcom’s lawyer in Hong Kong, the extradition process in New Zealand is nowhere near complete. In fact, McCoy told the court that proceedings won’t be completed during the next two years.

That takes us to 2020, at least, meaning that Dotcom will still be in New Zealand a full eight years after the raid. Given the massive number of court battles and subsequent appeals into every detail of several resulting cases, that’s probably not a surprise, however.

The progress in the extradition process itself is also somewhat glacial, with the next hearing set for the first quarter of 2018 in the Court of Appeal. If past experience is anything to go by, neither side will be happy with the outcome. This means that an appeal to the Supreme Court is almost inevitable.

Over in the United States, progress has also been slow. Recently, a petition from Dotcom and his former Megaupload colleagues over millions of dollars in seized assets was denied by the US Supreme Court.

While this decision means that the battle over a further US$67 million in assets has been exhausted, the question of whether Dotcom and former colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato will ever stand trial in the US remains unanswered.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Trolls Want to Seize Alleged Movie Pirates’ Computers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trolls-want-to-seize-alleged-movie-pirates-computers-171101/

Five years ago, a massive controversy swept Finland. Local anti-piracy group CIAPC (known locally as TTVK) sent a letter to a man they accused of illegal file-sharing.

The documents advised the man to pay a settlement of 600 euros and sign a non-disclosure document, to make a threatened file-sharing lawsuit disappear. He made the decision not to cave in.

Then, in November 2012, there was an 8am call at the man’s door. Police, armed with a search warrant, said they were there to find evidence of illicit file-sharing. Eventually the culprit was found. It was the man’s 9-year-old daughter who had downloaded an album by local multi-platinum-selling songstress Chisu from The Pirate Bay, a whole year earlier.

Police went on to seize the child’s Winnie the Pooh-branded laptop and Chisu was horrified, posting public apologies on the Internet to her young fans. Five years on, it seems that pro-copyright forces in Finland are treading the same path.

Turre Legal, a law firm involved in defending file-sharing matters, has issued a warning that copyright trolls have filed eight new cases at the Market Court, the venue for previous copyright battles in the country.

“According to information provided by the Market Court, Crystalis Entertainment, previously active in such cases, filed three new copyright cases and initiated five pre-trial applications in October 2017,” says lawyer Herkko Hietanen.

The involvement of Crystalis Entertainment adds further controversy into the mix. The company isn’t an official movie distributor but obtained the rights to distribute content on BitTorrent networks instead. It doesn’t do so officially, instead preferring to bring prosecutions against file-sharers’ instead.

Like the earlier ‘Chisu’ case, the trolls’ law firms have moved extremely slowly. Hietanen reports that some of the new cases reference alleged file-sharing that took place two years ago in 2015.

“It would seem that right-holders want to show that even old cases may have to face justice,” says Hietanen.

“However, applications for enforceability may be a pre-requisite for computer confiscation by a bailiff for independent investigations. It is possible that seizures of the teddy bears of the past years will make a comeback,” he added, referencing the ‘Chisu’ case.

Part of the reason behind the seizure requests is that some people defending against copyright trolls have been obtaining reports from technical experts who have verified that no file-sharing software is present on their machines. The trolls say that this is a somewhat futile exercise since any ‘clean’ machine can be presented for inspection. On this basis, seizure on site is a better option.

While the moves for seizure are somewhat aggressive, things haven’t been getting easier for copyright trolls in Finland recently.

In February 2017, an alleged file-sharer won his case when a court ruled that copyright holders lacked sufficient evidence to show that the person in question downloaded the files, in part because his Wi-Fi network was open to the public

Then, in the summer of 2017, the Market Court tightened the parameters under which Internet service providers are compelled to hand over the identities of suspected file-sharers to copyright owners.

The Court determined that this could only happen in serious cases of unlawful distribution. This, Hietanen believes, is partially the reason that the groups behind the latest cases are digging up old infringements.

“After the verdict of the summer, I assumed that rightsholders would have to operate with old information, at least for a while,” he says. “Rightsholders want to show that litigation is still possible.”

The big question, of course, is what people should do if they receive a settlement letter. In some jurisdictions, the advice is to ignore, until proper legal documentation arrives.

Hietanen says the matter in Finland is serious and should be treated as such. There’s always a possibility that after failing to receive a response, a copyright holder could go to court to obtain a default judgment, meaning the alleged file-sharer is immediately found guilty.

In the current cases, the Market Court will now have to decide whether unannounced seizures are required to preserve evidence. For cases already dating back two years, there will be plenty of discussions to be had, for and against. But in the meantime, Hedman Partners, the company representing the copyright trolls, warn that more cases are on the way.

“We have put in place new requests for information after the summer. We have a large number of complaints in preparation. More are coming,” lawyer Joni Hatanmaa says.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

‘Pirate’ IPTV Provider Loses Case, Despite Not Offering Content Itself

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-provider-loses-case-despite-not-offering-content-itself-171031/

In 2017, there can be little doubt that streaming is the big piracy engine of the moment. Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, the movement is causing tremendous headaches for rightsholders on a global scale.

One of the interesting things about this phenomenon is the distributed nature of the content on offer. Sourced from thousands of online locations, from traditional file-hosters to Google Drive, the big challenge is to aggregate it all into one place, to make it easy to find. This is often achieved via third-party addons for the legal Kodi software.

One company offering such a service was MovieStreamer.nl in the Netherlands. Via its website MovieStreamer the company offered its Easy Use Interface 2.0, a piece of software that made Kodi easy to use and other streams easy to find for 79 euros. It also sold ‘VIP’ access to thousands of otherwise premium channels for around 20 euros per month.

MovieStreamer Easy Interface 2.0

“Thanks to the unique Easy Use Interface, we have the unique 3-step process,” the company’s marketing read.

“Click tile of choice, activate subtitles, and play! Fully automated and instantly the most optimal settings. Our youngest user is 4 years old and the ‘oldest’ 86 years. Ideal for young and old, beginner and expert.”

Of course, being based in the Netherlands it wasn’t long before MovieStreamer caught the attention of BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit says it tried to get the company to stop offering the illegal product but after getting no joy, took the case to court.

From BREIN’s perspective, the case was cut and dried. MovieStreamer had no right to provide access to the infringing content so it was in breach of copyright law (unauthorized communication to the public) and should stop its activities immediately. MovieStreamer, however, saw things somewhat differently.

At the core of its defense was the claim that did it not provide content itself and was merely a kind of middleman. MovieStreamer said it provided only a referral service in the form of a hyperlink formatted as a shortened URL, which in turn brought together supply and demand.

In effect, MovieStreamer claimed that it was several steps away from any infringement and that only the users themselves could activate the shortener hyperlink and subsequent process (including a corresponding M3U playlist file, which linked to other hyperlinks) to access any pirated content. Due to this disconnect, MovieStreamer said that there was no infringement, for-profit or otherwise.

A judge at the District Court in Utrecht disagreed, ruling that by providing a unique hyperlink to customers which in turn lead to protected works was indeed a “communication to the public” based on the earlier Filmspeler case.

The Court also noted that MovieStreamer knew or indeed ought to have known the illegal nature of the content being linked to, not least since BREIN had already informed them of that fact. Since the company was aware, the for-profit element of the GS Media decision handed down by the European Court of Justice came into play.

In an order handed down October 27, the Court ordered MovieStreamer to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately, whether via its Kodi Easy Use Interface or other means. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine, payable to BREIN, up to a maximum of 500,000 euros. MovieStreamer was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

“Moviestreamer sold a link to illegal content. Then you are required to check if that content is legally on the internet,” BREIN Director Tim Kuik said in a statement.

“You can not claim that you have nothing to do with the content if you sell a link to that content.”

Speaking with Tweakers, MovieStreamer owner Bernhard Ohler said that the packages in question were removed from his website on Saturday night. He also warned that other similar companies could experience the same issues with BREIN.

“With this judgment in hand, BREIN has, of course, a powerful weapon to force them offline,” he said.

Ohler said that the margins on hardware were so small that the IPTV subscriptions were the heart of his company. Contacted by TorrentFreak on what this means for his business, he had just two words.

“The end,” he said.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Assassins Creed Origin DRM Hammers Gamers’ CPUs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/assassins-creed-origin-drm-hammers-gamers-cpus-171030/

There’s a war taking place on the Internet. On one side: gaming companies, publishers, and anti-piracy outfits. On the other: people who varying reasons want to play and/or test games for free.

While these groups are free to battle it out in a manner of their choosing, innocent victims are getting caught up in the crossfire. People who pay for their games without question should be considered part of the solution, not the problem, but whether they like it or not, they’re becoming collateral damage in an increasingly desperate conflict.

For the past several days, some players of the recently-released Assassin’s Creed Origins have emerged as what appear to be examples of this phenomenon.

“What is the normal CPU usage for this game?” a user asked on Steam forums. “I randomly get between 60% to 90% and I’m wondering if this is too high or not.”

The individual reported running an i7 processor, which is no slouch. However, for those running a CPU with less oomph, matters are even worse. Another gamer, running an i5, reported a 100% load on all four cores of his processor, even when lower graphics settings were selected in an effort to free up resources.

“It really doesn’t seem to matter what kind of GPU you are using,” another complained. “The performance issues most people here are complaining about are tied to CPU getting maxed out 100 percent at all times. This results in FPS [frames per second] drops and stutter. As far as I know there is no workaround.”

So what could be causing these problems? Badly configured machines? Terrible coding on the part of the game maker?

According to Voksi, whose ‘Revolt’ team cracked Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus before its commercial release last week, it’s none of these. The entire problem is directly connected to desperate anti-piracy measures.

As widely reported (1,2), the infamous Denuvo anti-piracy technology has been taking a beating lately. Cracking groups are dismantling it in a matter of days, sometimes just hours, making the protection almost pointless. For Assassin’s Creed Origins, however, Ubisoft decided to double up, Voksi says.

“Basically, Ubisoft have implemented VMProtect on top of Denuvo, tanking the game’s performance by 30-40%, demanding that people have a more expensive CPU to play the game properly, only because of the DRM. It’s anti-consumer and a disgusting move,” he told TorrentFreak.

Voksi says he knows all of this because he got an opportunity to review the code after obtaining the binaries for the game. Here’s how it works.

While Denuvo sits underneath doing its thing, it’s clearly vulnerable to piracy, given recent advances in anti-anti-piracy technology. So, in a belt-and-braces approach, Ubisoft opted to deploy another technology – VMProtect – on top.

VMProtect is software that protects other software against reverse engineering and cracking. Although the technicalities are different, its aims appear to be somewhat similar to Denuvo, in that both seek to protect underlying systems from being subverted.

“VMProtect protects code by executing it on a virtual machine with non-standard architecture that makes it extremely difficult to analyze and crack the software. Besides that, VMProtect generates and verifies serial numbers, limits free upgrades and much more,” the company’s marketing reads.

VMProtect and Denuvo didn’t appear to be getting on all that well earlier this year but they later settled their differences. Now their systems are working together, to try and solve the anti-piracy puzzle.

“It seems that Ubisoft decided that Denuvo is not enough to stop pirates in the crucial first days [after release] anymore, so they have implemented an iteration of VMProtect over it,” Voksi explains.

“This is great if you are looking to save your game from those pirates, because this layer of VMProtect will make Denuvo a lot more harder to trace and keygen than without it. But if you are a legit customer, well, it’s not that great for you since this combo could tank your performance by a lot, especially if you are using a low-mid range CPU. That’s why we are seeing 100% CPU usage on 4 core CPUs right now for example.”

The situation is reportedly so bad that some users are getting the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death) due to their machines overheating after just an hour or two’s play. It remains unclear whether these crashes are indeed due to the VMProtect/Denuvo combination but the perception is that these anti-piracy measures are at the root of users’ CPU utilization problems.

While gaming companies can’t be blamed for wanting to protect their products, there’s no sense in punishing legitimate consumers with an inferior experience. The great irony, of course, is that when Assassin’s Creed gets cracked (if that indeed happens anytime soon), pirates will be the only ones playing it without the hindrance of two lots of anti-piracy tech battling over resources.

The big question now, however, is whether the anti-piracy wall will stand firm. If it does, it raises the bizarre proposition that future gamers might need to buy better hardware in order to accommodate anti-piracy technology.

And people worry about bitcoin mining……?

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Despite Massive Site-Blocking, Russian Pirate Video Market Doubles

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/despite-massive-site-blocking-russian-pirate-video-market-doubles-171029/

On many occasions, outgoing MPAA chief Chris Dodd has praised countries that have implemented legislation that allows for widespread site-blocking.

In 2014, when the UK had blocked just a few dozen sites, Dodd described the practice as both “balanced and proportionate” while noting that it had made “tremendous progress in tackling infringing websites.” This, the former senator said, made it “one of the most effective anti-piracy measures in the world.”

With many thousands of ‘pirate’ sites blocked across the country, perhaps Dodd should ask the Russians how they’re getting on. Spoiler: Not that great.

According to new research published by Group-IB and reported by Izvestia, Internet pirates have been adapting to their new reality, finding new and stable ways of doing business while growing their turnover.

In fact, according to the ‘Economics of Pirate Sites Report 2016’, they’ve been so successful that the market for Internet pirate video more than doubled in value during 2016, reaching a peak of 3.3 billion rubles ($57.2m) versus just 1.5 billion rubles ($26m) in 2015. Overall Internet piracy in 2016 was valued at a billion rubles more ($74.5m), Group-IB notes.

According to the report, Russian pirates operated with impunity until 2012, at which point the government – under pressure from rightsholders – began introducing tough anti-piracy legislation, which included the blocking of pirate domains. Since then there have been a number of amendments which further tightened the law but pirates have adapted each time, protecting their revenue with new business plans.

Group-IB says that the most successful pirate site in 2016 was Seasonvar.ru, which pulled in a million visitors every day generating just over $3.3m in revenue. Second place was taken by My-hit.org, with almost 400,000 daily visitors generating an annual income of $1.2m. HDrezka.me served more than 315,000 people daily and made roughly the same to take third. Fourth and fifth spots were taken by Kinokrad.co and Baskino.Club.

Overall, it’s estimated that the average pirate video site makes around $156,000 per year via advertising, subscriptions, or via voluntary donations. They’re creative with their money channels too.

According to Maxim Ryabyko, Director General of Association for the Protection of Copyright on the Internet (AZAPO), sites use middle-men for dealing with both advertisers and payment processors, which enables operators to remain anonymous.

Like in the United States, UK and elsewhere in Europe, lists of pirate sites have been drawn up to give advertisers and networks guidance on where not to place their ads. However, plenty of companies aren’t involved in the initiative. When challenged over their ads appearing on pirate sites, some protest that it hasn’t been proven that the sites are acting illegally, so the business will continue.

“There is no negative attitude towards piracy by intermediaries. Their money is not objectionable. Sometimes they say: ‘Go and sue. There will be a court hearing, there will be a decision, and we will draw conclusions then’,” Ryabyko told Izvestia.

Dealing with pirates in the criminal arena isn’t easy either, with key players admitting that the police have other things to concentrate on.

“Law enforcers do not know how to search for pirates, they have other priorities,” says Sergei Semenov of the Film and TV Producers Association.

“Criminal prosecutions in this area are a great strain – single cases require a lot of time for investigation and going to court does not achieve the desired effect. We therefore need to diversify the grounds for bringing people to justice. We need to see how this can be applied.”

One idea is to prosecute pirates for non-payment of taxes. Well, it worked for Al Capone….

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Pirate Bay is Hard to Find on Google in Some Countries

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-hard-find-google-countries-171027/

Search engine results are something on which any Internet user should be able to rely. After entering a search term, we generally expect the most relevant results to appear at the top, which seems like a fair assumption.

That being said, all searches aren’t equal, even when the same parameters are entered into the same company’s product. Case in point: Google Search and The Pirate Bay.

We’ve known for years that due to entertainment industry pressure, Google has been demoting pirate sites in its search results. That’s perhaps understandable when trying to deter a user from finding specific content via a Google search but should that affect a search about the site itself?

If one types the term The Pirate Bay into Google, there is no reason for the site iin question not to appear at the top of the list. After all, it’s the most informative result for one of the world’s most popular sites. However, tests carried out by TF show that some Google search variants coupled with certain countries’ IP addresses produce dramatically different results.

In all tests we began with an incognito Chrome browser window, to ensure no previous behavior affected our results. We then commenced testing searches for The Pirate Bay, with the UK up first. We know that Google has been under pressure to demote pirate sites in the country, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a relatively poor result.

Using a UK-based IP address to access Google.co.uk, we had to click through to the fifth page of results to find the entry for thepiratebay.org, the site’s main domain.

Google.co.uk, accessed via a UK IP address

However, when we carried out exactly the same test on Google.co.uk but after substituting our UK IP address for one located in the United States, a very different result was achieved. As can be seen in the image below, thepiratebay.org now appears as the very top result, as it should.

Google.co.uk, accessed via a US IP address

Given the above, there’s the suggestion that Google only penalizes users of Google.co.uk searching for The Pirate Bay, if they’re using a UK-based IP address. So we switched things around a little bit to try and find out.

Testing Google.com with a US-based IP address, thepiratebay.org appeared as the top result, as expected. Then, when accessing Google.com with a UK-based IP address, thepiratebay.org was relegated to the sixth page of Google results, which wasn’t a surprise.

Thus far, one could be forgiven for thinking that having a UK-based IP address is the poisoned chalice here. So, with that in mind, we switched over to the Netherlands for some testing there.

Using a Netherlands-based IP address on Google.nl, thepiratebay.org appears as the first result. But, to our surprise, deploying a UK IP address on the same service returns exactly the same position, i.e right at the very top. The same was true for searches carried out on Google.ca (Canada). No matter what IP addresses were used, thepiratebay.org appeared at the top of results.

Of course, The Pirate Bay has been blocked in the UK for some time, so people may have switched away from searching directly for The Pirate Bay towards other proxy services, for example. However, that doesn’t change the indisputable fact that a search for The Pirate Bay should list the site as the first result – because that’s what people are looking for.

But if people think that only UK-based searchers are getting a raw deal, then they should reconsider.

Over in India, using an Indian IP address to access Google.co.in, thepiratebay.org doesn’t appear until page 8. Somewhat unexpectedly, doing a similar search on the same Google variant using a UK IP address actually improved matters, with thepiratebay.org appearing more readily on page 6.

A lowly page 8 for Indian searchers of The Pirate Bay

But in terms of results, there are other countries doing even worse. Tests carried out on Google.fr (France) reveal that thepiratebay.org doesn’t appear until page 12, a result matched identically by Google.ru (Russia), no matter which source IP addresses were used.

To be clear, it’s not like Google doesn’t understand the significance of the site in these low-ranking regions or that searchers aren’t interested. Although it doesn’t place the actual site until a dozen pages down the road, Google is very happy to list dozens of proxies in the first sets of results, including some fake ‘Pirate Bay’ sites that Google itself flags up as unsafe due to malware.

Overall, it’s hard to find much consistency but it’s reasonable to presume that at least to some extent, searches for The Pirate Bay are being manipulated, depending on where you live and which search variant people use. For English speakers, Canada seems a good variant for now. But that could change at any moment.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

High Court Passes Judgment in Illegal Sky Sports Streaming Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/high-court-passes-judgment-in-illegal-sky-sports-streaming-case-171026/

Without doubt, streaming is the hot topic in piracy right now, with thousands of illicit channels, TV shows and movies just a few clicks away.

As widely reported, the legal Kodi software augmented with illicit third-party addons is the preferred way to watch for millions of users. However, if people don’t mind sitting at a desktop machine, there’s also a thriving underbelly of indexing sites and similar platforms offering unauthorized access to infringing content.

According to information released by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, an individual in the UK has just felt the wrath of the High Court for providing content to one such platform.

“On Monday 23 October 2017 a judgment was obtained in the High Court against a Sky customer who had been streaming Sky Sports content illegally online,” FACT reports.

“Mr Yusuf Mohammed, of Bristol, has been ordered to pay legal costs of over £16,000, and to disclose details about the money he made and people he colluded with.”

With FACT releasing no more information, TorrentFreak contacted the anti-piracy group for more details on the case.

“Mohammed shared the Sky Sports stream via a piracy blog,” FACT Director of Communications Alice Skeats told TF.

Although FACT didn’t directly answer our question on the topic, their statement that Mohammed was a Sky customer seems to suggest that he might’ve re-streamed content he previously paid for. When we can clarify this point, we will.

FACT didn’t name the ‘piracy blog’ either, nor did it respond to questions about how many people may have viewed Mohammed’s illegal streams. However, FACT did confirm that he streamed Sky Sports channels so potentially a wide range of sports was made available.

The other interesting factor is the claim that Mohammed made money from his streams. Again, FACT didn’t reveal how that revenue was generated (understandable since the case is ongoing) but it seems likely that advertising played a part, as it often does on pirate platforms.

Whether Mohammed will comply with the High Court’s orders to reveal who he colluded with is something for the future but even if he does, Sky isn’t finished with him yet. According to FACT, Mohammed’s already sizeable costs bill will be augmented with a claim for damages from the satellite broadcaster.

While providing and profiting from illegal streams could easily be considered criminal in the UK, FACT confirmed that the case against Mohammed was brought by Sky and supported by FACT in a civil proceeding alone. That was also the case last week when an individual who shared the Joshua vs Klitschko fight on Facebook apologized to Sky and agreed to pay Sky legal costs.

That’s an option Middlesborough businessman Brian Thompson didn’t enjoy when he was arrested for selling infringing ‘Kodi boxes’ two years ago. He was handed an 18 month suspended prison sentence last Friday, after being prosecuted by his local council.

Thompson won’t have to pay compensation but he still gets a criminal record, which can be a major hindrance when trying to get a job or even something as simple as cost-effective insurance cover. Whether these details will have any effect on other commercial pirates in the UK will remain to be seen but it’s certainly possible that some will begin to think twice.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Pirate-Friendly Coinhive’s DNS Hacked, User Hashes Stolen

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-friendly-coinhives-dns-hacked-user-hashes-stolen-171025/

Just over a month ago, a Javascript cryptocurrency miner was silently added to The Pirate Bay. Noticed by users who observed their CPU usage going through the roof, it later transpired the site was trialing a miner operated by Coinhive.

Many users were disappointed that The Pirate Bay had added the Javascript-based Monero coin miner without their permission. However, it didn’t take long for people to see the potential benefits, with a raft of other sites adding the miner in the hope of generating additional revenue.

Now, however, Coinhive has an unexpected and potentially serious problem to deal with. The company has just revealed that on Monday night its DNS records maintained at Cloudflare were accessed by a third-party, allowing an unnamed attacker to redirect user mining traffic to a server they controlled.

“The DNS records for coinhive.com have been manipulated to redirect requests for the coinhive.min.js to a third party server. This third party server hosted a modified version of the JavaScript file with a hardcoded site key. This essentially let the attacker ‘steal’ hashes from our users,” Coinhive said in a statement.

The company hasn’t revealed how long the unauthorized redirect stayed in place for, but it appears that all coins mined on sites hosting Coinhive’s script were ‘stolen’ during the period, instead of being credited to their accounts.

Coinhive stresses that no user account information was leaked and that its website and database servers were uncompromised. But while that’s good news, the method that the hackers used to access the company’s DNS provider lay in a basic security error.

Back in 2014, crowdfunding platform Kickstarter – which Coinhive used – fell victim to a security breach. After being advised of the fact by law enforcement officials, Kickstarter shut down unauthorized access, began strengthening its systems, while advising customers to do the same.

While Coinhive did respond to the warning to ensure that its data was safe, something slipped through the net. One piece of information – its Cloudflare account password – remained unchanged after the Kickstarter attack. It now seems the most likely culprit for this week’s DNS breach.

“The root cause for this incident was an insecure password for our Cloudflare account that was probably leaked with the Kickstarter data breach back in 2014,” Coinhive says.

“We have learned hard lessons about security and used 2FA and unique passwords with all services since, but we neglected to update our years old Cloudflare account.”

While not mentioning Coinhive explicitly, Kickstarter warned earlier this month that the 2014 incident may not be completely over. In an update posted on the site Oct 6, Kickstarter noted that some of its customers had recently been hearing more information about the breach from notification service Have I been pwned?.

In the meantime, Coinhive has issued an apology and indicated it will find ways to reimburse sites which have lost revenue as a result of the DNS hack.

“We’re deeply sorry about this severe oversight,” the company said. “Our current plan is to credit all sites with an additional 12 hours of their the daily average hashrate. Please give us a few hours to roll this out.”

Based on earlier calculations carried out by TF, The Pirate Bay (if it was mining during the breach) could be potentially owed around $200 for the lost hashes, give or take. After turning off mining in September, the site reactivated it again in October, with no opt-out. The situation appears fluid.

While the hack is obviously a disappointment, Coinhive appears to have advised its users quickly and transparently, which under the circumstances is exactly what’s required. The fact that it’s offering compensation to users will also be welcomed.

The breach is the latest controversy to hit the company. Earlier this month, Cloudflare began banning sites which implemented Coinhive mining without informing their users. The CDN company said it considered non-advised mining as malware.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Russian Site-Blocking Chiefs Under Investigation For Fraud

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russian-site-blocking-chiefs-under-investigation-for-fraud-171024/

Over the past several years, Rozcomnadzor has become a highly controversial government body in Russia. With responsibility for ordering web-blockades against sites the country deems disruptive, it’s effectively Russia’s online censorship engine.

In total, Rozcomnadzor has ordered the blocking of more than 82,000 sites. Within that total, at least 4,000 have been rendered inaccessible on copyright grounds, with an additional 41,000 innocent platforms blocked as collateral damage.

This massive over-blocking has been widely criticized in Russia but until now, Rozcomnadzor has appeared pretty much untouchable. However, a scandal is now engulfing the organization after at least four key officials were charged with fraud offenses.

News that something was potentially amiss began leaking out two weeks ago, when Russian publication Vedomosti reported on a court process in which the initials of the defendants appeared to coincide with officials at Rozcomnadzor.

The publication suspected that three men were involved; Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky, head of the legal department Boris Yedidin, and Alexander Veselchakov, who acts as an advisor to the head of the department monitoring radio frequencies.

The prosecution’s case indicated that the defendants were involved in “fraud committed by an organized group either on an especially large scale or entailing the deprivation of citizen’s rights.” Indeed, no further details were made available, with the head of Rozcomnadzor Alexander Zharov claiming he knew nothing about a criminal case and refusing to answer questions.

It later transpired that four employees had been charged with fraud, including Anastasiya Zvyagintseva, who acts as the general director of CRFC, an agency under the control of Rozcomnadzor.

According to Kommersant, Zvyagintseva’s involvement is at the core of the matter. She claims to have been forced to put “ghost employees” on the payroll, whose salaries were then paid to existing employees in order to increase their salaries.

The investigation into the scandal certainly runs deep. It’s reported that FSB officers have been spying on Rozcomnadzor officials for six months, listening to their phone conversations, monitoring their bank accounts, and even watching the ATM machines they used.

Local media reports indicate that the illegal salary scheme ran from 2012 until February 2017 and involved some 20 million rubles ($347,000) of illegal payments. These were allegedly used to retain ‘valuable’ employees when their regular salaries were not lucrative enough to keep them at the site-blocking body.

While Zvyagintseva has been released pending trial, Ampelonsky, Yedidin, and Veselchakov have been placed under house arrest by the Chertanovsky Court of Moscow until November 7.

Rozcomnadzor’s website is currently inaccessible.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Copyright Trolls Hit Thousands of Swedish ‘Pirates’ With $550 ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-trolls-hit-thousands-of-swedish-pirates-with-550-fines-171023/

In 2016, mass ‘copyright-trolling’ hit Sweden for the first time. An organization calling itself Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) claimed its new initiative would save the entertainment industries and educate the masses.

Following a huge backlash, however, the operation shut up shop and retreated, tail between its legs. But for those who expected the trolls to disappear altogether, bad news was just around the corner.

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the helm of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Some 42-pages of court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested, potentially linking to thousands of subscribers.

After receiving permission from the courts to obtain the personal details of alleged pirates, things went a little quiet. However, according to local news outlet IDG, the floodgates have now been opened, with several thousand ISP subscribers receiving cash demands from Njord Law in recent weeks.

“We have sent out a few thousand letters, but we have been given the right to obtain information behind many more IP addresses that we are waiting to receive from the telecom operators. So there are more, ” lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen told the publication.

Indeed, an indication of the scale of the operation can be found in the order obtained to target customers of ISP Telia. In that batch alone the court granted permission for Njord Law to obtain the identities behind 25,000 IP addresses.

Earlier this year, Clausen said that after identifying the subscribers he wanted to “enter into non-aggressive dialogue” with them. As we predicted, this apparently friendly introduction would simply lead to inevitable demands for cash.

“Have you, or other people with access to the aforementioned IP address, such as children living at home, viewed or tried to watch [a pirate movie] at the specified time?” Njord Law now writes in its letters to alleged pirates.

“If so, the case can be terminated by paying 4,500 SEK [$550].”

According to IDG, lots of movies are involved, both from local and international distributors. Earlier this year, CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal and September of Shiraz were named as possible titles.

The inclusion of these titles come as no surprise since several have turned up in similar trolling cases all over Europe and the United States. In common with schemes elsewhere, BitTorrent tracking was carried out by MaverickEye, a German-based company that is part of the notorious Guardaley trolling operation.

Like most ‘trolling’ cases, figures on how many people are paying up in Sweden are hard to come by. Clausen won’t say how many have parted with cash, but the lawyer says that 60% of the letters have elicited some kind of response. In previous similar projects in the UK, around a fifth of targets paid some sort of settlement, with no contested cases reaching the courts.

Njord Law insists, however, that those who don’t pay in Sweden may have to face the legal system.

“Yes, we will [go to court],” says Clausen. “We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.”

While it’s impossible to predict how these cases will go, the usual tactic is to attack the low-hanging fruit first. People who admit some form of guilt can expect the most pressure while those who deny the allegations flat out (subscribers aren’t necessarily infringers) are likely to be placed in a file to be dealt with last, if at all.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Deep Down, Games Pirates Love Enemies Like Denuvo

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/deep-down-games-pirates-love-enemies-like-denuvo-171022/

While there are plenty of people who just want content for free, digging through the last 35 years of piracy reveals an interesting trend. One way or another, people have always secretly admired anti-piracy systems, since they simultaneously relish the prospect of one day subverting their barriers.

In the very early 80s, when the first 8-bit home computers became more readily available, finding ways to pirate games was almost as much fun as playing them. Children, with limited pocket money, would pool their resources and buy a single copy of a cassette-based game, hoping to clone it at home with a twin-deck recorder, to share among their fellow investors.

With significant trial and error (and only pre-Internet schoolyard advice and folklore available) copying eventually became easy. Then the ‘evil’ games companies worked out what was going on and decided to do something about it.

Early protection systems, such as ‘Hyper Loaders‘, threw a wrench in the works for a while but along came software like Lerm (with full page ads in the media) to level the playing field. Anything you can do we can do better, those kids rejoiced.

Unsurprisingly, copiers like Lerm also fell victim to pirates, with all self-respecting red beards owning a copy. But then the next waves of anti-piracy systems would come along, ensuring that working out how to pirate games became a time-consuming hobby in itself. But most pirates were kids – what else did they have to do?

With a young and inexperienced mindset, however, it was sometimes easy to fear that like Denuvo a year or two ago, some things might never be copied. Take the 1983 release of International Soccer for the Commodore 64 home computer, for example. That originally came on a cartridge – who could ever copy one of those?

Of course, someone did, dumping it onto cassette tape complete with a modification that had some players sitting in wheelchairs, others on crutches, instead of running around. By today’s standards that’s both technically trivial and rather insensitive, but at the time it represented a pirate double-whammy.

A game that couldn’t be pirated getting pirated onto another format, plus a ridiculous addition that no game company would ever allow to market? To teenage pirates, that was a supremely delicious not to mention rebellious treat.

As the months and years rolled on, new consoles – such as Commodore’s Amiga – brought 3.5″ floppy disc storage and new copy protection mechanisms to the masses. And, as expected, fresh solutions to thwart them came to market. Tools such as X-Copy Pro went down in history and were universally hailed by pirates. Who immediately pirated them, of course.

Today the situation is somewhat different but somehow just the same. Copy protection mechanisms, such as the now-infamous Denuvo, are so complex that no user-operated tool is available to copy the games protected by it. Yet people, driven by a passion for subverting the system and solving technological puzzles, are dedicating thousands of hours to take them apart.

Just recently, Denuvo was well and truly dismantled. Games are now routinely getting cracked in a day, sometimes just hours, and the excitement in the air is palpable. In many ways, this is the same kind of enthusiasm expressed by the relatively naive kid pirates of the 80s. They too were frustrated by copy protection, they too screamed with glee when it fell from grace.

While gaming has always been fun, the sense of achievement – of subverting the system – has always come a close second to actually playing games for those with an enthusiastic pirate streak. Imagine a world where every game could be easily copied by just about anyone. Now compare that to a war of attrition against the dark forces behind 80s Hyper Loaders and the evil Denuvo of today.

In the end, there’s no doubt. Most dedicated pirates, provided they eventually taste victory, will take the warfare option any day, fighting to the end, fighting for victory.

Let’s be honest. Pirates absolutely need a nemesis like Denuvo. Because – quite simply – it’s only half the fun without one.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

UK ‘Pirate’ Kodi Box Seller Handed a Suspended Prison Sentence

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-kodi-box-seller-handed-a-suspended-prison-sentence-171021/

After being raided by police and Trading Standards in 2015, Middlesbrough-based shopkeeper Brian ‘Tomo’ Thompson found himself in the spotlight.

Accused of selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes (those with ‘pirate’ addons installed), Thompson continued to protest his innocence.

“All I want to know is whether I am doing anything illegal. I know it’s a gray area but I want it in black and white,” he said last September.

Unlike other cases, where copyright holders took direct action, Thompson was prosecuted by his local council. At the time, he seemed prepared to martyr himself to test the limits of the law.

“This may have to go to the crown court and then it may go all the way to the European court, but I want to make a point with this and I want to make it easier for people to know what is legal and what isn’t,” he said. “I expect it go against me but at least I will know where I stand.”

In an opinion piece not long after this statement, we agreed with Thompson’s sentiment, noting that barring a miracle, the Middlesbrough man would indeed lose his case, probably in short order. But Thompson’s case turned out to be less than straightforward.

Thompson wasn’t charged with straightforward “making available” under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Acts. If he had, there would’ve been no question that he’d been breaking law. This is due to a European Court of Justice decision in the BREIN v Filmspeler case earlier this year which determined that selling fully loaded boxes in the EU is illegal.

Instead, for reasons best known to the prosecution, ‘Tomo’ stood accused of two offenses under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which deals with devices and services designed to “circumvent technological measures”. It’s a different aspect of copyright law previously applied to cases where encryption has been broken on official products.

“A person commits an offense if he — in the course of a business — sells or lets for hire, any device, product or component which is primarily designed, produced, or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures,” the law reads.

‘Tomo’ in his store

In January this year, Thompson entered his official ‘not guilty’ plea, setting up a potentially fascinating full trial in which we would’ve heard how ‘circumvention of technological measures’ could possibly relate to streaming illicit content from entirely unprotected far-flung sources.

Last month, however, Thompson suddenly had a change of heart, entering guilty pleas against one count of selling and one count of advertising devices for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures.

That plea stomped on what could’ve been a really interesting trial, particularly since the Federation Against Copyright Theft’s own lawyer predicted it could be difficult and complex.

As a result, Thompson appeared at Teeside Crown Court on Friday for sentencing. Prosecutor Cameron Crowe said Thompson advertised and sold the ‘pirate’ devices for commercial gain, fully aware that they would be used to access infringing content and premium subscription services.

Crowe said that Thompson made around £40,000 from the devices while potentially costing Sky around £200,000 in lost subscription fees. When Thompson was raided in June 2015, a diary revealed he’d sold 159 devices in the previous four months, sales which generated £17,000 in revenue.

After his arrest, Thompson changed premises and continued to offer the devices for sale on social media.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Armstrong told the 55-year-old businessman that he’d receive an 18-month prison term, suspended for two years.

“If anyone was under any illusion as to whether such devices as these, fully loaded Kodi boxes, were illegal or not, they can no longer be in any such doubt,” Judge Armstrong told the court, as reported by Gazette Live.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is not called for. But as a warning to others in future, they may not be so lucky.”

Also sentenced Friday was another local seller, Julian Allen, who sold devices to Thompson, among others. He was arrested following raids on his Geeky Kit businesses in 2015 and pleaded guilty this July to using or acquiring criminal property.

But despite making more than £135,000 from selling ‘pirate’ boxes, he too avoided jail, receiving a 21-month prison sentence suspended for two years instead.

While Thompson’s and Allen’s sentences are likely to be portrayed by copyright holders as a landmark moment, the earlier ruling from the European Court of Justice means that selling these kinds of devices for infringing purposes has always been illegal.

Perhaps the big surprise, given the dramatic lead up to both cases, is the relative leniency of their sentences. All that being said, however, a line has been drawn in the sand and other sellers should be aware.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

US Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed in China

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-senators-ask-apple-why-vpn-apps-were-removed-in-china-171020/

As part of what is now clearly a crackdown on Great Firewall-evading tools and services, during the summer Chinese government pressure reached technology giant Apple.

On or around July 29, Apple removed many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese app store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers were informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

Now, in a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy express concern at the move by Apple, noting that if reports of the software removals are true, the company could be assisting China’s restrictive approach to the Internet.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chines government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet.”

Describing China as a country with “an abysmal human rights record, including with respect to the rights of free expression and free access to information, both online and offline”, the senators cite Reporters Without Borders who previously labeled the country as “the enemy of the Internet”.

While senators Cruz and Leahy go on to praise Apple for its contribution to the spread of information, they criticize the company for going along with the wishes of the Chinese government as it seeks to suppress knowledge and communication.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’,” the senators write.

“To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.”

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had indeed launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate in China. And the aggression against VPNs and their providers didn’t stop there.

In September, a Chinese man who sold Great Firewall-evading VPN software via a website was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Chinese court. Just weeks later, a software developer who set up a VPN for his own use but later sold access to the service was arrested and detained for three days.

This emerging pattern is clearly a concern for the senators who are now demanding that Tim Cook responds to ten questions (pdf), including whether Apple raised concerns about China’s VPN removal demands and details of how many apps were removed from its store. The senators also want to see copies of any pro-free speech statements Apple has made in China.

Whether the letter will make any difference on the ground in China remains to be seen, but the public involvement of the senators and technology giant Apple is certain to thrust censorship and privacy further into the public eye.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.