Tag Archives: P2P

Resources on Distributed Hash Tables

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/resources-on-distributed-hash-tables/

Distributed p2p technologies have always been fascinating to me. Bittorrent is cool not because you can download pirated content for free, but because it’s an amazing piece of technology.

At some point I read and researched a lot about how DHTs (distributed hash tables) work. DHTs are not part of the original bittorrent protocol, but after trackers were increasingly under threat to be closed for copyright infringment, “trackerless” features were added to the protocol. A DHT is distributed among all peers and holds information about which peer holds what data. Once you are connected to a peer, you can query it for their knowledge on who has what.

During my research (which was with no particular purpose) I took a note on many resources that I thought useful for understanding how DHTs work and possibly implementing something ontop of them in the future. In fact, a DHT is a “shared database”, “just like” a blockchain. You can’t trust it as much, but proving digital events does not require a blockchain anyway. My point here is – there is a lot more cool stuff to distributed / p2p systems than blockchain. And maybe way more practical stuff.

It’s important to note that the DHT used in BitTorrent is Kademlia. You’ll see a lot about it below.

Anyway, the point of this post is to share the resources that I collected. For my own reference and for everyone who wants to start somewhere on the topic of DHTs.

I hope the list is interesting and useful. It’s not trivial to think of other uses of DHTs, but simply knowing about them and how they work is a good thing.

The post Resources on Distributed Hash Tables appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Majority of Canadians Consume Online Content Legally, Survey Finds

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/majority-of-canadians-consume-online-content-legally-survey-finds-180531/

Back in January, a coalition of companies and organizations with ties to the entertainment industries called on local telecoms regulator CRTC to implement a national website blocking regime.

Under the banner of Fairplay Canada, members including Bell, Cineplex, Directors Guild of Canada, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Movie Theatre Association of Canada, and Rogers Media, spoke of an industry under threat from marauding pirates. But just how serious is this threat?

The results of a new survey commissioned by Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) in collaboration with the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) aims to shine light on the problem by revealing the online content consumption habits of citizens in the Great White North.

While there are interesting findings for those on both sides of the site-blocking debate, the situation seems somewhat removed from the Armageddon scenario predicted by the entertainment industries.

Carried out among 3,301 Canadians aged 12 years and over, the Kantar TNS study aims to cover copyright infringement in six key content areas – music, movies, TV shows, video games, computer software, and eBooks. Attitudes and behaviors are also touched upon while measuring the effectiveness of Canada’s copyright measures.

General Digital Content Consumption

In its introduction, the report notes that 28 million Canadians used the Internet in the three-month study period to November 27, 2017. Of those, 22 million (80%) consumed digital content. Around 20 million (73%) streamed or accessed content, 16 million (59%) downloaded content, while 8 million (28%) shared content.

Music, TV shows and movies all battled for first place in the consumption ranks, with 48%, 48%, and 46% respectively.

Copyright Infringement

According to the study, the majority of Canadians do things completely by the book. An impressive 74% of media-consuming respondents said that they’d only accessed material from legal sources in the preceding three months.

The remaining 26% admitted to accessing at least one illegal file in the same period. Of those, just 5% said that all of their consumption was from illegal sources, with movies (36%), software (36%), TV shows (34%) and video games (33%) the most likely content to be consumed illegally.

Interestingly, the study found that few demographic factors – such as gender, region, rural and urban, income, employment status and language – play a role in illegal content consumption.

“We found that only age and income varied significantly between consumers who infringed by downloading or streaming/accessing content online illegally and consumers who did not consume infringing content online,” the report reads.

“More specifically, the profile of consumers who downloaded or streamed/accessed infringing content skewed slightly younger and towards individuals with household incomes of $100K+.”

Licensed services much more popular than pirate haunts

It will come as no surprise that Netflix was the most popular service with consumers, with 64% having used it in the past three months. Sites like YouTube and Facebook were a big hit too, visited by 36% and 28% of content consumers respectively.

Overall, 74% of online content consumers use licensed services for content while 42% use social networks. Under a third (31%) use a combination of peer-to-peer (BitTorrent), cyberlocker platforms, or linking sites. Stream-ripping services are used by 9% of content consumers.

“Consumers who reported downloading or streaming/accessing infringing content only are less likely to use licensed services and more likely to use peer-to-peer/cyberlocker/linking sites than other consumers of online content,” the report notes.

Attitudes towards legal consumption & infringing content

In common with similar surveys over the years, the Kantar research looked at the reasons why people consume content from various sources, both legal and otherwise.

Convenience (48%), speed (36%) and quality (34%) were the most-cited reasons for using legal sources. An interesting 33% of respondents said they use legal sites to avoid using illegal sources.

On the illicit front, 54% of those who obtained unauthorized content in the previous three months said they did so due to it being free, with 40% citing convenience and 34% mentioning speed.

Almost six out of ten (58%) said lower costs would encourage them to switch to official sources, with 47% saying they’d move if legal availability was improved.

Canada’s ‘Notice-and-Notice’ warning system

People in Canada who share content on peer-to-peer systems like BitTorrent without permission run the risk of receiving an infringement notice warning them to stop. These are sent by copyright holders via users’ ISPs and the hope is that the shock of receiving a warning will turn consumers back to the straight and narrow.

The study reveals that 10% of online content consumers over the age of 12 have received one of these notices but what kind of effect have they had?

“Respondents reported that receiving such a notice resulted in the following: increased awareness of copyright infringement (38%), taking steps to ensure password protected home networks (27%), a household discussion about copyright infringement (27%), and discontinuing illegal downloading or streaming (24%),” the report notes.

While these are all positives for the entertainment industries, Kantar reports that almost a quarter (24%) of people who receive a notice simply ignore them.

Stream-ripping

Once upon a time, people obtaining music via P2P networks was cited as the music industry’s greatest threat but, with the advent of sites like YouTube, so-called stream-ripping is the latest bogeyman.

According to the study, 11% of Internet users say they’ve used a stream-ripping service. They are most likely to be male (62%) and predominantly 18 to 34 (52%) years of age.

“Among Canadians who have used a service to stream-rip music or entertainment, nearly half (48%) have used stream-ripping sites, one-third have used downloader apps (38%), one-in-seven (14%) have used a stream-ripping plug-in, and one-in-ten (10%) have used stream-ripping software,” the report adds.

Set-Top Boxes and VPNs

Few general piracy studies would be complete in 2018 without touching on set-top devices and Virtual Private Networks and this report doesn’t disappoint.

More than one in five (21%) respondents aged 12+ reported using a VPN, with the main purpose of securing communications and Internet browsing (57%).

A relatively modest 36% said they use a VPN to access free content while 32% said the aim was to access geo-blocked content unavailable in Canada. Just over a quarter (27%) said that accessing content from overseas at a reasonable price was the main motivator.

One in ten (10%) of respondents reported using a set-top box, with 78% stating they use them to access paid-for content. Interestingly, only a small number say they use the devices to infringe.

“A minority use set-top boxes to access other content that is not legal or they are unsure if it is legal (16%), or to access live sports that are not legal or they are unsure if it is legal (11%),” the report notes.

“Individuals who consumed a mix of legal and illegal content online are more likely to use VPN services (42%) or TV set-top boxes (21%) than consumers who only downloaded or streamed/accessed legal content.”

Kantar says that the findings of the report will be used to help policymakers evaluate how Canada’s Copyright Act is coping with a changing market and technological developments.

“This research will provide the necessary information required to further develop copyright policy in Canada, as well as to provide a foundation to assess the effectiveness of the measures to address copyright infringement, should future analysis be undertaken,” it concludes.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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

Danish Traffic to Pirate Sites Increases 67% in Just a Year

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/danish-traffic-to-pirate-sites-increases-67-in-just-a-year-180501/

For close to 20 years, rightsholders have tried to stem the tide of mainstream Internet piracy. Yet despite increasingly powerful enforcement tools, infringement continues on a grand scale.

While the problem is global, rightsholder groups often zoom in on their home turf, to see how the fight is progressing locally. Covering Denmark, the Rights Alliance Data Report 2017 paints a fairly pessimistic picture.

Published this week, the industry study – which uses SimilarWeb and MarkMonitor data – finds that Danes visited 2,000 leading pirate sites 596 million times in 2017. That represents a 67% increase over the 356 million visits to unlicensed platforms made by citizens during 2016.

The report notes that, at least in part, this explosive growth can be attributed to mobile-compatible sites and services, which make it easier than ever to consume illicit content on the move, as well as at home.

In a sea of unauthorized streaming sites, Rights Alliance highlights one platform above all the others as a particularly bad influence in 2017 – 123movies (also known as GoMovies and GoStream, among others).

“The popularity of this service rose sharply in 2017 from 40 million visits in 2016 to 175 million visits in 2017 – an increase of 337 percent, of which most of the traffic originates from mobile devices,” the report notes.

123movies recently announced its closure but before that the platform was subjected to web-blocking in several jurisdictions.

Rights Alliance says that Denmark has one of the most effective blocking systems in the world but that still doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from consuming pirate content from sites that aren’t yet blocked.

“Traffic to infringing sites is overwhelming, and therefore blocking a few sites merely takes the top of the illegal activities,” Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.

“Blocking is effective by stopping 75% of traffic to blocked sites but certainly, an upscaled effort is necessary.”

Rights Alliance also views the promotion of legal services as crucial to its anti-piracy strategy so when people visit a blocked site, they’re also directed towards legitimate platforms.

“That is why we are working at the moment with Denmark’s Ministry of Culture and ISPs on a campaign ‘Share With Care 2′ which promotes legal services e.g. by offering a search function for legal services which will be placed in combination with the signs that are put on blocked websites,” the anti-piracy group notes.

But even with such measures in place, the thirst for unlicensed content is great. In 2017 alone, 500 of the most popular films and TV shows were downloaded from P2P networks like BitTorrent more than 15 million times from Danish IP addresses, that’s up from 11.9 million in 2016.

Given the dramatic rise in visits to pirate sites overall, the suggestion is that plenty of consumers are still getting through. Rights Alliance says that the number of people being restricted is also hampered by people who don’t use their ISP’s DNS service, which is the method used to block sites in Denmark.

Additionally, interest in VPNs and similar anonymization and bypass-capable technologies is on the increase. Between 3.5% and 5% of Danish Internet users currently use a VPN, a number that’s expected to go up. Furthermore, Rights Alliance reports greater interest in “closed” pirate communities.

“The data is based on closed [BitTorrent] networks. We also address the challenges with private communities on Facebook and other [social media] platforms,” Fredenslund explains.

“Due to the closed doors of these platforms it is not possible for us to say anything precisely about the amount of infringing activities there. However, we receive an increasing number of notices from our members who discover that their products are distributed illegally and also we do an increased monitoring of these platforms.”

But while more established technologies such as torrents and regular web-streaming continue in considerable volumes, newer IPTV-style services accessible via apps and dedicated platforms are also gaining traction.

“The volume of visitors to these services’ websites has been sharply rising in 2017 – an increase of 84 percent from January to December,” Rights Alliance notes.

“Even though the number of visitors does not say anything about actual consumption, as users usually only visit pages one time to download the program, the number gives an indication that the interest in IPTV is increasing.”

To combat this growth market, Rights Alliance says it wants to establish web-blockades against sites hosting the software applications.

Also on the up are visits to platforms offering live sports illegally. In 2017, Danish IP addresses made 2.96 million visits to these services, corresponding to almost 250,000 visits per month and representing an annual increase of 28%.

Rights Alliance informs TF that in future a ‘live’ blocking mechanism similar to the one used by the Premier League in the UK could be deployed in Denmark.

“We already have a dynamic blocking system, and we see an increasing demand for illegal TV products, so this could be a natural next step,” Fredenslund explains.

Another small but perhaps significant detail is how users are accessing pirate sites. According to the report, large volumes of people are now visiting platforms directly, with more than 50% doing so in preference to referrals from search engines such as Google.

In terms of deterrence, the Rights Alliance report sticks to the tried-and-tested approaches seen so often in the anti-piracy arena.

Firstly, the group notes that it’s increasingly encountering people who are paying for legal services such as Netflix and Spotify so believe that allows them to grab something extra from a pirate site. However, in common with similar organizations globally, the group counters that pirate sites can serve malware or have other nefarious business interests behind the scenes, so people should stay away.

Whether significant volumes will heed this advice will remain to be seen but if a 67% increase last year is any predictor of the future, piracy is here to stay – and then some. Rights Alliance says it is ready for the challenge but will need some assistance to achieve its goals.

“As it is evident from the traffic data, criminal activities are not something that we, private companies (right holders in cooperation with ISPs), can handle alone,” Fredenslund says.

“Therefore, we are very pleased that DK Government recently announced that the IP taskforce which was set down as a trial period has now been made permanent. In that regard it is important and necessary that the police will also obtain the authority to handle blocking of massively infringing websites. Police do not have the authority to carry out blocking as it is today.”

The full report is available here (Danish, pdf)

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

Piracy & Money Are Virtually Inseparable & People Probably Don’t Care Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-money-are-virtually-inseparable-people-probably-dont-care-anymore-180408/

Long before peer-to-peer file-sharing networks were a twinkle in developers’ eyes, piracy of software and games flourished under the radar. Cassettes, floppy discs and CDs were the physical media of choice, while the BBS became the haunt of the need-it-now generation.

Sharing was the name of the game. When someone had game ‘X’ on tape, it was freely shared with friends and associates because when they got game ‘Y’, the favor had to be returned. The content itself became the currency and for most, the thought of asking for money didn’t figure into the equation.

Even when P2P networks first took off, money wasn’t really a major part of the equation. Sure, the people running Kazaa and the like were generating money from advertising but for millions of users, sharing content between friends and associates was still the name of the game.

Even when the torrent site scene began to gain traction, money wasn’t the driving force. Everything was so new that developers were much more concerned with getting half written/half broken tracker scripts to work than anything else. Having people care enough to simply visit the sites and share something with others was the real payoff. Ironically, it was a reward that money couldn’t buy.

But as the scene began to develop, so did the influx of minor and even major businessmen. The ratio economy of the private tracker scene meant that bandwidth could essentially be converted to cash, something which gave site operators revenue streams that had never previously existed. That was both good and bad for the scene.

The fact is that running a torrent site costs money and if time is factored in too, that becomes lots of money. If site admins have to fund everything themselves, a tipping point is eventually reached. If the site becomes unaffordable, it closes, meaning that everyone loses. So, by taking in some donations or offering users other perks in exchange for financial assistance, the whole thing remains viable.

Counter-intuitively, the success of such a venture then becomes the problem, at least as far as maintaining the old “sharing is caring” philosophy goes. A well-run private site, with enthusiastic donors, has the potential to bring in quite a bit of cash. Initially, the excess can be saved away for that rainy day when things aren’t so good. Having a few thousand in the bank when chaos rains down is rarely a bad thing.

But what happens when a site does really well and is making money hand over fist? What happens when advertisers on public sites begin to queue up, offering lots of cash to get involved? Is a site operator really expected to turn down the donations and tell the advertisers to go away? Amazingly, some do. Less amazingly, most don’t.

Although there are some notable exceptions, particularly in the niche private tracker scene, these days most ‘pirate’ sites are in it for the money.

In the current legal climate, some probably consider this their well-earned ‘danger money’ yet others are so far away from the sharing ethos it hurts. Quite often, these sites are incapable of taking in a new member due to alleged capacity issues yet a sizeable ‘donation’ miraculously solves the problem and gets the user in. It’s like magic.

As it happens, two threads on Reddit this week sparked this little rant. Both discuss whether someone should consider paying $20 and 37 euros respectively to get invitations to a pair of torrent sites.

Ask a purist and the answer is always ‘NO’, whether that’s buying an invitation from the operator of a torrent site or from someone selling invites for profit.

Aside from the fact that no one on these sites has paid content owners a dime, sites that demand cash for entry are doing so for one reason and one reason only – profit. Ridiculous when it’s the users of those sites that are paying to distribute the content.

On the other hand, others see no wrong in it.

They argue that paying a relatively small amount to access huge libraries of content is preferable to spending hundreds of dollars on a legitimate service that doesn’t carry all the content they need. Others don’t bother making any excuses at all, spending sizable sums with pirate IPTV/VOD services that dispose of sharing morals by engaging in a different business model altogether.

But the bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that money and Internet piracy have become so intertwined, so enmeshed in each other’s existence, that it’s become virtually impossible to separate them.

Even those running the handful of non-profit sites still around today would be forced to reconsider if they had to start all over again in today’s climate. The risk model is entirely different and quite often, only money tips those scales.

The same holds true for the people putting together the next big streaming portals. These days it’s about getting as many eyeballs on content as possible, making the money, and getting out the other end unscathed.

This is not what most early pirates envisioned. This is certainly not what the early sharing masses wanted. Yet arguably, through the influx of business people and the desire to generate profit among the general population, the pirating masses have never had it so good.

As revealed in a recent study, volumes of piracy are on the up and it is now possible – still possible – to access almost any item of content on pirate sites, despite the so-called “follow the money” approach championed by the authorities.

While ‘Sharing is Caring’ still lives today, it’s slowly being drowned out and at this point, there’s probably no way back. The big question is whether anyone cares anymore and the answer to that is “probably not”.

So, if the driving force isn’t sharing or love, it’ll probably have to be money. And that works everywhere else, doesn’t it?

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

“Large Scale” Music Pirate Settles With BREIN For 10,000 Euros

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/large-scale-music-pirate-settles-brein-10000-euros-180309/

In 2018, music piracy is a very different beast than it was back in the early P2P days of Kazaa and LimeWire.

Where once it ran rampant, vastly improved official offerings have ensured that millions of former pirates are now enjoying music legally via convenient streaming services such as Spotify. However, there is no shortage of people who prefer to have personal archives of illicit MP3s stored safely on their own machines.

This content can be easily obtained from web-based pirate sites, torrent platforms, and the aging Usenet system. The latter is often (and incorrectly) considered to be a safer option for distribution but for one uploader, things haven’t played out that way.

According to news from Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, a “large-scale” Usenet uploader has recently agreed to pay the not inconsiderable sum of 10,000 euros ($12,374) to make a potential lawsuit disappear.

BREIN says the person was responsible for uploading unlicensed music releases to Usenet in breach of copyright, including recent albums by Ed Sheeran and Justin Timberlake. However, BREIN also criticizes the Usenet providers who facilitate this kind of sharing.

“Although such uploaders usually do this free of charge for the status they receive from illegal downloaders, it is the Usenet providers that make money by selling subscriptions for access to their servers,” says BREIN director Tim Kuik.

“Such providers like to close their eyes and claim that they do not know what is happening on their servers and only take action when they receive a notification.”

Alongside BREIN’s suggestion of willful blindness to infringement, there’s also the issue of compliance when Usenet operators are presented with an official complaint. Dutch case law requires that when a “reasonable” case of infringement is presented, they must give up the identity of the alleged infringer. In this case, that’s exactly what happened.

“BREIN has, in order to obtain the details the uploader, requested the Usenet provider of this uploader to provide the data. This request was answered,” the anti-piracy outfit reveals.

Unlike other jurisdictions where a specific court order is needed for disclosure, in the Netherlands no such process is required. BREIN has taken advantage of this position in many previous cases, insisting that providers who don’t disclose when there are reasonable grounds are acting unlawfully.

Following BREIN’s approach and the 10,000 euro settlement, the anti-piracy outfit says that the uploader took to Spotnet, a piece of software that allows downloading from newsgroups, to announce his demise.

“As you may have noticed, I have not been actively uploading for a while, because BREIN finally found my details and I have been asked to stop acting as an uploader of copyrighted music content to Usenet,” the uploader wrote.

“I have made a settlement with BREIN. A part of this settlement consists of the payment of a considerable sum of 10,000 euros, so I stop with uploading and advise other uploaders to think carefully about whether they want to continue. BREIN doesn’t stand idly by either. They are willing to take the necessary steps to get your details.”

BREIN says that the circumstances of the uploader were taken into consideration when reaching the 10,000 euro figure but whether the full amount will ever get paid will never be publicly known. That being said, the publicity attached to the settlement agreement will be worth more to BREIN than the cash alone.

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

Spanish Authorities Launch New Campaign to Block Pirate Websites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-authorities-launch-new-campaign-to-block-pirate-websites-180223/

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, a court in Spain recently ordered local ISPs to block HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv, a pair of popular pirate sites.

Citing changes in local law which helped facilitate the action, the MPA welcomed the blockades as necessary to prevent further damage to the creative industries. Now, just a week later, it seems that Spain really has the bit between its teeth.

An announcement from the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, reveals that almost two dozen websites have just been blocked for infringing intellectual property rights.

“The Civil Guard, within the framework of the ‘Operation CASCADA’, has initiated a campaign to block websites that allow people to download content protected by copyright and disseminate them through links in P2P networks, that is, networks of computers that work without fixed servers,” the Civil Guard said in a statement.

“In this first phase, a total of 23 web domains have been blocked from which direct download links of all kinds of protected audiovisual material such as movies, series, music and video games were accessed, many of them of recent creation and without being released yet in our country.

“High-quality versions of films available on the cinema billboards of our country were offered, although they had not yet been sold in physical or digital format and dubbed with audio in several languages.”

A full list of websites and domains hasn’t yet been provided by the authorities but familiar names including divxtotal.com and gamestorrents.com are confirmed to be included in the first wave.

The Civil Guard, which is organized as a military force under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense, said that the administrators of the sites operate their platforms from abroad, generating advertising revenue from Spanish visitors who are said to make up 80% of the sites’ traffic.

In common with similar sites, the authorities accuse their owners of taking evasive action to avoid being shut down, including hiding the true location of their servers while moving them from country to country and masking domain registration data.

“Cases have been detected in which previously judicially blocked domains were reactivated in a matter of hours, with practically identical domain names or even changing only the extension thereof. In this way, and even if several successive blocks were made, they were able to ‘resurrect’ the web pages again in a very short space of time,” the Civil Guard reports.

“For all these reasons, components of the Department of Telematic Crimes of the Central Operative Unit of the Civil Guard, responsible for the investigation, were forced to implement a series of measures tending to cause a total blockade of them that would be effective and definitive, being currently inaccessible web pages or lacking download links.”

According to the authorities, the sites are now being continuously monitored, with replacement domains being blocked in less than three hours. That doesn’t appear to have been the case yesterday, however.

It’s claimed that the blocked sites were created by “a person of Spanish origin” who subsequently sold them to a company in Argentina. On Thursday, Argentina-based site Dixv.com.ar fired back against the blockade with a new site called Yadivx.com, which is reportedly serving all of the former’s content to users in Spain.

The sites’ owners continue to administer the rogue sites from Argentina, Spanish authorities believe. Only time will tell who will emerge victorious but at least for now, the sites are remaining defiant.

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

Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-continue-to-curb-illegal-downloading-but-what-about-streaming-180222/

After many years of downloading content with impunity, 2014 brought a culture shock to the Dutch.

Citizens were previously allowed to obtain content for their own use due to a levy on blank media that compensated rightsholders. However, the European Court of Justice found that system to be illegal and the government quickly moved to ban downloading from unauthorized sources.

In the four years that have passed since the ban, the downloading landscape has undergone change. That’s according to a study published by the Consumer Insights panel at Telecompaper which found that while 41% of respondents downloaded movies, TV shows, music and games from unauthorized sources in 2013, the figure had plunged to 27% at the end of 2016. There was a further drop to 24% by the end of 2017.

Of the people who continue to download illegally, men are overrepresented, the study found. While 27% of men obtained media for free during the last year to October 2017, only 21% of women did likewise.

While as many as 150 million people still use P2P technologies such as BitTorrent worldwide, there is a general decline in usage and this is reflected in the report.

In 2013, 18% of Dutch respondents used torrent-like systems to download, a figure that had fallen to 8% in 2016 and 6% last year. Again, male participants were overrepresented, outnumbering women by two to one. However, people appear to be visiting P2P networks less.

“The study showed that people who reported using P2P to download content, have done so on average 37 times a year [to October 2017]. In January of 2017 it was significantly higher, 61 times,” the study notes. P2P usage in November 2015 was rated at 98 instances per year.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the oldest methods of downloading content has maintained its userbase in more recent years. Usenet, otherwise known as the newsgroups, accounted for 9% of downloaders in 2013 but after falling to around 6% of downloaders in 2016, that figure remained unchanged in 2017. Almost five times more men used newsgroups than women.

At the same time as showing a steady trend in terms of users, instances of newsgroup downloading are reportedly up in the latest count. In November 2015, people used the system an average of 98 times per year but in January 2017 that had fallen to 66 times. The latest figures find an average use of 68 times per year.

Drilling down into more obscure systems, 2% of respondents told Telecompaper that they’d used an FTP server during the past year, a method that was entirely dominated by men.

While the Dutch downloading ban in 2013 may have played some part in changing perceptions, the increased availability of legal offers cannot be ignored. Films and TV shows are now widely available on services such as Netflix and Amazon, while music is strongly represented via Spotify, Apple, Deezer and similar platforms.

Indeed, 12% of respondents said they are now downloading less illegally because it’s easier to obtain paid content, that’s versus 11% at the start of 2017 and just 3% in 2013. Interestingly, 14% of respondents this time around said their illegal downloads are down because they have more restrictions on their time.

Another interesting reason given for downloading less is that pirate content is becoming harder to find. In 2013, just 4% cited this as a cause for reduction yet in 2017, this had jumped to 8% of respondents, with blocked sites proving a stumbling block for some users.

On the other hand, 3% of respondents said that since content had become easier to find, they are now downloading more. However, that figure is down from 13% in November 2013 and 6% in January 2017.

But with legal streaming certainly making its mark in the Netherlands, the illegal streaming phenomenon isn’t directly addressed in the report. It is likely that a considerable number of citizens are now using this method to obtain their content fix in a way that’s not as easily trackable as torrent-like systems.

Furthermore, given the plans of local film distribution Dutch FilmWorks to chase and demand cash settlements from BitTorrent users, it’s likely that traffic to streaming sites will only increase in the months to come, at least for those looking to consume TV shows and movies.

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

The Early Days of Mass Internet Piracy Were Awesome Yet Awful

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-early-days-of-mass-internet-piracy-were-awesome-yet-awful-180211/

While Napster certainly put the digital cats among the pigeons in 1999, the organized chaos of mass Internet file-sharing couldn’t be truly appreciated until the advent of decentralized P2P networks a year or so later.

In the blink of an eye, everyone with a “shared folder” client became both a consumer and publisher, sucking in files from strangers and sharing them with like-minded individuals all around the planet. While today’s piracy narrative is all about theft and danger, in the early 2000s the sharing community felt more like distant friends who hadn’t met, quietly trading cards together.

Satisfying to millions, those who really engaged found shared folder sharing a real adrenaline buzz, as English comedian Seann Walsh noted on Conan this week.

“Click. 20th Century Fox comes up. No pixels. No shaky cam. No silhouettes of heads at the bottom of the screen, people coming in five minutes late. None of that,” Walsh said, recalling his experience of downloading X-Men 2 (X2) from LimeWire.

“We thought: ‘We’ve done it!!’ This was incredible! We were going to have to go to the cinema. We weren’t going to have to wait for the film to come out on video. We weren’t going to have to WALK to blockbuster!”

But while the nostalgia has an air of magic about it, Walsh’s take on the piracy experience is bittersweet. While obtaining X2 without having to trudge to a video store was a revelation, there were plenty of drawbacks too.

Downloading the pirate copy took a week, which pre-BitTorrent wasn’t a completely bad result but still a considerable commitment. There were also serious problems with quality control.

“20th Century fades, X Men 2 comes up. We’ve done it! We’re not taking it for granted — we’re actually hugging. Yes! Yes! We’ve done it! This is the future! We look at the screen, Wolverine turns round…,” …..and Walsh launches into a broadside of pseudo-German babble, mimicking the unexpectedly-dubbed superhero.

After a week of downloading and getting a quality picture on launch, that is a punch in the gut, to say the least. Arguably no less than a pirate deserves, some will argue, but a fat lip nonetheless, and one many a pirate has suffered over the years. Nevertheless, as Walsh notes, it’s a pain that kids in 2018 simply cannot comprehend.

“Children today are living the childhood I dreamed of. If they want to hear a song — touch — they stream it. They’ve got it now. Bang. Instantly. They don’t know the pain of LimeWire.

“Start downloading a song, go to school, come back. HOPE that it’d finished! That download bar messing with you. Four minutes left…..nine HOURS and 28 minutes left? Thirty seconds left…..52 hours and 38 minutes left? JUST TELL ME THE TRUTH!!!!!” Walsh pleaded.

While this might sound comical now, this was the reality of people downloading from clients such as LimeWire and Kazaa. While X2 in German would’ve been torture for a non-German speaker, the misery of watching an English language copy of 28 Days Later somehow crammed into a 30Mb file is right up there too.

Mislabeled music with microscopic bitrates? That was pretty much standard.

But against the odds, these frankly second-rate experiences still managed to capture the hearts and minds of the digitally minded. People were prepared to put up with nonsense and regular disappointment in order to consume content in a way fit for the 21st century. Yet somehow the combined might of the entertainment industries couldn’t come up with anything substantially better for a number of years.

Of course, broadband availability and penetration played its part but looking back, something could have been done. Not only didn’t the Internet’s popularity come as a surprise, people’s expectations were dramatically lower than they are today too. In any event, beating the pirates should have been child’s play. After all, it was just regular people sharing files in a Windows folder.

Any fool could do it – and millions did. Surprisingly, they have proven unstoppable.

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

Blockchain Startup White Rabbit Calls on Pirate Sites to Do Business, Legally

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/blockchain-startup-white-rabbit-calls-on-pirate-sites-to-do-business-legally-180102/

For as long as piracy has been mainstream, people have tried to find ways to monetize the system. While many have had good intentions, only models focusing on the negative (copyright trolling, for example) have enjoyed any level of success.

Blockchain startup White Rabbit is hoping to buck that trend but it’s not going to be easy. Then again, nothing worthwhile is, so what do they have to offer?

White Rabbit begins with the assumption that while they love their pirate sites, a many as 60% of pirates would happily reward creators if it was made easy enough. The startup deals with this by inviting pirates to carry on using the kinds of unauthorized sites and services they’re using already, but with a twist.

By installing the White Rabbit browser plug-in, the company will be able to see what content the user is accessing. It will then attempt to match that download to deals it’s made with the companies behind those movies or TV shows. They’ll then get paid a set amount.

“White Rabbit is a content ecosystem accessed through a plugin that recognizes the film and series you stream. The streaming sites are P2P or open server, meaning users can choose where they want to stream,” White Rabbit CEO Alan R. Milligan informs TF.

“We already have a library of films that have won and been nominated for Oscars, Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festival best film prizes — but will continue adding more films and series as we near launch.”

It’s envisioned that this mechanism will prove popular with reluctant pirates since instead of paying Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other services, users can pay for content through one channel. And, since White Rabbit uses blockchain technology, rights holders can be ensured complete financial transparency, with user payments going straight to them without delay, cutting out the middleman.

“Users are anonymous but can offer filmmakers, artists or other content right holders (investors, distributors, sales agents) our tokens (WRT) as good faith that they are willing to pay for the content. Should the rights holders accept, we enter into a contract with the rights holder that allows them to receive revenue — and accept P2P streaming. We find, and research shows, that most people that are forced to piracy [do so] because they are just not able to access content,” Milligan adds.

White Rabbit’s CEO, who is a filmmaker himself, also sees opportunities to bring fans and filmmakers closer together. Once users have paid for content, they continue to get access via something called the Rabbit Hole, an interface which provides extras that are normally found on a DVD, such as deleted scenes etc.

The team behind White Rabbit describe themselves as “responsible rebels” hoping to spark a revolution. While that’s clearly the goal, by any measure there is a mountain to climb, not least on the content front.

When TorrentFreak first started speaking with the startup in October last year, we were told they were “closing in on 500 films” with contracts, although they wouldn’t elaborate on who might be on board. Nevertheless, that is quite a lot of movies, especially given the mainstream studios’ hatred of pirate sites and anything they might be involved in.

However, subsequent discussion suggests that those with more niche tastes might be White Rabbit’s initial target audience.

“I believe timing is of big relevance and right now a lot of producers are scared of where they´re going to go now that Netflix is enforcing its 50/50 policy. There are also so many amazing films out there that get no or little digital distribution at all,” Milligan says.

“As a Norwegian film producer there is little chance of the film being streamed in my home country — even if we won awards in Cannes and Venice. My latest film Valley of Shadows got US digital distribution, but in Norway — nada.

“My colleagues around the world are suffering the same way, not to mention all the fans who cant watch local films and series. So the indie part of the industry — which is most of us (and still representing 20-30% of cinema sales) — are very ready for change.”

But while indie producers could benefit nicely from White Rabbit, Milligan highlights problems that the big studios have, and suggests that they might like to see the startup succeed too.

“The studios will likely want to see our business model work — but they also have a problem with Netflix which has become a studio. So they´re competitors now, but Netflix has a 100M subscriber advantage. Will they all break out and create each their streaming site for their content only? That would be terrible for fans,” he notes.

That would indeed be a huge problem and it’s an issue we’ve raised here on TF on several occasions. However, if White Rabbit is to succeed, it needs to overcome significant hurdles. We raised just a handful of these with its CEO. First up, Partner Streaming Sites (PSS).

PSS sites appear to be pirate sites that will partner with White Rabbit, so the latter can tap into the formers’ userbases. When White Rabbit users stream ‘pirate’ content from a PSS, that content will be monetized, with the creator getting paid quickly and transparently. At that point, it seems, the content will become non-infringing.

But while that sounds intriguing in theory, plenty of questions remain. White Rabbit says it will share “up to $1M” from its token sale “with the most innovative, brand conscious, film and series loving streaming sites either already out there, planned or about to launch.”

The start-up says the best projects could get $100,000 each but, since its goal is to convert pirates, that necessarily means doing business with pirate sites.

So we asked; how will it be possible to do business with people that are regularly described as criminals? How will it then become possible to secure deals with filmmakers that will undoubtedly come under huge pressure from industry players not to participate in the White Rabbit scheme?

“What we are trying to do is to change digital distribution to everyone´s benefit. We have no interest in financing illegal content, we are interested in spurring innovation in streaming, access for fans and due payment for the rights holders,” Milligan explains.

“That´s what PSS can help us achieve using the WRT (White Rabbit Token) — that helps us find out who wants to be part of this model. No revenue exchanges hands until rights holders accept the token. What is important for rights holders is that we generate more revenue for them than current business models, and we haven´t even included the Rabbit Hole revenue yet.”

So what happens if a White Rabbit user tries to stream something that isn’t part of the program? According to Milligan, PSS sites must remove the content and let White Rabbit users know they must get the content legally elsewhere.

Clearly, the vast majority of pirate site users aren’t White Rabbit users now, nor will they be so in the future, so the removal of content is massively counter-productive for pirate sites. Indeed, it’s this reluctance to take down infringing content that causes them most of their problems.

So, hypothetically, what happens when the operators of streaming site X (that previously partnered with White Rabbit) get arrested and their site shut down for distributing Hollywood content that isn’t part of the program?

“PSS´s would never distribute illegal content, we are offering an opportunity to monetize. We are allowing a platform to those that see monetized P2P as beneficial to their income stream,” Milligan says.

“Hollywood is tricky though, I admit. The proof is in the pudding, so if we have to prove the value through indie and arthouse films first that´s OK. That is still 30% of the multi-billion dollar film market, so we are OK to start with that.”

The final issue is the price and where revenue goes. White Rabbit envisions a user paying $2 for film and $1 for a TV show, although producers are free to set their own price. That means 11 TV shows or five movies per month, given the Netflix model/budget of roughly $11.00 for the same period.

Revenue generated would then be split, with 75% going to the rightsholders, 15% to White Rabbit, and 10% to PSS sites. There’s also a provision for non-PSS sites to be a part of the program, but they would only get 5%, with the remaining 5% going to White Rabbit.

With an incredibly ambitious project like this, it’s easy to find reasons why it might not succeed or even fail to get off the ground. But the team behind the operation have lots of experience in relevant fields and from what we’ve seen are putting considerable effort into getting things moving, as their white paper (pdf) explains.

Currently, White Rabbit is seeking conversation with prospective Partner Streaming Sites, who will provide the content on which White Rabbit will survive. It will certainly be interesting to see which sites put themselves forward for consideration.

This is one of those projects that raises a dizzying volume of questions, with each living up to their billing as part of the Rabbit Hole. The big question is whether the Rabbit Hole will eventually lead to Wonderland or will render everyone who ventures inside feeling surreal and disorientated.

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

IPTV Provider Stops Selling New Subscriptions Under Pressure From “UK Authorities”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-provider-stops-selling-new-subscriptions-under-pressure-from-uk-authorities-171224/

Over the past couple of decades, piracy of live TV has broadly taken two forms. That which relies on breaking broadcaster encryption (such as card sharing and hacked set-top boxes), and the more recent developments of P2P and IPTV-style transmission.

With the former under pressure and P2P systems such as Sopcast and AceTorrent moving along in the background, streaming from servers is now the next big thing, whether that’s for free via third-party Kodi plugins or for a small fee from premium IPTV providers.

Of course, copyright holders don’t like any of this usage but with their for-profit strategy, commercial IPTV providers have a big target on their backs. More evidence of this was revealed recently when UK-based IPTV service ACE TV announced they were taking action to avoid problems in the country.

In a message to prospective and existing customers, ACE TV said that potential legal issues were behind its decision to accept no new customers while locking down its service.

“It saddens me to announce this, but due to pressure from the authorities in the UK, we are no longer selling new subscriptions. This obviously includes trials,” the announcement reads.

Noting that it would take new order for just 24 hours more, ACE TV insisted that it wasn’t shutting down but would lock down the service while closing Facebook.

TF sources and unconfirmed rumors online suggest that the Federation Against Copyright Theft and partners the Premier League are involved. However, ACE TV didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment so we’re unable to confirm or deny the allegations.

That being said, even if the threats came directly from the police, it’s likely that the approach would’ve been initially prompted by companies connected to FACT, since the anti-piracy outfit often puts forward names of services for investigation on behalf of its partners.

Perhaps surprisingly, ACE TV is legally incorporated in the UK as Ace Hosting Limited, a fact it makes clear on its website. While easy to find, the company’s registered address is shared by dozens of other companies, indicating a mail forwarding operation rather than a place servers or staff can be found.

This proxy location may well be the reason the company feels emboldened to carry on some level of service rather than shutting down completely, but its legal basis for doing so is interesting at best, precarious at worst.

“This website, any content contained herein and any contract brought into being as a result of usage of this website are governed by and construed in accordance with English Law,” ACE TV’s website reads.

“The parties to any such contract agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. All contracts are concluded in English.”

It seems likely that ACE TV has been threatened under UK law, since that’s where it’s incorporated. That would seem to explain why its concerned about UK authorities and their potential effect on the business. On the other hand, however, the service claims to operate entirely legally, but under the laws of the United States. It even has a repeat infringer policy.

“Ace Hosting operates as an intermediary to cache and deliver content hosted by others at the instruction of our subscribers. We cannot remove content hosted by others,” the company says.

“As an intermediary, we are entitled to rely upon (among other things) the DMCA safe harbor available to system caching service providers and we maintain policies and procedures to terminate subscribers that would be considered repeat infringers under the DMCA.”

Whether the notices on the site have been advised by a legal professional or are there to present an air of authenticity is unclear but it’s precarious for a service of this nature to rely solely on conduit status in order to avoid liability.

Marketing, prior conduct, and overall intent play a major role in such cases and when all of that is aired in the cold light of day, the situation can look very different to a judge, particularly in the UK, where no similar cases have been successfully defended to date.

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

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

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

NSA Spied on Early File-Sharing Networks, Including BitTorrent

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/nsa-spied-on-early-file-sharing-networks-including-bittorrent-170914/

In the early 2000s, when peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing was in its infancy, the majority of users had no idea that their activities could be monitored by outsiders. The reality was very different, however.

As few as they were, all of the major networks were completely open, with most operating a ‘shared folder’ type system that allowed any network participant to see exactly what another user was sharing. Nevertheless, with little to no oversight, file-sharing at least felt like a somewhat private affair.

As user volumes began to swell, software such as KaZaA (which utilized the FastTrack network) and eDonkey2000 (eD2k network) attracted attention from record labels, who were desperate to stop the unlicensed sharing of copyrighted content. The same held true for the BitTorrent networks that arrived on the scene a couple of years later.

Through the rise of lawsuits against consumers, the general public began to learn that their activities on P2P networks were not secret and they were being watched for some, if not all, of the time by copyright holders. Little did they know, however, that a much bigger player was also keeping a watchful eye.

According to a fascinating document just released by The Intercept as part of the Edward Snowden leaks, the National Security Agency (NSA) showed a keen interest in trying to penetrate early P2P networks.

Initially published by internal NSA news site SIDToday in June 2005, the document lays out the aims of a program called FAVA – File-Sharing Analysis and Vulnerability Assessment.

“One question that naturally arises after identifying file-sharing traffic is whether or not there is anything of intelligence value in this traffic,” the NSA document begins.

“By searching our collection databases, it is clear that many targets are using popular file sharing applications; but if they are merely sharing the latest release of their favorite pop star, this traffic is of dubious value (no offense to Britney Spears intended).”

Indeed, the vast majority of users of these early networks were only been interested in sharing relatively small music files, which were somewhat easy to manage given the bandwidth limitations of the day. However, the NSA still wanted to know what was happening on a broader scale, so that meant decoding their somewhat limited encryption.

“As many of the applications, such as KaZaA for example, encrypt their traffic, we first had to decrypt the traffic before we could begin to parse the messages. We have developed the capability to decrypt and decode both KaZaA and eDonkey traffic to determine which files are being shared, and what queries are being performed,” the NSA document reveals.

Most progress appears to have been made against KaZaA, with the NSA revealing the use of tools to parse out registry entries on users’ hard drives. This information gave up users’ email addresses, country codes, user names, the location of their stored files, plus a list of recent searches.

This gave the NSA the ability to look deeper into user behavior, which revealed some P2P users going beyond searches for basic run-of-the-mill multimedia content.

“[We] have discovered that our targets are using P2P systems to search for and share files which are at the very least somewhat surprising — not simply harmless music and movie files. With more widespread adoption, these tools will allow us to regularly assimilate data which previously had been passed over; giving us a more complete picture of our targets and their activities,” the document adds.

Today, more than 12 years later, with KaZaA long dead and eDonkey barely alive, scanning early pirate activities might seem a distant act. However, there’s little doubt that similar programs remain active today. Even in 2005, the FAVA program had lofty ambitions, targeting other networks and protocols including DirectConnect, Freenet, Gnutella, Gnutella2, JoltID, MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger and……BitTorrent.

“If you have a target using any of these applications or using some other application which might fall into the P2P category, please contact us,” the NSA document urges staff. “We would be more than happy to help.”

Confirming the continued interest in BitTorrent, The Intercept has published a couple of further documents which deal with the protocol directly.

The first details an NSA program called GRIMPLATE, which aimed to study how Department of Defense employees were using BitTorrent and whether that constituted a risk.

The second relates to P2P research carried out by Britain’s GCHQ spy agency. It details DIRTY RAT, a web application which gave the government to “the capability to identify users sharing/downloading files of interest on the eMule (Kademlia) and BitTorrent networks.”

The SIDToday document detailing the FAVA program can be viewed here

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

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

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

Controlling Millions of Potential Internet Pirates Won’t Be Easy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/controlling-millions-of-potential-internet-pirates-wont-be-easy-170813/

For several decades the basic shape of the piracy market hasn’t changed much. At the top of the chain there has always been a relatively small number of suppliers. At the bottom, the sprawling masses keen to consume whatever content these suppliers make available, while sharing it with everyone else.

This model held in the days of tapes and CDs and transferred nicely to the P2P file-sharing era. For nearly two decades people have been waiting for those with the latest content to dump it onto file-sharing networks. After grabbing it for themselves, people share that content with others.

For many years, the majority of the latest music, movies, and TV shows appeared online having been obtained by, and then leaked from, ‘The Scene’. However, with the rise of BitTorrent and an increase in computer skills demonstrated by the public, so-called ‘P2P release groups’ began flexing their muscles, in some cases slicing the top of the piracy pyramid.

With lower barriers to entry, P2P releasers can be almost anyone who happens to stumble across some new content. That being said, people still need the skill to package up that content and make it visible online, on torrent sites for example, without getting caught.

For most people that’s prohibitively complex, so it’s no surprise that Average Joe, perhaps comforted by the air of legitimacy, has taken to uploading music and movies to sites like YouTube instead. These days that’s nothing out of the ordinary and perhaps a little boring by piracy standards, but people still have the capacity to surprise.

This week a man from the United States, without a care in the world, obtained a login for a STARZ press portal, accessed the final three episodes of ‘Power’, and then streamed them on Facebook using nothing but a phone and an Internet connection.

From the beginning, the whole thing was ridiculous, comical even. The man in question, whose name and personal details TF obtained in a matter of minutes, revealed how he got the logins and even recorded his own face during one of the uploaded videos.

He really, really couldn’t have cared any less but he definitely should have. After news broke of the leaks, STARZ went public confirming the breach and promising to do something about it.

“The final three episodes of Power’s fourth season were leaked online due to a breach of the press screening room,” Starz said in a statement. “Starz has begun forensic investigations and will take legal action against the responsible parties.”

At this point, we should consider the magnitude of what this guy did. While we all laugh at his useless camera skills, the fact remains that he unlawfully distributed copyright works online, in advance of their commercial release. In the United States, that is a criminal offense, one that can result in a prison sentence of several years.

It would be really sad if the guy in question was made an example of since his videos suggest he hadn’t considered the consequences. After all, this wasn’t some hi-tech piracy group, just a regular guy with a login and a phone, and intent always counts for something. Nevertheless, the situation this week nicely highlights how new technology affects piracy.

In the past, the process of putting an unreleased movie or TV show online could only be tackled by people with expertise in several areas. These days a similar effect is possible with almost no skill and no effort. Joe Public, pre-release TV/movie/sports pirate, using nothing but a phone, a Facebook account, and an urge?

That’s the reality today and we won’t have to wait too long for a large scale demonstration of what can happen when millions of people with access to these ubiquitous tools have an urge to share.

In a little over two weeks’ time, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr fights UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor. It’s set to be the richest combat sports event in history, not to mention one of the most expensive for PPV buyers. That means it’s going to be pirated to hell and back, in every way possible. It’s going to be massive.

Of course, there will be high-quality paid IPTV productions available, more grainy ‘Kodi’ streams, hundreds of web portals, and even some streaming torrents, for those that way inclined. But there will also be Average Joes in their hundreds, who will point their phones at Showtime’s PPV with the intent of live streaming the biggest show on earth to their friends, family, and the Internet. For free.

Quite how this will be combatted remains to be seen but it’s fair to say that this is a problem that’s only going to get bigger. In ten years time – in five years time – many millions of people will have the ability to become pirate releasers on a whim, despite knowing nothing about the occupation.

Like ‘Power’ guy, the majority won’t be very good at it. Equally, some will turn it into an art form. But whatever happens, tackling millions of potential pirates definitely won’t be easy for copyright holders. Twenty years in, it seems the battle for control has only just begun.

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

ESET Tries to Scare People Away From Using Torrents

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eset-tries-to-scare-people-away-from-using-torrents-170805/

Any company in the security game can be expected to play up threats among its customer base in order to get sales.

Sellers of CCTV equipment, for example, would have us believe that criminals don’t want to be photographed and will often go elsewhere in the face of that. Car alarm companies warn us that since X thousand cars are stolen every minute, an expensive Immobilizer is an anti-theft must.

Of course, they’re absolutely right to point these things out. People want to know about these offline risks since they affect our quality of life. The same can be said of those that occur in the online world too.

We ARE all at risk of horrible malware that will trash our computers and steal our banking information so we should all be running adequate protection. That being said, how many times do our anti-virus programs actually trap a piece of nasty-ware in a year? Once? Twice? Ten times? Almost never?

The truth is we all need to be informed but it should be done in a measured way. That’s why an article just published by security firm ESET on the subject of torrents strikes a couple of bad chords, particularly with people who like torrents. It’s titled “Why you should view torrents as a threat” and predictably proceeds to outline why.

“Despite their popularity among users, torrents are very risky ‘business’,” it begins.

“Apart from the obvious legal trouble you could face for violating the copyright of musicians, filmmakers or software developers, there are security issues linked to downloading them that could put you or your computer in the crosshairs of the black hats.”

Aside from the use of the phrase “very risky” (‘some risk’ is a better description), there’s probably very little to complain about in this opening shot. However, things soon go downhill.

“Merely downloading the newest version of BitTorrent clients – software necessary for any user who wants to download or seed files from this ‘ecosystem’ – could infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files,” ESET writes.

Following that scary statement, some readers will have already vowed never to use a torrent again and moved on without reading any more, but the details are really important.

To support its claim, ESET points to two incidents in 2016 (which to its great credit the company actually discovered) which involved the Transmission torrent client. Both involved deliberate third-party infection and in the latter hackers attacked Transmission’s servers and embedded malware in its OSX client before distribution to the public.

No doubt these were both miserable incidents (to which the Transmission team quickly responded) but to characterize this as a torrent client problem seems somewhat unfair.

People intent on spreading viruses and malware do not discriminate and will happily infect ANY piece of computer software they can. Sadly, many non-technical people reading the ESET post won’t read beyond the claim that installing torrent clients can “infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files.”

That’s a huge disservice to the hundreds of millions of torrent client installations that have taken place over a decade and a half and were absolutely trouble free. On a similar basis, we could argue that installing Windows is the main initial problem for people getting viruses from the Internet. It’s true but it’s also not the full picture.

Finally, the piece goes on to detail other incidents over the years where torrents have been found to contain malware. The several cases highlighted by ESET are both real and pretty unpleasant for victims but the important thing to note here is torrent users are no different to any other online user, no matter how they use the Internet.

People who download files from the Internet, from ALL untrusted sources, are putting themselves at risk of getting a virus or other malware. Whether that content is obtained from a website or a P2P network, the risks are ever-present and only a foolish person would do so without decent security software (such as ESET’s) protecting them.

The take home point here is to be aware of security risks and put them into perspective. It’s hard to put a percentage on these things but of the hundreds of millions of torrent and torrent client downloads that have taken place since their inception 15 years ago, the overwhelming majority have been absolutely fine.

Security situations do arise and we need to be aware of them, but presenting things in a way that spreads unnecessary concern in a particular sector isn’t necessary to sell products.

The AV-TEST Institute registers around 390,000 new malicious programs every day that don’t involve torrents, plenty for any anti-virus firm to deal with.

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

WannaCry Ransomware Foiled By Domain Killswitch

Post Syndicated from Darknet original http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/darknethackers/~3/ASy1wNCVg7I/

Whilst I was away on a tropical island enjoying myself the Infosec Internet was on fire with news of the global WannaCry ransomware threat which showed up in the UK NHS and was spreading across 74 different countries. The Ransomware seems to be the first that is P2P using an SMB exploit from the NSA […]

The post WannaCry Ransomware Foiled…

Read the full post at darknet.org.uk

Yes, we can validate the Wikileaks emails

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/10/yes-we-can-validate-wikileaks-emails.html

Recently, WikiLeaks has released emails from Democrats. Many have repeatedly claimed that some of these emails are fake or have been modified, that there’s no way to validate each and every one of them as being true. Actually, there is, using a mechanism called DKIM.

DKIM is a system designed to stop spam. It works by verifying the sender of the email. Moreover, as a side effect, it verifies that the email has not been altered.
Hillary’s team uses “hillaryclinton.com”, which as DKIM enabled. Thus, we can verify whether some of these emails are true.

Recently, in response to a leaked email suggesting Donna Brazile gave Hillary’s team early access to debate questions, she defended herself by suggesting the email had been “doctored” or “falsified”. That’s not true. We can use DKIM to verify it.
You can see the email in question at the WikiLeaks site: https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/5205. The title suggests they have early access to debate questions, and includes one specifically on the death penalty, with the text:

since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S

Indeed, during the debate the next day, they asked the question:

Secretary Clinton, since 1976, we have executed 1,414 people in this country.  Since 1973, 156 who were convicted have been exonerated from the death row.

It’s not a smoking gun, but at the same time, it both claims they got questions in advance while having a question in advance. Trump gets hung on similar chains of evidence, so it’s not something we can easily ignore.
Anyway, this post isn’t about the controversy, but the fact that we can validate the email. When an email server sends a message, it’ll include an invisible “header”. They aren’t especially hidden, most email programs allow you to view them, it’s just that they are boring, so hidden by default. The DKIM header in this email looks like:
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed;
        d=hillaryclinton.com; s=google;
        h=from:mime-version:references:in-reply-to:date:message-id:subject:to
         :cc;
        bh=EHIyNFKU1g6KhzxpAJQtxaW82g5+cTT3qlzIbUpGoRY=;
        b=JgW85tkuhlDcythkyCrUMjPIAjHbUVPtgyqu+KpUR/kqQjE8+W23zacIh0DtVTqUGD
         mzaviTrNmI8Ds2aUlzEFjxhJHtgKT4zbRiqDZS7fgba8ifMKCyDgApGNfenmQz+81+hN
         2OHb/pLmmop+lIeM8ELXHhhr0m/Sd4c/3BOy8=
How do you verify this is true. There are a zillion ways with various “DKIM verifiers”. I use the popular Thunderbird email reader (from the Mozilla Firefox team). They have an addon designed specifically to verify DKIM. Normally, email readers don’t care, because it’s the email server‘s job to verify DKIM, not the client. So we need a client addon to enable verification.
Downloading the raw email from WikiLeaks and opening in Thunderbird, with the addon, I get the following verification that the email is valid. Specifically, it validates that the HillaryClinton.com sent precisely this content, with this subject, on that date.
Let’s see what happens when somebody tries to doctor the email. In the following, I added “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” to the top of the email.
As you can see, we’ve proven that DKIM will indeed detect if anybody has “doctored” or “falsified” this email.
I was just listening to ABC News about this story. It repeated Democrat talking points that the WikiLeaks emails weren’t validated. That’s a lie. This email in particular has been validated. I just did it, and shown you how you can validate it, too.

Btw, if you can forge an email that validates correctly as I’ve shown, I’ll give you 1-bitcoin. It’s the easiest way of solving arguments whether this really validates the email — if somebody tells you this blogpost is invalid, then tell them they can earn about $600 (current value of BTC) proving it. Otherwise, no.


Update: I’m a bit late writing this blog post. Apparently, others have validated these, too.


Update: In the future, when HilaryClinton.com changes their DKIM key, it will no longer be able to verify. Thus, I’m recording the domain key here:

google._domainkey.hillaryclinton.com: type TXT, class IN
v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQCJdAYdE2z61YpUMFqFTFJqlFomm7C4Kk97nzJmR4YZuJ8SUy9CF35UVPQzh3EMLhP+yOqEl29Ax2hA/h7vayr/f/a19x2jrFCwxVry+nACH1FVmIwV3b5FCNEkNeAIqjbY8K9PeTmpqNhWDbvXeKgFbIDwhWq0HP2PbySkOe4tTQIDAQAB

Поредните вируси

Post Syndicated from Григор original http://www.gatchev.info/blog/?p=1940

Напоследък буквално не съм видял е-майл, който да не прелива от вируси. И преди е имало кампании, но тази направо смайва с мащабите си.

Почти месец вече нямам време да се огледам и всеки ден отлагам писането за тази опасност, с надеждата пороят да секне и да ми спести усилието. Той обаче продължава. Слава Богу, нощта срещу Великден е, така че мога да заделя половин час. :-) Който е шаран в тези неща сигурно се е хванал вече, но все пак по-добре късно, отколкото никога.

Е-майлите се изпращат от масивен ботнет – мисля, че е поне 200 000 компютъра. Разпространението му е по целия свят – засякъл съм машини в Северна и Южна Америка, Европа, Русия, Индия, Китай… Изглежда като да е под контрола на руска кибербанда. Не съм успял да пипна лично заразена машина, нито съм имал времето да заразя и тествам някоя, но май системата му е модулна P2P. Линуксите май не са в опасност, за Маковете не съм имал възможност да проверя.

Получените е-майли са адресирани както до реални акаунти по списък, така и до предполагаеми често срещани акаунти в домейни – [email protected] и прочее. Всички съдържат прикрепен ZIP файл и текст, който да подлъже получателя да отвори файла. Разнообразието на текстовете е огромно – „неплатени фактури“, „снимки“, „сканирани изображения“, „съобщения от шефа“, „застрахователни полици“, „сметки за плащане“, дори немалко „прикрепен файл“, „прикрепена картинка“ и прочее. „Изпращачът“ също е най-различен – някакво име, или е-майл адрес в същия или друг домейн, или дори адресът на получателя…

Съдържанието на ZIP-а e .js файл. Най-често името му е от десетина цифри, долно тире и още десетина цифри. Размерът варира, обикновено около 10-20 КБ некомпресиран. Голямата част от съдържанието му е някакъв текст, сложен да заблуди скенерите на антивирусите. Пак със същата цел променливите в малкото (около 1 К) реален код са с дълги (често над 50 знака), генерирани на случаен принцип имена, а присвояваните на тях стойности са обфускирани по наглед некадърно прост, но често успяващ да заблуди антивируса начин. Написан е от руски киберкримки.

Единствената задача на JavaScript кода е свалянето (от предварително пробит легален сървър) и изпълнението на определен файл. (Тъй като JS файлът се изпълнява през браузер, сваленият файл се изпълнява с правата на браузера, обикновено това ще рече с тези на текущия юзер.) Нямах време да го чопля подробно – видимото на пръв поглед е, че пробва срещу Windows набор експлойти, повечето от тях май вече запушени от ъпдейтове. Логично е да се очаква, че успешно заразените машини стават част от ботнета.

Какво може да се очаква от вируса? За каквото бъде изкомандван да си свали и стартира модул. Очевадното до момента е, че компютърът ще започне да сее спам от описания по-горе. Възможно е и всичко друго, от шифроване на информацията ви и искане на откуп, през използване на компютъра ви за DDOS атаки, та до събиране на уличаваща ви в каквото и да е информация и изпращането ѝ на някой, който ще може да ви изнудва с нея после. (Нямате такава? А оня филм, дето го изпиратствахте? Знаете ли какви наказания предвижда законът за пиратство?…)

Накратко:

– ако получите е-майл с прикрепено нещо, го стартирайте само ако познавате изпращача и той ви се е обадил да ви предупреди, че ви изпраща нещото. Ако то изглежда дори най-малко подозрително, му звъннете да попитате пращал ли го е.

– настройте си Windows и разархивиращите програми да ви показват разширенията на файловете. (И „благодарете“ на Майкрософт, че в последните версии на Windows те по подразбиране са скрити.) Ако нещото съдържа какъвто и да е изпълним код (например е документ на Microsoft Office), то е вирус до лично гласово или визуално потвърждение от познат ви изпращач за противното.

– ако нещото пристига от непознат и се опитва да ви убеждава в нещо или да ви кара да „отворите“ нещо, то е вирус, без право на обжалване. (Ако наистина е писмо от български данъчни, че им дължите пари, според мен е особено опасен вирус. Имам опит с такъв – ако мислите, че има на кого да обясниш къде точно са сбъркали, не живеете на този свят.)

– ако нещото се опитва да ви бие по емоциите (и особено по страха или желанието за секс), то е вирус, независимо как изглежда. (Или наистина писмо от шефа или любовницата, но тогава ще научите за него и по гласов и т.н. път. Въпросът дали тези пратки не са сред най-опасните вируси също го оставяме настрана.)

Успех и най-вече бистра глава! Данните ви не са Христос – умрат ли, няма да възкръснат дори на Великден.

“Turing Test” for OTT Video Streaming: Can a viewer distinguish between Streaming and Broadcast Video in 2016?

Post Syndicated from yahoo original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/140395457866

P.P.S. Narayan, VP of EngineeringIntroductionAbout sixty-five years ago, Alan Turing, considered to be the father of Computer Science and modern computing machines, put forth a deep and philosophical question: can machines think? Asked differently, “Can a machine exhibit (intelligent) behavior indistinguishable from a human [1]?” In order to confirm the conclusion, he devised a test, coined the imitation game.  While there have been various interpretations (and extensive debate) of the test, our objective is to look at its application to video streaming by understanding the premise and appreciating the concept.imageFigure 1: Imitation GameIn my interpretation, Alan Turing proposed that there were 3 participants: A, B and C. The role of participant C is that of the interrogator, and C communicates with A and B only via written text. C cannot see or talk to the other participants and only knows them as labels [2]. By asking questions to A and B, C tries to determine which of A and B, is human and the other is machine.Turing says:I believe that in about fifty years’ time it will be possible to program computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning. … I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.Over the years, the Turing test has become an important concept in artificial intelligence and the evolution of computing in modern times. In fact, some modifications to the Turing test have been proposed and have been adopted widely. CAPTCHA is a form of reverse Turing test, where we have participant C replaced by a machine, and the task of C, as a gatekeeper, is to distinguish the humans (in A or B or …) from machines [1].TV on the internetTelevision and video broadcasting has been around for decades. Starting with the first television broadcasts in the 1930s to modern broadcasts in 3D and 4K UHD, the evolution has been phenomenal and eye-popping. Over the years, TV broadcast has moved from terrestrial over-the-air radio waves to satellite or fiber delivery to the home. Analog signals have modernized to digital; black-and-white to color. Televisions have evolved from mechanical to electronic to digital, and traditional CRT displays have changed to ultra thin LED displays.In the mid-1990s, with the explosion of the consumer Internet, a new wave of video consumption started on devices other than the traditional television sets. Video streaming was soon available on desktops and then laptops, and with the WiFi and mobile revolution, we began streaming video on our phones and tablets.Nearly a century of evolution of standards, technology, infrastructure, and innovation helped the US TV industry grow to more than a $100B [6]. We are in a new generation where internet streaming is a revolution and growing rapidly. “Over-the-Top” video streaming, or OTT as it is commonly referred to, is delivered through the open unmanaged internet, with the “last-mile” companies (e.g., Comcast) acting only as the internet service provider [3]. Netflix, an OTT video streaming service, already accounts for more than 35% of peak US internet traffic. In fact, all of OTT video streaming accounts for more than 50% of both internet and mobile traffic in the US [4].This new form of video consumption is pushing the infrastructure and technology built for the Internet beyond its original design parameters and capabilities. While content and user interfaces have advanced quite drastically with OTT, the overall quality of experience is still years behind.The “OTT Turing Test”Several months ago, I attended the Streaming Media West conference. And, during one of the panels, the question was asked about the “success metrics” for OTT streaming. Rather than invent what we will call as “success”, I believe we need to use existing TV quality as a baseline benchmark.Say, we modify the original Turing test, to replace A and B with simple LED TV-like monitors. The video inputs for A and B will have the similar videos (e.g. say any NFL game) from either over-the-air HD signals or from an OTT stream. The participant C, or the interrogator, has to interact with the two monitors to determine which of A or B is displaying video that is OTT streamed. We coin this as the “OTT Turing test”.imageFigure 2: OTT Turing TestWhat is the holy grail? Quoting Turing again, an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of viewing.Note that we modified the original Turing test in just a couple of ways. For one, C can only determine the outcome based on the visual perceptions of the video being played on the two monitors. And second,  we have restricted the interaction of the interrogator, with the monitors, to be very limited. The only instruction that C can deliver is to start or stop the video via a “remote” controller. While C can consume the video experience on the TV, they cannot use it like a DVR/VCR or a cable box. A few things that the interrogator cannot do, are “pause” and “play”. C cannot “change channels”. C cannot choose from a “channel guide”. And so on.And, to make it even more challenging, C could be either a human or a machine. Therefore, any variance in human perception will be eliminated via more systematic and objective evaluation of the inputs.  If we did this test today, would OTT pass the Turing test? My answer is no. The reason is because there are a number of challenges that have yet to be completely solved. Let’s examine some of these challenges, why they exist, and how far away the technology is for us to achieve this goal.Startup TimeWhen we want to start watching television today, we switch “on” the TV set and/or our connected device (e.g. cable box). Typically, these startup in at most 2-3 seconds, and you can see the video on your screen in that time. At times, the audio even starts up sooner. In traditional television, the latency for startup can be broken down into two parts: the time taken for the first few frames of the video to reach the device which is determined by the speed of light, and then to the additional time taken for decoding the signal and constructing the frames to be rendered on the display. This holds true for the over-the-air broadcasts as well as for cable or satellite transmissions.imageFigure 3: Propagation Delay in televisionFor internet OTT streaming to be indistinguishable, we need to have startup times as seen on traditional television today. Current streaming protocols have been designed and evolved to take into account the “best-effort” nature of the internet. The packetization of video in protocols like HLS and DASH enable the playback to start faster with the ability to deliver key frames in a few packets. Also modern protocols like P2P and UDP based network coding help in increasing the reliability of packet delivery on a best-effort network. In addition to the delivery of the video packets, other overheads like player (e.g., flash and javascript) downloads impact the speed of video startup.Video QualityThese days, most displays support HD and resolution of 720p or 1080i/p – table stakes in video broadcasting. In fact, most television HDTV broadcasts are shot at 1080i/60 fields-per-sec. Modern television sets have inbuilt sophisticated upscaling algorithms and technologies that can take lower resolution incoming signals and upscale them to 1080p or even 4K. However, these algorithms vary from device to device, manufacturer to manufacturer, and upscaling can have artifacts introduced which can appear on certain types of content (e.g., high motion sports like NFL or video games).imageFigure 4: Common Display resolutions [5]So having OTT streaming start at lower resolutions and lower frame-rates will not produce an indistinguishable viewing experience as compared to traditional television broadcasts. It is imperative that OTT streaming has the whole video pipeline producing content at high enough resolutions with purity in signal. Starting with cameras, the whole video pipeline including, video signal acquisition, video mixing, encoding, transcoding and all the packetization must do 1080p or higher resolutions natively.The SpinnerAnyone who has watched video on the internet knows (or should know) what the “Spinner” is. It is the non-technical term given to the manifestation of not being able to deliver content reliably, over a network which is not dedicated.imageFigure 5: Typical “Spinner” during Internet Streaming (Image Courtesy [8])Buffering was a concept introduced in internet streaming that allowed the video player to collect enough video frames (and keep collecting additional frames regularly) so as to maintain a smooth playback on a non-reliable best-effort Internet. On traditional television broadcasts, there is no concept of buffering (unless watching some video-on-demand content from your cable provider) with no visual manifestations (e.g., spinner) shown to the viewers.Buffering and re-buffering (after the video has started) have become a pervasive pain point for viewers of OTT streaming. And there are many different causes of rebuffering. The reasons vary from end viewer device capabilities (and software), to network congestion inside the viewer’s home/premise, to ISP or local area bandwidth issues, to the core getting clogged and so on.  Rebuffering ratio is a typical industry measure to determine the perceived user quality. It is a ratio, measured for a time window, as the total time spent rebuffering across all users to the total time spent viewing the stream. Rebuffering ratios of 2-4% are considered acceptable across the industry today. For example, if you are watching a video online for 2 minutes, it is normal for you (and all users) to see the spinner for 2-3 seconds. This typically gets worse during live streams, so if you watch an NFL game for more than 2 hours, you are more than likely to experience many interruptions in your viewing totaling up to 2-3 minutes!! Imagine that experience as compared to what you get on TV or cable today.At Yahoo, our goal for re-buffering is ZERO. Plus, we’ve focused on some new metrics. For example, the percentage of rebuffering impacted views is more important and relevant. Having 100% of your viewers impacted for 1 minute is far worse than 1% of your viewers impacted for 100 minutes. Basically, this would mean that 99% of your viewers had a FLAWLESS experience. That number needs to grow to five 9s like traditional television.Visual ArtifactsVideo encoding is a complex process from signal acquisition to mixing to adding audio tracks and then shipping the packets to the device. The receiving device capabilities can vary quite drastically. And, this is handled when encoding video digitally for transmission, by picking a few different resolutions. This allows for rendering the video well on various form factors (e.g., a 4K display vs a VGA device), and also allows for optimizing the number of bits transmitted depending on the viewing device. The optimization comes from the fact that lower resolutions would require lower number of bits to encode.Usual OTT streams are encoded in a few different resolutions or “bitrates”. The availability of various bitrates has become a mechanism for handling poor network conditions. Video players on devices “adapt” and deliver a continuous experience (i.e. avoid rebuffering). The tradeoff has become straightforward – reduce resolution rather than stop the video.imageFigure 6: Blockiness of Video (Image courtesy [7])What does it result in? OTT streaming regularly causes video to be “blocky” where the rendering of lower bitrates at lower resolutions. While the artifacts are clearly perceptible for viewers of OTT, it is also easy for a machine to find the introduction of noise into the original video signal as a result of the encoding bitrates. Traditional television transmissions rarely, if ever, have any blockiness or pixelations for viewers. This effect is so prolific in OTT stream for optimized content, that an interrogator may use this knowledge to deliberately look for blockiness in scenes that are visually complex or contain fast motion, as a way of identifying which display is OTT.Ad TransitionAdvertising on television is native and seamless. What do I mean by native? A viewer sees very little or no difference between content and advertising. In other words, when there is an imperceptible break of under 500ms between the content and ads and from the viewer perspective, it is considered “seamless”.  Over time, the television ad ecosystem has evolved and local stations have the ability to insert local video ads into global or national content.imageFigure 7: Ad insertion technologyIn OTT streaming, we need to move closer to TV-like experience for ads. Today OTT video ad insertion for mid-roll (during a content or broadcast) is typically done from the viewing device. Advertisers are excited by the many advantages of this technology. It allows the ads to be more personalized and targeted than local ads. Plus, the medium also allows advertisers get more detailed engagement metrics as compared to traditional television. However, this challenges the seamless experience and typically viewers see “spinners” and blank screens during ad insertion.  SynchronizationConsider watching a live (American) football, cricket or soccer game on television. Maybe with a bunch of friends or strangers in a bar, with multiple big screen televisions. We quite frequently do this, to enjoy a social viewing experience. With the current television technology, typically all the television sets in the bar are within a few milliseconds of each other – not much lag or lack of synchronization.However, with OTT, multiple viewers of the same “live” event cannot be guaranteed a synchronized viewing experience. Even if they all started streaming at the same exact moment! This common problem is due to the inherent nature of various streaming protocols and buffer management. In OTT streaming, especially for live events, it is likely that a viewer may watch or experience a goal at a significantly different moment in time as compared to his neighbors in the same apartment complex, which creates a bad user experience.SummaryIn summary, as an industry, we have a lot of challenges to deliver a TV-like experience for OTT streaming. Some of them are easy, while the others are quite difficult to overcome.It is likely that very soon, startup time, video quality and ad transitions will improve significantly and be indistinguishable from the current television experience. The tougher technical challenges will be to get to ZERO rebuffering and to enable synchronized watching experience for OTT. These are fundamental challenges in the today’s technology, that will require significant innovation and even some revolutionary new concepts such as P2P or new protocols to up the game for OTT.However, I am very confident that we will overcome these challenges, and win the OTT Turing Test – much before the original Turing Test is solved!!References[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/turing-test/#Tur195ImiGam [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_television [4] http://www.statista.com/chart/1620/top-10-traffic-hogs/ [5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_resolution#/media/File:Vector_Video_Standards8.svg [6] http://www.statista.com/topics/977/television/ [7] http://www.bestshareware.net/howto/img1/how-to-remove-pixellation-from-video-1.jpg [8] http://blogs.tigarus.com/patcoola/wp-content/uploads/sites/patcoola/2014/buffering-2014.png