Tag Archives: criminal

Flight Sim Company Embeds Malware to Steal Pirates’ Passwords

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/flight-sim-company-embeds-malware-to-steal-pirates-passwords-180219/

Anti-piracy systems and DRM come in all shapes and sizes, none of them particularly popular, but one deployed by flight sim company FlightSimLabs is likely to go down in history as one of the most outrageous.

It all started yesterday on Reddit when Flight Sim user ‘crankyrecursion’ reported a little extra something in his download of FlightSimLabs’ A320X module.

“Using file ‘FSLabs_A320X_P3D_v2.0.1.231.exe’ there seems to be a file called ‘test.exe’ included,” crankyrecursion wrote.

“This .exe file is from http://securityxploded.com and is touted as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, which seems to work – particularly as the installer would typically run with Administrative rights (UAC prompts) on Windows Vista and above. Can anyone shed light on why this tool is included in a supposedly trusted installer?”

The existence of a Chrome password dumping tool is certainly cause for alarm, especially if the software had been obtained from a less-than-official source, such as a torrent or similar site, given the potential for third-party pollution.

However, with the possibility of a nefarious third-party dumping something nasty in a pirate release still lurking on the horizon, things took an unexpected turn. FlightSimLabs chief Lefteris Kalamaras made a statement basically admitting that his company was behind the malware installation.

“We were made aware there is a Reddit thread started tonight regarding our latest installer and how a tool is included in it, that indiscriminately dumps Chrome passwords. That is not correct information – in fact, the Reddit thread was posted by a person who is not our customer and has somehow obtained our installer without purchasing,” Kalamaras wrote.

“[T]here are no tools used to reveal any sensitive information of any customer who has legitimately purchased our products. We all realize that you put a lot of trust in our products and this would be contrary to what we believe.

“There is a specific method used against specific serial numbers that have been identified as pirate copies and have been making the rounds on ThePirateBay, RuTracker and other such malicious sites,” he added.

In a nutshell, FlightSimLabs installed a password dumper onto ALL users’ machines, whether they were pirates or not, but then only activated the password-stealing module when it determined that specific ‘pirate’ serial numbers had been used which matched those on FlightSimLabs’ servers.

“Test.exe is part of the DRM and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally. That program is only extracted temporarily and is never under any circumstances used in legitimate copies of the product,” Kalamaras added.

That didn’t impress Luke Gorman, who published an analysis slamming the flight sim company for knowingly installing password-stealing malware on users machines, even those who purchased the title legitimately.

Password stealer in action (credit: Luke Gorman)

Making matters even worse, the FlightSimLabs chief went on to say that information being obtained from pirates’ machines in this manner is likely to be used in court or other legal processes.

“This method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals,” Kalamaras revealed.

While the use of the extracted passwords and usernames elsewhere will remain to be seen, it appears that FlightSimLabs has had a change of heart. With immediate effect, the company is pointing customers to a new installer that doesn’t include code for stealing their most sensitive data.

“I want to reiterate and reaffirm that we as a company and as flight simmers would never do anything to knowingly violate the trust that you have placed in us by not only buying our products but supporting them and FlightSimLabs,” Kalamaras said in an update.

“While the majority of our customers understand that the fight against piracy is a difficult and ongoing battle that sometimes requires drastic measures, we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part. It is for this reason we have uploaded an updated installer that does not include the DRM check file in question.”

To be continued………

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Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sweden-considers-six-years-in-jail-for-online-pirates-180218/

Ever since the infamous Pirate Bay trial more than a decade ago, prosecutors in Sweden have called for a tougher approach to breaches of copyright law. In general terms, the country has been painted as soft on infringement but that could all be about to change.

After reaching the conclusion that penalties in Sweden “appear to be low” when compared to those on the international stage, the government sought advice on how such crimes can be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the alleged damage caused.

In response, Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon received a report this week. It proposes a new tier of offenses with “special” punishments to tackle large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Presented by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson, the report envisions new criminal designations and crime being divided into two levels of seriousness.

“A person who has been found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement of a normal grade may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years,” the government notes.

“In cases of gross crimes, a person may be convicted of gross copyright infringement or gross trademark infringement and sent to prison for at least six months and not more than six years.”

Last year the Supreme Court found that although prison sentences can be handed down in such cases, there were no legislative indications that copyright infringement should be penalized via a term of imprisonment.

For an idea of the level of change, one only need refer to The Pirate Bay case, which would undoubtedly be considered as “gross infringement” under the new proposals.

Under the new rules, defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström would be sentenced to a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years. As things stood, with infringement being dealt with via fines or up to two years’ imprisonment, they were sentenced to prison terms of eight, ten and four months respectively.

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises the question of whether someone sharing a single pre-release movie could be deemed a gross infringer even if no money was made.

Also of interest are proposals that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. This proposal is a clear nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over its thepiratebay.se domain.

“Today there is organized online piracy that has major consequences for the whole community,” Minister Fritzon said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is good that the punishments for these crimes have been reviewed, as the sentence will then be proportional to the seriousness of the crime.”

The legislative amendments are proposed to enter into force on July 1, 2019.

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Subtitle Heroes: Fansubbing Movie Criticized For Piracy Promotion

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/subtitle-heroes-fansubbing-movie-criticized-for-piracy-promotion-180217/

With many thousands of movies and TV shows being made available illegally online every year, a significant number will be enjoyed by speakers of languages other than that presented in the original production.

When Hollywood blockbusters appear online, small armies of individuals around the world spring into action, translating the dialog into Chinese and Czech, Dutch and Danish, French and Farsi, Russian and Romanian, plus a dozen languages in between. TV shows, particularly those produced in the US, get the same immediate treatment.

For many years, subtitling (‘fansubbing’) communities have provided an incredible service to citizens around the globe, from those seeking to experience new culture and languages to the hard of hearing and profoundly deaf. Now, following in the footsteps of movies like TPB:AFK and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, a new movie has premiered in Italy which celebrates this extraordinary movement.

Subs Heroes from writer and director Franco Dipietro hit cinemas at the end of January. It documents the contribution fansubbing has made to Italian culture in a country that under fascism in 1934 banned the use of foreign languages in films, books, newspapers and everyday speech.

The movie centers on the large subtitle site ItalianSubs.net. Founded by a group of teenagers in 2006, it is now run by a team of men and women who maintain their identities as regular citizens during the day but transform into “superheroes of fansubbing” at night.

Needless to say, not everyone is pleased with this depiction of the people behind the now-infamous 500,000 member site.

For many years, fansubbing attracted very little heat but over time anti-piracy groups have been turning up the pressure, accusing subtitling teams of fueling piracy. This notion is shared by local anti-piracy outfit FAPAV (Federation for the Protection of Audiovisual and Multimedia Content), which has accused Dipietro’s movie of glamorizing criminal activity.

In a statement following the release of Subs Heroes, FAPAV made its position crystal clear: sites like ItalianSubs do not contribute to the development of the audiovisual market in Italy.

“It is necessary to clarify: when a protected work is subtitled and there is no right to do so, a crime is committed,” the anti-piracy group says.

“[Italiansubs] translates and makes available subtitles of audiovisual works (films and television series) in many cases not yet distributed on the Italian market. All this without having requested the consent of the rights holders. Ergo the Italiansubs community is illegal.”

Italiansubs (note ad for movie, top right)

FAPAV General Secretary Federico Bagnoli Rossi says that the impact that fansubbers have on the market is significant, causing damage not only to companies distributing the content but also to those who invest in official translations.

The fact that fansubbers often translate content that is not yet available in the region only compounds matters, Rossi says, noting that unofficial translations can also have “direct consequences” on those who have language dubbing as an occupation.

“The audiovisual market today needs to be supported and the protection and fight against illicit behaviors are as fundamental as investments and creative ideas,” Rossi notes.

“Everyone must do their part, respecting the rules and with a competitive and global cultural vision. There are no ‘superheroes’ or noble goals behind piracy, but only great damage to the audiovisual sector and all its workers.”

Also piling on the criticism is the chief of the National Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, who wrote to all of the companies involved to remind them that unauthorized subtitling is a crime. According to local reports, there seems to be an underlying tone that people should avoid becoming associated with the movie.

This did not please director Franco Dipietro who is defending his right to document the fansubbing movement, whether the industry likes it or not.

“We invite those who perhaps think differently to deepen the discussion and maybe organize an event to talk about it together. The film is made to confront and talk about a phenomenon that, whether we like it or not, exists and we can not pretend that it is not there,” Dipietro concludes.



Subs Heroes Trailer 1 from Duel: on Vimeo.



Subs Heroes Trailer 2 from Duel: on Vimeo.

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Can Consumers’ Online Data Be Protected?

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/can_consumers_o.html

Everything online is hackable. This is true for Equifax’s data and the federal Office of Personal Management’s data, which was hacked in 2015. If information is on a computer connected to the Internet, it is vulnerable.

But just because everything is hackable doesn’t mean everything will be hacked. The difference between the two is complex, and filled with defensive technologies, security best practices, consumer awareness, the motivation and skill of the hacker and the desirability of the data. The risks will be different if an attacker is a criminal who just wants credit card details ­ and doesn’t care where he gets them from ­ or the Chinese military looking for specific data from a specific place.

The proper question isn’t whether it’s possible to protect consumer data, but whether a particular site protects our data well enough for the benefits provided by that site. And here, again, there are complications.

In most cases, it’s impossible for consumers to make informed decisions about whether their data is protected. We have no idea what sorts of security measures Google uses to protect our highly intimate Web search data or our personal e-mails. We have no idea what sorts of security measures Facebook uses to protect our posts and conversations.

We have a feeling that these big companies do better than smaller ones. But we’re also surprised when a lone individual publishes personal data hacked from the infidelity site AshleyMadison.com, or when the North Korean government does the same with personal information in Sony’s network.

Think about all the companies collecting personal data about you ­ the websites you visit, your smartphone and its apps, your Internet-connected car — and how little you know about their security practices. Even worse, credit bureaus and data brokers like Equifax collect your personal information without your knowledge or consent.

So while it might be possible for companies to do a better job of protecting our data, you as a consumer are in no position to demand such protection.

Government policy is the missing ingredient. We need standards and a method for enforcement. We need liabilities and the ability to sue companies that poorly secure our data. The biggest reason companies don’t protect our data online is that it’s cheaper not to. Government policy is how we change that.

This essay appeared as half of a point/counterpoint with Priscilla Regan, in a CQ Researcher report titled “Privacy and the Internet.”

Kim Dotcom Begins New Fight to Avoid Extradition to United States

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-new-fight-to-avoid-extradition-to-united-states-180212/

More than six years ago in January 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

What followed was an epic legal battle to extradite Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato, and Bram van der Kolk to the United States to face several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has battled the US government every inch of the way.

The most significant matters include the validity of the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. Despite a prolonged trip through the legal system, in 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

In 2015, the District Court later ruled that Dotcom and his associates are eligible for extradition. A subsequent appeal to the High Court failed when in February 2017 – and despite a finding that communicating copyright-protected works to the public is not a criminal offense in New Zealand – a judge also ruled in favor.

Of course, Dotcom and his associates immediately filed appeals and today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington, their hearing got underway.

Lawyer Grant Illingworth, representing Van der Kolk and Ortmann, told the Court that the case had “gone off the rails” during the initial 10-week extradition hearing in 2015, arguing that the case had merited “meaningful” consideration by a judge, something which failed to happen.

“It all went wrong. It went absolutely, totally wrong,” Mr. Illingworth said. “We were not heard.”

As expected, Illingworth underlined the belief that under New Zealand law, a person may only be extradited for an offense that could be tried in a criminal court locally. His clients’ cases do not meet that standard, the lawyer argued.

Turning back the clocks more than six years, Illingworth again raised the thorny issue of the warrants used to authorize the raids on the Megaupload defendants.

It had previously been established that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service had illegally spied on Dotcom and his associates in the lead up to their arrests. However, that fact was not disclosed to the District Court judge who authorized the raids.

“We say that there was misleading conduct at this stage because there was no reference to the fact that information had been gathered illegally by the GCSB,” he said.

But according to Justice Forrest Miller, even if this defense argument holds up the High Court had already found there was a prima facie case to answer “with bells on”.

“The difficulty that you face here ultimately is whether the judicial process that has been followed in both of the courts below was meaningful, to use the Canadian standard,” Justice Miller said.

“You’re going to have to persuade us that what Justice Gilbert [in the High Court] ended up with, even assuming your interpretation of the legislation is correct, was wrong.”

Although the US seeks to extradite Dotcom and his associates on 13 charges, including racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, the Court of Appeal previously confirmed that extradition could be granted based on just some of the charges.

The stakes couldn’t be much higher. The FBI says that the “Megaupload Conspiracy” earned the quartet $175m and if extradited to the US, they could face decades in jail.

While Dotcom was not in court today, he has been active on Twitter.

“The court process went ‘off the rails’ when the only copyright expert Judge in NZ was >removed< from my case and replaced by a non-tech Judge who asked if Mega was ‘cow storage’. He then simply copy/pasted 85% of the US submissions into his judgment," Dotcom wrote.

Dotcom also appeared to question the suitability of judges at both the High Court and Court of Appeal for the task in hand.

“Justice Miller and Justice Gilbert (he wrote that High Court judgment) were business partners at the law firm Chapman Tripp which represents the Hollywood Studios in my case. Both Judges are now at the Court of Appeal. Gilbert was promoted shortly after ruling against me,” Dotcom added.

Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over the warrant which triggered his arrest and the demise of Megaupload.

The hearing is expected to last up to two-and-a-half weeks.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Pirate ‘Kodi’ Boxes & Infringing Streams Cost eBay Sellers Dearly

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-boxes-infringing-streams-cost-ebay-sellers-dearly-180209/

Those on the look out for ready-configured pirate set-top boxes can drift around the web looking at hundreds of options or head off to the places most people know best – eBay and Facebook.

Known for its ease of use and broad range of content, eBay is often the go-to place for sellers looking to offload less than legitimate stock. Along with Facebook, it’s become one of the easiest places online to find so-called Kodi boxes.

While the Kodi software itself is entirely legal, millions of people have their boxes configured for piracy purposes and eBay and Facebook provide a buying platform for those who don’t want to do the work themselves.

Sellers generally operate with impunity but according to news from the Premier League and anti-piracy partners Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that’s not always the case.

FACT reports that a supplier of ISDs (Illicit Streaming Devices) that came pre-loaded for viewing top-tier football without permission has agreed to pay the Premier League thousands of pounds.

Nayanesh Patel from Harrow, Middlesex, is said to have sold Kodi-type boxes on eBay and Facebook but got caught in the act. As a result he’s agreed to cough up £18,000, disable his website, remove all advertising, and cease future sales.

A second individual, who isn’t named, allegedly sold subscriptions to illegal streams of Premier League football via eBay. He too was tracked down and eventually agreed to pay £8,000 and cease all future streams sales.

“This case shows there are serious consequences for sellers of pre-loaded boxes and is a warning for anyone who thinks they might get away with this type of activity,” says Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in a comprehensive copyright protection programme that includes targeting and taking action against sellers of pre-loaded devices, and any ISPs or hosts that facilitate the broadcast of pirated Premier League content.”

The number of individuals selling pirate set-top devices and IPTV-style subscription packages on eBay and social media has grown to epidemic proportions, so perhaps the biggest surprise is that there aren’t more cases like these. Importantly, however, these apparent settlement agreements are a step back from the criminal prosecutions we’ve seen in the past.

Previously, individuals under FACT’s spotlight have tended to be targeted by the police, with all the drawn-out misery that entails. While these cash settlements are fairly hefty, they appear to be in lieu of law enforcement involvement, not inconsiderable solicitors bills, and potential jail sentences. For a few unlucky sellers, this could prove the more attractive option.

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Man Handed Conditional Prison Sentence for Spreading Popcorn Time Information

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-handed-conditional-prison-sentence-spreading-popcorn-time-information-180208/

In August 2015, police in Denmark announced they had arrested a man in his thirties said to be the operator of a Popcorn Time-focused website. Popcorntime.dk was subsequently shut down and its domain placed under the control of the state prosecutor.

“The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime is presently conducting a criminal investigation that involves this domain name,” a seizure notice on the site reads.

“As part of the investigation the state prosecutor has requested a Danish District Court to transfer the rights of the domain name to the state prosecutor. The District Court has complied with the request.”

In a circumstance like this, it’s common to conclude that the site was offering copyright-infringing content or software. That wasn’t the case though, not even close.

PopcornTime.dk was an information resource, offering news on Popcorn Time-related developments, guides, plus tips on how to use the software while staying anonymous.

PopcornTime.dk as it appeared in 2015

Importantly, PopcornTime.dk hosted no software, preferring to link to other sites where the application could be downloaded instead. That didn’t prevent an aggressive prosecution though and now, two-and-half years later, the verdict’s in and it’s bound to raise more than a few eyebrows.

On Wednesday, a court in Odense, Denmark, handed the now 39-year-old man behind PopcornTime.dk a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about the controversial movie streaming service.

Senior prosecutor Dorte Køhler Frandsen from SØIK (State Attorney for Special Economic and International Crime), who was behind the criminal proceedings, described the successful prosecution as a first-of-its-kind moment for the entire region.

“Never before has a person been convicted of helping to spread streaming services. The judgment is therefore an important step in combating illegal streaming on the Internet and will reverberate throughout Europe,” Frandsen said.

According to a statement from the prosecutor, the 39-year-old earned 506,003 Danish Krone ($83,363) in advertising revenue from his website in 2015. In addition to forfeiting this amount and having his domain confiscated, the man will also be required to complete 120 hours of community service.

“The verdict is a clear signal to those who spread illegal pirate services. The film industry and others lose billions in revenue each year because criminals illegally offer films for free. It’s a loss for everyone. Also the consumer,” Frandsen added.

The convicted man now has two weeks to decide whether he will take his appeal to the Østre Landsret, one of Denmark’s two High Courts.

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Jailed Streaming Site Operator Hit With Fresh $3m Damages Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/jailed-streaming-site-operator-hit-with-fresh-3m-damages-lawsuit-180207/

After being founded more than half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was only a question of time before authorities stepped in to bring the show to an end.

In 2015, a Swedish operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police. A second man, Turkish and in his late twenties, was later arrested in Germany.

The pair, who hadn’t met in person, appeared before the Varberg District Court in January 2017, accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.

The prosecutor described Swefilmer as “organized crime”, painting the then 26-year-old as the main brains behind the site and the 23-year-old as playing a much smaller role. The former was said to have led a luxury lifestyle after benefiting from $1.5m in advertising revenue.

The sentences eventually handed down matched the defendants’ alleged level of participation. While the younger man received probation and community service, the Turk was sentenced to serve three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.59m.

Very quickly it became clear there would be an appeal, with plaintiffs represented by anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance complaining that their 10m krona ($1.25m) claim for damages over the unlawful distribution of local movie Johan Falk: Kodnamn: Lisa had been ruled out by the Court.

With the appeal hearing now just a couple of weeks away, Swedish outlet Breakit is reporting that media giant Bonnier Broadcasting has launched an action of its own against the now 27-year-old former operator of Swefilmer.

According to the publication, Bonnier’s pay-TV company C More, which distributes for Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Warner, is set to demand around 24m krona ($3.01m) via anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance.

“This is about organized crime and grossly criminal individuals who earned huge sums on our and others’ content. We want to take every opportunity to take advantage of our rights,” says Johan Gustafsson, Head of Corporate Communications at Bonnier Broadcasting.

C More reportedly filed its lawsuit at the Stockholm District Court on January 30, 2018. At its core are four local movies said to have been uploaded and made available via Swefilmer.

“C More would probably never even have granted a license to [the operator] to make or allow others to make the films available to the public in a similar way as [the operator] did, but if that had happened, the fee would not be less than 5,000,000 krona ($628,350) per film or a total of 20,000,000 krona ($2,513,400),” C More’s claim reads.

Speaking with Breakit, lawyer Ansgar Firsching said he couldn’t say much about C More’s claims against his client.

“I am very surprised that two weeks before the main hearing [C More] comes in with this requirement. If you open another front, we have two trials that are partly about the same thing,” he said.

Firsching said he couldn’t elaborate at this stage but expects his client to deny the claim for damages. C More sees things differently.

“Many people live under the illusion that sites like Swefilmer are driven by idealistic teens in their parents’ basements, which is completely wrong. This is about organized crime where our content is used to generate millions and millions in revenue,” the company notes.

The appeal in the main case is set to go ahead February 20th.

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Anti-Piracy Video Scares Kids With ‘Fake’ Malware Info

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-video-scares-kids-with-fake-malware-info-180206/

Today is Safer Internet Day, a global awareness campaign to educate the public on all sorts of threats that people face online.

It is a laudable initiative supported by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness which, together with the children’s charity Into Film, has released an informative video and associated course materials.

The organizations have created a British version of an animation previously released as part of the Australian “Price of Piracy” campaign. While the video includes an informative description of the various types of malware, there appears to be a secondary agenda.

Strangely enough, the video itself contains no advice on how to avoid malware at all, other than to avoid pirate sites. In that sense, it looks more like an indirect anti-piracy ad.

While there’s no denying that kids might run into malware if they randomly click on pirate site ads, this problem is certainly not exclusive to these sites. Email and social media are frequently used to link to malware too, and YouTube comments can pose the same risk. The problem is everywhere.

What really caught our eye, however, is the statement that pirate sites are the most used propagation method for malware. “Did you know, the number one way we infect your device is via illegal pirate sites,” an animated piece of malware claims in the video.

Forget about email attachments, spam links, compromised servers, or even network attacks. Pirate sites are the number one spot through which malware spreads. According to the video at least. But where do they get this knowledge?

Meet the malwares

When we asked the Industry Trust for IP Awareness for further details, the organization checked with their Australian colleagues, who pointed us to a working paper (pdf) from 2014. This paper includes the following line: “Illegal streaming websites are now the number one propagation mechanism for malicious software as 97% of them contain malware.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot wrong with this claim.

Through another citation, the 97% figure points to this unpublished study of which only the highlights were shared. This “malware” research looked at the prevalence of malware and other unwanted software linked to pirate sites. Not just streaming sites as the other paper said, but let’s ignore that last bit.

What the study actually found is that of the 30 researched pirate sites, “90% contained malware or other ‘Potentially Unwanted Programmes’.” Note that this is not the earlier mentioned 97%, and that this broad category not only includes malware but also popup ads, which were most popular. This means that the percentage of actual malware on these sites can be anywhere from 0.1% to 90%.

Importantly, none of the malware found in this research was installed without an action performed by the user, such as clicking on a flashy download button or installing a mysterious .exe file.

Aside from clearly erroneous references, the more worrying issue is that even the original incorrect statement that “97% of all pirate sites contain malware” provides no evidence for the claim in the video that pirate sites are “the number one way” through which malware spreads.

Even if 100% of all pirate sites link to malware, that’s no proof that it’s the most used propagation method.

The malware issue has been a popular talking point for a while, but after searching for answers for days, we couldn’t find a grain of evidence. There are a lot of malware propagation methods, including email, which traditionally is a very popular choice.

Even more confusingly, the same paper that was cited as a source for the pirate site malware claim notes that 80% of all web-based malware is hosted on “innocent” but compromised websites.

As the provided evidence gave no answers, we asked the experts to chime in. Luckily, security company Malwarebytes was willing to share its assessment. As leaders in the anti-malware industry, they should know better than researchers who have their numbers and terminology mixed up.

“These days, most common infections come from malicious spam campaigns and drive-by exploit attacks,” Adam Kujawa, Director of Malware Intelligence at Malwarebytes informs us.

“Torrent sites are still frequently used by criminals to host malware disguised as something the user wants, like an application, movie, etc. However they are really only a threat to people who use torrent sites regularly and those people have likely learned how to avoid malicious torrents,” he adds.

In other words, most people who regularly visit pirate sites know how to avoid these dangers. That doesn’t mean that they are not a threat to unsuspecting kids who visit them for the first time of course.

“Now, if users who were not familiar with torrent and pirate sites started using these services, there is a high probability that they could encounter some kind of malware. However, many of these sites have user review processes to let other users know if a particular torrent or download is likely malicious.

“So, unless a user is completely new to this process and ignores all the warning signs, they could walk away from a pirate site without getting infected,” Kujawa says.

Overall, the experts at Malwarebytes see no evidence for the claim that pirate sites are the number one propagation method for malware.

“So in summary, I don’t think the claim that ‘pirate sites’ are the number one way to infect users is accurate at all,” Kujawa concludes.

While it’s always a good idea to avoid places that can have a high prevalence of malware, including pirate sites, the claims in the video are not backed up by real evidence. There are tens of thousands of non-pirate sites that pose similar or worse risks, so it’s always a good idea to have anti-malware and virus software installed.

The organizations and people involved in the British “Meet the Malwares” video might not have been aware of the doubtful claims, but it’s unfortunate that they didn’t opt for a broader campaign instead of the focused anti-piracy message.

Finally, since it’s still Safer Internet Day, we encourage kids to take a close look at the various guides on how to avoid “fake news” while engaging in critical thinking.

Be safe!

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After Section 702 Reauthorization

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/after_section_7.html

For over a decade, civil libertarians have been fighting government mass surveillance of innocent Americans over the Internet. We’ve just lost an important battle. On January 18, President Trump signed the renewal of Section 702, domestic mass surveillance became effectively a permanent part of US law.

Section 702 was initially passed in 2008, as an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. As the title of that law says, it was billed as a way for the NSA to spy on non-Americans located outside the United States. It was supposed to be an efficiency and cost-saving measure: the NSA was already permitted to tap communications cables located outside the country, and it was already permitted to tap communications cables from one foreign country to another that passed through the United States. Section 702 allowed it to tap those cables from inside the United States, where it was easier. It also allowed the NSA to request surveillance data directly from Internet companies under a program called PRISM.

The problem is that this authority also gave the NSA the ability to collect foreign communications and data in a way that inherently and intentionally also swept up Americans’ communications as well, without a warrant. Other law enforcement agencies are allowed to ask the NSA to search those communications, give their contents to the FBI and other agencies and then lie about their origins in court.

In 1978, after Watergate had revealed the Nixon administration’s abuses of power, we erected a wall between intelligence and law enforcement that prevented precisely this kind of sharing of surveillance data under any authority less restrictive than the Fourth Amendment. Weakening that wall is incredibly dangerous, and the NSA should never have been given this authority in the first place.

Arguably, it never was. The NSA had been doing this type of surveillance illegally for years, something that was first made public in 2006. Section 702 was secretly used as a way to paper over that illegal collection, but nothing in the text of the later amendment gives the NSA this authority. We didn’t know that the NSA was using this law as the statutory basis for this surveillance until Edward Snowden showed us in 2013.

Civil libertarians have been battling this law in both Congress and the courts ever since it was proposed, and the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities even longer. What this most recent vote tells me is that we’ve lost that fight.

Section 702 was passed under George W. Bush in 2008, reauthorized under Barack Obama in 2012, and now reauthorized again under Trump. In all three cases, congressional support was bipartisan. It has survived multiple lawsuits by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and others. It has survived the revelations by Snowden that it was being used far more extensively than Congress or the public believed, and numerous public reports of violations of the law. It has even survived Trump’s belief that he was being personally spied on by the intelligence community, as well as any congressional fears that Trump could abuse the authority in the coming years. And though this extension lasts only six years, it’s inconceivable to me that it will ever be repealed at this point.

So what do we do? If we can’t fight this particular statutory authority, where’s the new front on surveillance? There are, it turns out, reasonable modifications that target surveillance more generally, and not in terms of any particular statutory authority. We need to look at US surveillance law more generally.

First, we need to strengthen the minimization procedures to limit incidental collection. Since the Internet was developed, all the world’s communications travel around in a single global network. It’s impossible to collect only foreign communications, because they’re invariably mixed in with domestic communications. This is called “incidental” collection, but that’s a misleading name. It’s collected knowingly, and searched regularly. The intelligence community needs much stronger restrictions on which American communications channels it can access without a court order, and rules that require they delete the data if they inadvertently collect it. More importantly, “collection” is defined as the point the NSA takes a copy of the communications, and not later when they search their databases.

Second, we need to limit how other law enforcement agencies can use incidentally collected information. Today, those agencies can query a database of incidental collection on Americans. The NSA can legally pass information to those other agencies. This has to stop. Data collected by the NSA under its foreign surveillance authority should not be used as a vehicle for domestic surveillance.

The most recent reauthorization modified this lightly, forcing the FBI to obtain a court order when querying the 702 data for a criminal investigation. There are still exceptions and loopholes, though.

Third, we need to end what’s called “parallel construction.” Today, when a law enforcement agency uses evidence found in this NSA database to arrest someone, it doesn’t have to disclose that fact in court. It can reconstruct the evidence in some other manner once it knows about it, and then pretend it learned of it that way. This right to lie to the judge and the defense is corrosive to liberty, and it must end.

Pressure to reform the NSA will probably first come from Europe. Already, European Union courts have pointed to warrantless NSA surveillance as a reason to keep Europeans’ data out of US hands. Right now, there is a fragile agreement between the EU and the United States ­– called “Privacy Shield” — ­that requires Americans to maintain certain safeguards for international data flows. NSA surveillance goes against that, and it’s only a matter of time before EU courts start ruling this way. That’ll have significant effects on both government and corporate surveillance of Europeans and, by extension, the entire world.

Further pressure will come from the increased surveillance coming from the Internet of Things. When your home, car, and body are awash in sensors, privacy from both governments and corporations will become increasingly important. Sooner or later, society will reach a tipping point where it’s all too much. When that happens, we’re going to see significant pushback against surveillance of all kinds. That’s when we’ll get new laws that revise all government authorities in this area: a clean sweep for a new world, one with new norms and new fears.

It’s possible that a federal court will rule on Section 702. Although there have been many lawsuits challenging the legality of what the NSA is doing and the constitutionality of the 702 program, no court has ever ruled on those questions. The Bush and Obama administrations successfully argued that defendants don’t have legal standing to sue. That is, they have no right to sue because they don’t know they’re being targeted. If any of the lawsuits can get past that, things might change dramatically.

Meanwhile, much of this is the responsibility of the tech sector. This problem exists primarily because Internet companies collect and retain so much personal data and allow it to be sent across the network with minimal security. Since the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect our privacy and security, these companies need to step up: Minimize data collection. Don’t save data longer than absolutely necessary. Encrypt what has to be saved. Well-designed Internet services will safeguard users, regardless of government surveillance authority.

For the rest of us concerned about this, it’s important not to give up hope. Everything we do to keep the issue in the public eye ­– and not just when the authority comes up for reauthorization again in 2024 — hastens the day when we will reaffirm our rights to privacy in the digital age.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

The Effects of the Spectre and Meltdown Vulnerabilities

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/the_effects_of_3.html

On January 3, the world learned about a series of major security vulnerabilities in modern microprocessors. Called Spectre and Meltdown, these vulnerabilities were discovered by several different researchers last summer, disclosed to the microprocessors’ manufacturers, and patched­ — at least to the extent possible.

This news isn’t really any different from the usual endless stream of security vulnerabilities and patches, but it’s also a harbinger of the sorts of security problems we’re going to be seeing in the coming years. These are vulnerabilities in computer hardware, not software. They affect virtually all high-end microprocessors produced in the last 20 years. Patching them requires large-scale coordination across the industry, and in some cases drastically affects the performance of the computers. And sometimes patching isn’t possible; the vulnerability will remain until the computer is discarded.

Spectre and Meltdown aren’t anomalies. They represent a new area to look for vulnerabilities and a new avenue of attack. They’re the future of security­ — and it doesn’t look good for the defenders.

Modern computers do lots of things at the same time. Your computer and your phone simultaneously run several applications — ­or apps. Your browser has several windows open. A cloud computer runs applications for many different computers. All of those applications need to be isolated from each other. For security, one application isn’t supposed to be able to peek at what another one is doing, except in very controlled circumstances. Otherwise, a malicious advertisement on a website you’re visiting could eavesdrop on your banking details, or the cloud service purchased by some foreign intelligence organization could eavesdrop on every other cloud customer, and so on. The companies that write browsers, operating systems, and cloud infrastructure spend a lot of time making sure this isolation works.

Both Spectre and Meltdown break that isolation, deep down at the microprocessor level, by exploiting performance optimizations that have been implemented for the past decade or so. Basically, microprocessors have become so fast that they spend a lot of time waiting for data to move in and out of memory. To increase performance, these processors guess what data they’re going to receive and execute instructions based on that. If the guess turns out to be correct, it’s a performance win. If it’s wrong, the microprocessors throw away what they’ve done without losing any time. This feature is called speculative execution.

Spectre and Meltdown attack speculative execution in different ways. Meltdown is more of a conventional vulnerability; the designers of the speculative-execution process made a mistake, so they just needed to fix it. Spectre is worse; it’s a flaw in the very concept of speculative execution. There’s no way to patch that vulnerability; the chips need to be redesigned in such a way as to eliminate it.

Since the announcement, manufacturers have been rolling out patches to these vulnerabilities to the extent possible. Operating systems have been patched so that attackers can’t make use of the vulnerabilities. Web browsers have been patched. Chips have been patched. From the user’s perspective, these are routine fixes. But several aspects of these vulnerabilities illustrate the sorts of security problems we’re only going to be seeing more of.

First, attacks against hardware, as opposed to software, will become more common. Last fall, vulnerabilities were discovered in Intel’s Management Engine, a remote-administration feature on its microprocessors. Like Spectre and Meltdown, they affected how the chips operate. Looking for vulnerabilities on computer chips is new. Now that researchers know this is a fruitful area to explore, security researchers, foreign intelligence agencies, and criminals will be on the hunt.

Second, because microprocessors are fundamental parts of computers, patching requires coordination between many companies. Even when manufacturers like Intel and AMD can write a patch for a vulnerability, computer makers and application vendors still have to customize and push the patch out to the users. This makes it much harder to keep vulnerabilities secret while patches are being written. Spectre and Meltdown were announced prematurely because details were leaking and rumors were swirling. Situations like this give malicious actors more opportunity to attack systems before they’re guarded.

Third, these vulnerabilities will affect computers’ functionality. In some cases, the patches for Spectre and Meltdown result in significant reductions in speed. The press initially reported 30%, but that only seems true for certain servers running in the cloud. For your personal computer or phone, the performance hit from the patch is minimal. But as more vulnerabilities are discovered in hardware, patches will affect performance in noticeable ways.

And then there are the unpatchable vulnerabilities. For decades, the computer industry has kept things secure by finding vulnerabilities in fielded products and quickly patching them. Now there are cases where that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s because computers are in cheap products that don’t have a patch mechanism, like many of the DVRs and webcams that are vulnerable to the Mirai (and other) botnets — ­groups of Internet-connected devices sabotaged for coordinated digital attacks. Sometimes it’s because a computer chip’s functionality is so core to a computer’s design that patching it effectively means turning the computer off. This, too, is becoming more common.

Increasingly, everything is a computer: not just your laptop and phone, but your car, your appliances, your medical devices, and global infrastructure. These computers are and always will be vulnerable, but Spectre and Meltdown represent a new class of vulnerability. Unpatchable vulnerabilities in the deepest recesses of the world’s computer hardware is the new normal. It’s going to leave us all much more vulnerable in the future.

This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.

Denuvo Has Been Sold to Global Anti-Piracy Outfit Irdeto

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/denuvo-has-been-sold-to-global-anti-piracy-outfit-irdeto-180123/

It’s fair to say that of all video games anti-piracy technologies, Denuvo is perhaps the most hated of recent times. That hatred unsurprisingly stems from both its success and complexity.

Those with knowledge of the system say it’s fiendishly difficult to defeat but in recent times, cracks have been showing. In 2017, various iterations of the anti-tamper system were defeated by several cracking groups, much to the delight of the pirate masses.

Now, however, a new development has the potential to herald a new lease of life for the Austria-based anti-piracy company. A few moments ago it was revealed that the company has been bought by Irdeto, a global anti-piracy company with considerable heritage and resources.

“Irdeto has acquired Denuvo, the world leader in gaming security, to provide anti-piracy and anti-cheat solutions for games on desktop, mobile, console and VR devices,” Irdeto said in a statement.

“Denuvo provides technology and services for game publishers and platforms, independent software vendors, e-publishers and video publishers across the globe. Current Denuvo customers include Electronic Arts, UbiSoft, Warner Bros and Lionsgate Entertainment, with protection provided for games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Football Manager, Injustice 2 and others.”

Irdeto says that Denuvo will “continue to operate as usual” with all of its staff retained – a total of 45 across Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the US. Denuvo headquarters in Salzburg, Austria, will also remain intact along with its sales operations.

“The success of any game title is dependent upon the ability of the title to operate as the publisher intended,” says Irdeto CEO Doug Lowther.

“As a result, protection of both the game itself and the gaming experience for end users is critical. Our partnership brings together decades of security expertise under one roof to better address new and evolving security threats. We are looking forward to collaborating as a team on a number of initiatives to improve our core technology and services to better serve our customers.”

Denuvo was founded relatively recently in 2013 and employs less than 50 people. In contrast, Irdeto’s roots go all the way back to 1969 and currently has almost 1,000 staff. It’s a subsidiary of South Africa-based Internet and media group Naspers, a corporate giant with dozens of notable companies under its control.

While Denuvo is perhaps best known for its anti-piracy technology, Irdeto is also placing emphasis on the company’s ability to hinder cheating in online multi-player gaming environments. This has become a hot topic recently, with several lawsuits filed in the US by companies including Blizzard and Epic.

Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch

“Hackers and cybercriminals in the gaming space are savvy, and always have been. It is critical to implement robust security strategies to combat the latest gaming threats and protect the investment in games. Much like the movie industry, it’s the only way to ensure that great games continue to get made,” says Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch.

“In joining with Irdeto, we are bringing together a unique combination of security expertise, technology and enhanced piracy services to aggressively address security challenges that customers and gamers face from hackers.”

While it seems likely that the companies have been in negotiations for some, the timing of this announcement also coincides with negative news for Denuvo.

Yesterday it was revealed that the latest variant of its anti-tamper technology – Denuvo v4.8 – had been defeated by online cracking group CPY (Conspiracy). Version 4.8 had been protecting Sonic Forces since its release early November 2017 but the game was leaked out onto the Internet late Sunday with all protection neutralized.

Sonic Forces cracked by CPY

Irdeto has a long history of acquiring anti-piracy companies and technologies. They include Lockstream (DRM for content on mobile phones), Philips Cryptoworks (DVB conditional access system), Cloakware (various security), Entriq (media protection), BD+ (Blu-ray protection), and BayTSP (anti-piracy monitoring).

It’s also noteworthy that Irdeto supplied behind-the-scenes support in two of the largest IPTV provider raids of recent times, one focused on Spain in 2017 and more recently in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and the Netherlands (1,2,3).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-seriously-doubts-objectivity-of-us-pirate-site-list-180120/

Late last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The overview is largely based on input from major copyright holders and related industry groups. While the US Government admits that it doesn’t make any judgments, the list carries a lot of weight and can hurt the image of companies that are singled out.

For some of the ‘classic’ pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, this doesn’t really matter. On the contrary, they may see it as a badge of honor. However, for billion-dollar businesses such as Alibaba and VK, it’s a different story.

They are not at risk of being the target of a criminal prosecution, as some classic pirate sites are, but the listing will make them a hot topic on the political agenda.

Interestingly, it seems that not all countries are happy with seeing some of their top companies being singled out. When China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng was confronted with the fact that Alibaba and its Taobao.com site were listed, he made some noteworthy observations.

“In the report, the U.S. frequently discusses the relevant Chinese businesses with the words like ‘reportedly,’ ‘according to authoritative sources’ and the like,” Feng told the local press.

In its report, the US Government stressed that Alibaba should do more to combat counterfeiting and piracy on Taobao.com and other platforms, but China’s officials don’t seem convinced.

“It lacked conclusive evidence and had no relevant figures to back up its points. We have no choice but to express our doubts about the objectivity and reliability of the department that issued the report,” Feng added.

China’s commerce ministry has a point. The USTR report is compiled from comments that are provided by copyright holders. These are not thoroughly vetted, as far as we know, which doesn’t seem very objective.

Even more concerning, copyright holders often cite the USTR’s notorious markets list in legal and lobbying efforts, even though they are in essence their own findings in a rewritten form. While that may be very convenient, it can also be misleading.

Alibaba itself went a step further than the commerce ministry and noted that the company is being used as a “scapegoat” in a geopolitical game. In a detailed ten-page rebuttal, the marketplace responded to the allegations point by point.

“As a result of the rise of trade protectionism, Alibaba has been turned into a scapegoat by the USTR to win points in a highly-politicized environment and their actions should be recognized for what they are,” the company commented.

“The USTR’s actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the US Government’s geopolitical objectives.”

Critique on the USTR’s Special 301 reports, which the Notorious Markets lists are part of, is not new. Earlier this year Canada’s Government described the process as flawed as it’s mainly driven by one-sided copyright industry claims.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” a Government memo read.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Police Shut Down Pirate Streaming TV Provider, Three Men Arrested

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-shut-down-pirate-streaming-tv-provider-three-men-arrested-180120/

As prices for official multi-channel cable and satellite packages continue to increase, unauthorized streaming TV providers are providing an interesting alternative for those who demand the greatest variety of channels at a cut-down price.

Of course, none of this is legal and as such, authorities are clamping down. Today brings news of yet another pirate raid, this time in the city of Lublin, Poland.

A statement from the Provincial Police Headquarters reveals that officers from the Cybercrime and Economic Crime units conducted an investigation under the supervision of the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin. Locations in three provinces – Dolnośląskie, Zachodniopomorskie and Wielkopolskie – were searched.

According to prosecutors, the operators of the website illegally streamed the majority of all television channels available locally, including digital TV and state television. More than 160 channels were supplied via the site without permission. Users were initially given free access to the currently unnamed service but were then encouraged to subscribe to a premium package.

Pirate Streaming TV service (Credit: Polish police)

“The funds obtained from this procedure were invested in the further development of criminal activity and in foreign and Polish companies, of which [the suspects] were owners,” a police statement notes.

Local reports indicate three men, aged 30, 42 and 57, were arrested and brought to the prosecutor’s office. There they faced allegations of illegally distributing pay television and using the revenue as a permanent source of income.

“We estimate that the suspects could have benefited to the tune of nearly 3.5 million zlotys [840,663 euros] via their illegal practices,” police add.

Pirate Streaming TV service (Credit: Polish police)

In addition to the arrests, police also seized equipment including 12 computers, nine servers, tablets, decoders, telephones, more than 60 hard drives and similar devices, plus documentation.

The news of these raids in Poland follows on the heels of a Europol led operation to close down an IPTV operation said to be one of the largest in the world. The still-unnamed provider allegedly serviced around 500,000 subscribers from a base in Bulgaria, where a local ISP has come under the spotlight.

A video of the Polish operation, including a suspect under arrest, is available here.

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Kim Dotcom Loses Megaupload Domain Names, Gets “Destroyed” Gaming Chair Back

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-loses-megaupload-domain-names-gets-destroyed-gaming-chair-back-180117/

Following the 2012 raid on Megaupload and Kim Dotcom, U.S. and New Zealand authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property, located around the world.

Claiming the assets were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes, the U.S. government launched separate civil cases in which it asked the court to forfeit bank accounts, servers, domain names, and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.

One of these cases was lost after the U.S. branded Dotcom and his colleagues as “fugitives”.The defense team appealed the ruling, but lost again, and a subsequent petition at the Supreme Court was denied.

Following this lost battle, the U.S. also moved to conclude a separate civil forfeiture case, which was still pending at a federal court in Virginia.

The assets listed in this case are several bank accounts, including several at PayPal, as well as 60 servers Megaupload bought at Leaseweb. What has the most symbolic value, however, are the domain names that were seized, including Megaupload.com, Megaporn.com and Megavideo.com.

Mega’s domains

This week a U.S. federal court decided that all claims of Kim Dotcom, his former colleague Mathias Ortman, and several Megaupload-related companies should be stricken. A default was entered against them on Tuesday.

The same fugitive disentitlement argument was used in this case. This essentially means that someone who’s considered to be a fugitive from justice is not allowed to get relief from the judicial system he or she evades.

“Claimants Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortmann have deliberately avoided prosecution by declining to enter or reenter the United States,” Judge Liam O’Grady writes in his order to strike the claims.

“Because Claimant Kim Dotcom, who is himself a fugitive under Section 2466, is the Corporate Claimants’ controlling shareholder and, in particular, because he signed the claims on behalf of the corporations, a presumption of disentitlement applies to the corporations as well.”

As a result, the domain names which once served 50 million users per day, are now lost to the US Government. The court records list 18 domains in total, which were registered through Godaddy, DotRegistrar, and Fabulous.

Given the legal history, the domains and other assets are likely lost for good. However, Megaupload defense lawyer Ira Rothken is not giving up yet.

“We are still evaluating the legal options in a climate where Kim Dotcom is being labeled a fugitive in a US criminal copyright case even though he has never been to the US, is merely asserting his US-NZ extradition treaty rights, and the NZ High Court has ruled that he and his co-defendants did not commit criminal copyright infringement under NZ law,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

There might be a possibility that assets located outside the US could be saved. Foreign courts are more open to defense arguments, it seems, as a Hong Kong court previously ordered the US to return several assets belonging to Kim Dotcom.

The Hong Kong case also brought some good news this week. At least, something that was supposed to be positive. On Twitter, Dotcom writes that two containers with seized assets were returned, but in a “rotten and destroyed” state.

“A shipment of 2 large containers just arrived in New Zealand. This is how all my stuff looks now. Rotten & destroyed. Photo: My favorite gaming chair,” Dotcom wrote.

According to Dotcom, the US Government asked him to pay for ‘climate controlled’ storage for more than half a decade to protect the seized goods. However, judging from the look of the chair and the state of some other belongings, something clearly went wrong.

Rotten & destroyed

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Coalition Against Piracy Launches Landmark Case Against ‘Pirate’ Android Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-launches-landmark-case-against-pirate-android-box-sellers-180112/

In 2017, anti-piracy enforcement went global when companies including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Soon after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts many of the same companies among its members in addition to local TV providers such as StarHub.

From the outset, CAP has shown a keen interest in tackling unlicensed streaming, particularly that taking place via illicit set-top boxes stuffed with copyright-infringing apps and add-ons. One country under CAP’s spotlight is Singapore, where relevant law is said to be fuzzy at best, insufficient at worst. Now, however, a line in the sand might not be far away.

According to a court listing discovered by Singapore’s TodayOnline, today will see the Coalition Against Piracy’s general manager Neil Kevin Gane attempt to launch a pioneering private prosecution against set-top box distributor Synnex Trading and its client and wholesale goods retailer, An-Nahl.

Gane and CAP are said to be acting on behalf of four parties, one which is TV giant StarHub, a company with a huge interest in bringing media piracy under control in the region. It’s reported that they have also named Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofen and An-Nahl director Abdul Nagib as defendants in their private criminal case after the parties failed to reach a settlement in an earlier process.

Contacted by TodayOnline, an employee of An-Nahl said the company no longer sells the boxes. However, Synnex is reportedly still selling them for S$219 each ($164) plus additional fees for maintenance and access to VOD. The company’s Facebook page is still active with the relevant offer presented prominently.

The importance of the case cannot be understated. While StarHub and other broadcasters have successfully prosecuted cases where people unlawfully decrypted broadcast signals, the provision of unlicensed streams isn’t specifically tackled by Singapore’s legislation. It’s now a major source of piracy in the region, as it is elsewhere around the globe.

Only time will tell how the process will play out but it’s clear that CAP and its members are prepared to invest significant sums into a prosecution for a favorable outcome. CAP believes that the supply of the boxes falls under Section 136 (3A) of the Copyright Act but only time will tell.

Last December, CAP separately called on the Singapore government to not only block ‘pirate’ streaming software but also unlicensed streams from entering the country.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane. “They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside devices that enables piracy but it’s far from clear how that can be achieved.

Update: The four companies taking the action are confirmed as Singtel, Starhub, Fox Network, and the English Premier League

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Yet Another FBI Proposal for Insecure Communications

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/yet_another_fbi.html

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has given talks where he proposes that tech companies decrease their communications and device security for the benefit of the FBI. In a recent talk, his idea is that tech companies just save a copy of the plaintext:

Law enforcement can also partner with private industry to address a problem we call “Going Dark.” Technology increasingly frustrates traditional law enforcement efforts to collect evidence needed to protect public safety and solve crime. For example, many instant-messaging services now encrypt messages by default. The prevent the police from reading those messages, even if an impartial judge approves their interception.

The problem is especially critical because electronic evidence is necessary for both the investigation of a cyber incident and the prosecution of the perpetrator. If we cannot access data even with lawful process, we are unable to do our job. Our ability to secure systems and prosecute criminals depends on our ability to gather evidence.

I encourage you to carefully consider your company’s interests and how you can work cooperatively with us. Although encryption can help secure your data, it may also prevent law enforcement agencies from protecting your data.

Encryption serves a valuable purpose. It is a foundational element of data security and essential to safeguarding data against cyber-attacks. It is critical to the growth and flourishing of the digital economy, and we support it. I support strong and responsible encryption.

I simply maintain that companies should retain the capability to provide the government unencrypted copies of communications and data stored on devices, when a court orders them to do so.

Responsible encryption is effective secure encryption, coupled with access capabilities. We know encryption can include safeguards. For example, there are systems that include central management of security keys and operating system updates; scanning of content, like your e-mails, for advertising purposes; simulcast of messages to multiple destinations at once; and key recovery when a user forgets the password to decrypt a laptop. No one calls any of those functions a “backdoor.” In fact, those very capabilities are marketed and sought out.

I do not believe that the government should mandate a specific means of ensuring access. The government does not need to micromanage the engineering.

The question is whether to require a particular goal: When a court issues a search warrant or wiretap order to collect evidence of crime, the company should be able to help. The government does not need to hold the key.

Rosenstein is right that many services like Gmail naturally keep plaintext in the cloud. This is something we pointed out in our 2016 paper: “Don’t Panic.” But forcing companies to build an alternate means to access the plaintext that the user can’t control is an enormous vulnerability.

Judge Issues Devastating Order Against BitTorrent Copyright Troll

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-issues-devastating-order-bittorrent-copyright-troll-180110/

In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in the United States since the turn of the last decade.

Increasingly, however, courts are growing weary of these cases. Many districts have turned into no-go zones for copyright trolls and the people behind Prenda law were arrested and are being prosecuted in a criminal case.

In the Western District of Washington, the tide also appears to have turned. After Venice PI, a copyright holder of the film “Once Upon a Time in Venice”, sued a man who later passed away, concerns were raised over the validity of the evidence.

Venice PI responded to the concerns with a declaration explaining its data gathering technique and assuring the Court that false positives are out of the question.

That testimony didn’t help much though, as a recently filed minute order shows this week. The order applies to a dozen cases and prohibits the company from reaching out to any defendants until further notice, as there are several alarming issues that have to be resolved first.

One of the problems is that Venice PI declared that it’s owned by a company named Lost Dog Productions, which in turn is owned by Voltage Productions. Interestingly, these companies don’t appear in the usual records.

“A search of the California Secretary of State’s online database, however, reveals no registered entity with the name ‘Lost Dog’ or ‘Lost Dog Productions’,” the Court notes.

“Moreover, although ‘Voltage Pictures, LLC’ is registered with the California Secretary of State, and has the same address as Venice PI, LLC, the parent company named in plaintiff’s corporate disclosure form, ‘Voltage Productions, LLC,’ cannot be found in the California Secretary of State’s online database and does not appear to exist.”

In other words, the company that filed the lawsuit, as well as its parent company, are extremely questionable.

While the above is a reason for concern, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Court not only points out administrative errors, but it also has serious doubts about the evidence collection process. This was carried out by the German company MaverickEye, which used the tracking technology of another German company, GuardaLey.

GuardaLey CEO Benjamin Perino, who claims that he coded the tracking software, wrote a declaration explaining that the infringement detection system at issue “cannot yield a false positive.” However, the Court doubts this statement and Perino’s qualifications in general.

“Perino has been proffered as an expert, but his qualifications consist of a technical high school education and work experience unrelated to the peer-to-peer file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent,” the Court writes.

“Perino does not have the qualifications necessary to be considered an expert in the field in question, and his opinion that the surveillance program is incapable of error is both contrary to common sense and inconsistent with plaintiff’s counsel’s conduct in other matters in this district. Plaintiff has not submitted an adequate offer of proof”

It seems like the Court would prefer to see an assessment from a qualified independent expert instead of the person who wrote the software. For now, this means that the IP-address evidence, in these cases, is not good enough. That’s quite a blow for the copyright holder.

If that wasn’t enough the Court also highlights another issue that’s possibly even more problematic. When Venice PI requested the subpoenas to identify alleged pirates, they relied on declarations from Daniel Arheidt, a consultant for MaverickEye.

These declarations fail to mention, however, that MaverickEye has the proper paperwork to collect IP addresses.

“Nowhere in Arheidt’s declarations does he indicate that either he or MaverickEye is licensed in Washington to conduct private investigation work,” the order reads.

This is important, as doing private investigator work without a license is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. The copyright holder was aware of this requirement because it was brought up in related cases in the past.

“Plaintiff’s counsel has apparently been aware since October 2016, when he received a letter concerning LHF Productions, Inc. v. Collins, C16-1017 RSM, that Arheidt might be committing a crime by engaging in unlicensed surveillance of Washington citizens, but he did not disclose this fact to the Court.”

The order is very bad news for Venice PI. The company had hoped to score a few dozen easy settlements but the tables have now been turned. The Court instead asks the company to explain the deficiencies and provide additional details. In the meantime, the copyright holder is urged not to spend or transfer any of the settlement money that has been collected thus far.

The latter indicates that Venice PI might have to hand defendants their money back, which would be pretty unique.

The order suggests that the Judge is very suspicious of these trolling activities. In a footnote there’s a link to a Fight Copyright Trolls article which revealed that the same counsel dismissed several cases, allegedly to avoid having IP-address evidence scrutinized.

Even more bizarrely, in another footnote the Court also doubts if MaverickEye’s aforementioned consultant, Daniel Arheidt, actually exists.

“The Court has recently become aware that Arheidt is the latest in a series of German declarants (Darren M. Griffin, Daniel Macek, Daniel Susac, Tobias Fieser, Michael Patzer) who might be aliases or even fictitious.

“Plaintiff will not be permitted to rely on Arheidt’s declarations or underlying data without explaining to the Court’s satisfaction Arheidt’s relationship to the above-listed declarants and producing proof beyond a reasonable doubt of Arheidt’s existence,” the court adds.

These are serious allegations, to say the least.

If a copyright holder uses non-existent companies and questionable testimony from unqualified experts after obtaining evidence illegally to get a subpoena backed by a fictitious person….something’s not quite right.

A copy of the minute order, which affects a series of cases, is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Tech Companies Meet EC to Discuss Removal of Pirate & Illegal Content

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-companies-meet-ec-to-discuss-removal-of-pirate-illegal-content-180109/

Thousands perhaps millions of pieces of illegal content flood onto the Internet every single day, a problem that’s only increasing with each passing year.

In the early days of the Internet very little was done to combat the problem but with the rise of social media and millions of citizens using it to publish whatever they like – not least terrorist propaganda and racist speech – governments around the world are beginning to take notice.

Of course, running parallel is the multi-billion dollar issue of intellectual property infringement. Eighteen years on from the first wave of mass online piracy and the majority of popular movies, TV shows, games, software and books are still available to download.

Over the past couple of years and increasingly in recent months, there have been clear signs that the EU in particular wishes to collectively mitigate the spread of all illegal content – from ISIS videos to pirated Hollywood movies – with assistance from major tech companies.

Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are all expected to do their part, with the looming stick of legislation behind the collaborative carrots, should they fail to come up with a solution.

To that end, five EU Commissioners – Dimitris Avramopoulos, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Věra Jourová, Julian King and Mariya Gabriel – will meet today in Brussels with representatives of several online platforms to discuss progress made in dealing with the spread of the aforementioned material.

In a joint statement together with EC Vice-President Andrus Ansip, the Commissioners describe all illegal content as a threat to security, safety, and fundamental rights, demanding a “collective response – from all actors, including the internet industry.”

They note that online platforms have committed significant resources towards removing violent and extremist content, including via automated removal, but more needs to be done to tackle the issue.

“This is starting to achieve results. However, even if tens of thousands of pieces of illegal content have been taken down, there are still hundreds of thousands more out there,” the Commissioners writes.

“And removal needs to be speedy: the longer illegal material stays online, the greater its reach, the more it can spread and grow. Building on the current voluntary approach, more efforts and progress have to be made.”

The Commission says it is relying on online platforms such as Google and Facebook to “step up and speed up their efforts to tackle these threats quickly and comprehensively.” This should include closer cooperation with law enforcement, sharing of information with other online players, plus action to ensure that once taken down, illegal content does not simply reappear.

While it’s clear that that the EC would prefer to work collaboratively with the platforms to find a solution to the illegal content problem, as expected there’s the veiled threat of them being compelled by law to do so, should they fall short of their responsibilities.

“We will continue to promote cooperation with social media companies to detect and remove terrorist and other illegal content online, and if necessary, propose legislation to complement the existing regulatory framework,” the EC warns.

Today’s discussions run both in parallel and in tandem with others specifically targeted at intellectual property abuses. Late November the EC presented a set of new measures to ensure that copyright holders are well protected both online and in the physical realm.

A key aim is to focus on large-scale facilitators, such as pirate site operators, while cutting their revenue streams.

“The Commission seeks to deprive commercial-scale IP infringers of the revenue flows that make their criminal activity lucrative – this is the so-called ‘follow the money’ approach which focuses on the ‘big fish’ rather than individuals,” the Commission explained.

This presentation followed on the heels of a proposal last September which had the EC advocating the take-down-stay-down principle, with pirate content being taken down, automated filters ensuring infringement can be tackled proactively, with measures being taken against repeat infringers.

Again, the EC warned that should cooperation with Internet platforms fail to come up with results, future legislation cannot be ruled out.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

No Level of Copyright Enforcement Will Ever Be Enough For Big Media

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/no-level-of-copyright-enforcement-will-ever-be-enough-for-big-media-180107/

For more than ten years TorrentFreak has documented a continuous stream of piracy battles so it’s natural that, every now and then, we pause to consider when this war might stop. The answer is always “no time soon” and certainly not in 2018.

When swapping files over the Internet first began it wasn’t a particularly widespread activity. A reasonable amount of content was available, but it was relatively inaccessible. Then peer-to-peer came along and it sparked a revolution.

From the beginning, copyright holders felt that the law would answer their problems, whether that was by suing Napster, Kazaa, or even end users. Some industry players genuinely believed this strategy was just a few steps away from achieving its goals. Just a little bit more pressure and all would be under control.

Then, when the landmark MGM Studios v. Grokster decision was handed down in the studios’ favor during 2005, the excitement online was palpable. As copyright holders rejoiced in this body blow for the pirating masses, file-sharing communities literally shook under the weight of the ruling. For a day, maybe two.

For the majority of file-sharers, the ruling meant absolutely nothing. So what if some company could be held responsible for other people’s infringements? Another will come along, outside of the US if need be, people said. They were right not to be concerned – that’s exactly what happened.

Ever since, this cycle has continued. Eager to stem the tide of content being shared without their permission, rightsholders have advocated stronger anti-piracy enforcement and lobbied for more restrictive interpretations of copyright law. Thus far, however, literally nothing has provided a solution.

One would have thought that given the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload, a huge void would’ve appeared in the sharing landscape. Instead, the file-locker business took itself apart and reinvented itself in jurisdictions outside the United States. Meanwhile, the BitTorrent scene continued in the background, somewhat obliviously.

With the SOPA debacle still fresh in relatively recent memory, copyright holders are still doggedly pursuing their aims. Site-blocking is rampant, advertisers are being pressured into compliance, and ISPs like Cox Communications now find themselves responsible for the infringements of their users. But has any of this caused any fatal damage to the sharing landscape? Not really.

Instead, we’re seeing a rise in the use of streaming sites, each far more accessible to the newcomer than their predecessors and vastly more difficult for copyright holders to police.

Systems built into Kodi are transforming these platforms into a plug-and-play piracy playground, one in which sites skirt US law and users can consume both at will and in complete privacy. Meanwhile, commercial and unauthorized IPTV offerings are gathering momentum, even as rightsholders try to pull them back.

Faced with problems like these we are now seeing calls for even tougher legislation. While groups like the RIAA dream of filtering the Internet, over in the UK a 2017 consultation had copyright holders excited that end users could be criminalized for simply consuming infringing content, let alone distributing it.

While the introduction of both or either of these measures would cause uproar (and rightly so), history tells us that each would fail in its stated aim of stopping piracy. With that eventuality all but guaranteed, calls for even tougher legislation are being readied for later down the line.

In short, there is no law that can stop piracy and therefore no law that will stop the entertainment industries coming back for harsher measures, pursuing the dream. This much we’ve established from close to two decades of litigation and little to no progress.

But really, is anyone genuinely surprised that they’re still taking this route? Draconian efforts to maintain control over the distribution of content predate the file-sharing wars by a couple of hundred years, at the very least. Why would rightsholders stop now, when the prize is even more valuable?

No one wants a minefield of copyright law. No one wants a restricted Internet. No one wants extended liability for innovators, service providers, or the public. But this is what we’ll get if this problem isn’t solved soon. Something drastic needs to happen, but who will be brave enough to admit it, let alone do something about it?

During a discussion about piracy last year on the BBC, the interviewer challenged a caller who freely admitted to pirating sports content online. The caller’s response was clear:

For far too long, broadcasters and rightsholders have abused their monopoly position, charging ever-increasing amounts for popular content, even while making billions. Piracy is a natural response to that, and effectively a chance for the little guy to get back some control, he argued.

Exactly the same happened in the music market during the late 1990s and 2000s. In response to artificial restriction of the market and the unrealistic hiking of prices, people turned to peer-to-peer networks for their fix. Thanks to this pressure but after years of turmoil, services like Spotify emerged, converting millions of former pirates in the process. Netflix, it appears, is attempting to do the same thing with video.

When people feel that they aren’t getting ripped off and that they have no further use for sub-standard piracy services in the face of stunning legal alternatives, things will change. But be under no illusion, people won’t be bullied there.

If we end up with an Internet stifled in favor of rightsholders, one in which service providers are too scared to innovate, the next generation of consumers will never forget. This will be a major problem for two key reasons. Not only will consumers become enemies but piracy will still exist. We will have come full circle, fueled only by division and hatred.

It’s a natural response to reject monopolistic behavior and it’s a natural response, for most, to be fair when treated with fairness. Destroying freedom is far from fair and will not create a better future – for anyone.

Laws have their place, no sane person will argue against that, but when the entertainment industries are making billions yet still want more, they’ll have to decide whether this will go on forever with building resentment, or if making a bit less profit now makes more sense longer term.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons