Tag Archives: spotify

IoT Inspector Tool from Princeton

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/iot_inspector_t.html

Researchers at Princeton University have released IoT Inspector, a tool that analyzes the security and privacy of IoT devices by examining the data they send across the Internet. They’ve already used the tool to study a bunch of different IoT devices. From their blog post:

Finding #3: Many IoT Devices Contact a Large and Diverse Set of Third Parties

In many cases, consumers expect that their devices contact manufacturers’ servers, but communication with other third-party destinations may not be a behavior that consumers expect.

We have found that many IoT devices communicate with third-party services, of which consumers are typically unaware. We have found many instances of third-party communications in our analyses of IoT device network traffic. Some examples include:

  • Samsung Smart TV. During the first minute after power-on, the TV talks to Google Play, Double Click, Netflix, FandangoNOW, Spotify, CBS, MSNBC, NFL, Deezer, and Facebook­even though we did not sign in or create accounts with any of them.
  • Amcrest WiFi Security Camera. The camera actively communicates with cellphonepush.quickddns.com using HTTPS. QuickDDNS is a Dynamic DNS service provider operated by Dahua. Dahua is also a security camera manufacturer, although Amcrest’s website makes no references to Dahua. Amcrest customer service informed us that Dahua was the original equipment manufacturer.

  • Halo Smoke Detector. The smart smoke detector communicates with broker.xively.com. Xively offers an MQTT service, which allows manufacturers to communicate with their devices.

  • Geeni Light Bulb. The Geeni smart bulb communicates with gw.tuyaus.com, which is operated by TuYa, a China-based company that also offers an MQTT service.

We also looked at a number of other devices, such as Samsung Smart Camera and TP-Link Smart Plug, and found communications with third parties ranging from NTP pools (time servers) to video storage services.

Their first two findings are that “Many IoT devices lack basic encryption and authentication” and that “User behavior can be inferred from encrypted IoT device traffic.” No surprises there.

Boingboing post.

Related: IoT Hall of Shame.

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 Falls 6%, in Spain, But It’s Still a Multi-Billion Euro Problem

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-falls-6-in-spain-but-its-still-a-multi-billion-euro-problem-180409/

The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, which represents Spain’s leading entertainment industry companies, is keeping a close eye on the local piracy landscape.

The outfit has just published its latest Piracy Observatory and Digital Content Consumption Habits report, carried out by the independent consultant GFK, and there is good news to report on headline piracy figures.

During 2017, the report estimates that people accessed unlicensed digital content just over four billion times, which equates to almost 21.9 billion euros in lost revenues. While this is a significant number, it’s a decrease of 6% compared to 2016 and an accumulated decrease of 9% compared to 2015, the coalition reports.

Overall, movies are most popular with pirates, with 34% helping themselves to content without paying.

“The volume of films accessed illegally during 2017 was 726 million, with a market value of 5.7 billion euros, compared to 6.9 billion in 2016. 35% of accesses happened while the film was still on screens in cinema theaters, while this percentage was 33% in 2016,” the report notes.

TV shows are in a close second position with 30% of users gobbling up 945 million episodes illegally during 2017. A surprisingly high 24% of users went for eBooks, with music relegated to fourth place with ‘just’ 22%, followed by videogames (11%) and football (10%).

The reasons given by pirates for their habits are both varied and familiar. 51% said that original content is too expensive while 43% said that taking the illegal route “is fast and easy”. Half of the pirates said that simply paying for an internet connection was justification for getting content for free.

A quarter of all pirates believe that they aren’t doing anyone any harm, with the same number saying they get content without paying because there are no consequences for doing so. But it isn’t just pirates themselves in the firing line.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, the report heavily criticizes search engines for facilitating access to infringing content.

“With 75%, search engines are the main method of accessing illegal content and Google is used for nine out of ten accesses to pirate content,” the report reads.

“Regarding social networks, Facebook is the most used method of access (83%), followed by Twitter (42%) and Instagram (34%). Therefore it is most valuable that Facebook has reached agreements with different industries to become a legal source and to regulate access to content.”

Once on pirate sites, some consumers reported difficulties in determining whether they’re legal or not. Around 15% said that they had “big difficulties” telling whether a site is authorized with 44% saying they had problems “sometimes”.

That being said, given the amount of advertising on pirate sites, it’s no surprise that most knew a pirate site when they visited one and, according to the report, advertising placement is only on the up.

Just over a quarter of advertising appearing on pirate sites features well-known brands, although this is a reduction from more than 37% in 2016. This needs to be further improved, the coalition says, via collaboration between all parties involved in the industry.

A curious claim from the report is that 81% of pirate site users said they were required to register in order to use a platform. This resulted in “transferring personal data” to pirate site operators who gather it in databases that are used for profitable “e-marketing campaigns”.

“Pirate sites also get much more valuable data than one could imagine which allow them to get important economic benefits, as for example, Internet surfing habits, other websites visited by consumers, preferences, likes, and purchase habits,” the report states.

So what can be done to reduce consumer reliance on pirate sites? The report finds that consumers are largely in line with how the entertainment industries believe piracy should or could be tackled.

“The most efficient measures against piracy would be, according to the internet users’ own view, blocking access to the website offering content (78%) and penalizing internet providers (73%),” the report reads.

“Following these two, the best measure to reduce infringements would be, according to consumers, to promote social awareness campaigns against piracy (61%). This suggests that increased collaboration between the content sector and the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) could count on consumers’ support and positive assessment.”

Finally, consumers in Spain are familiar with the legal options, should they wish to take that route in future. Netflix awareness in the country is at 91%, Spotify at 81%, with Movistar+ and HBO at 80% and 68% respectively.

“This invalidates the reasons given by pirate users who said they did so because of the lack of an accessible legal offer at affordable prices,” the report adds.

However, those who take the plunge into the legal world don’t always kick the pirate habit, with the paper stating that users of pirates sites tend to carry on pirating, although they do pirate less in some sectors, notably music. The study also departs from findings in other regions that pirates can also be avid consumers of legitimate content.

Several reports, from the UK, Sweden, Australia, and even from Hollywood, have clearly indicated that pirates are the entertainment industries’ best customers.

In Spain, however, the situation appears to be much more pessimistic, with only 8% of people who access illegal digital content paying for legal content too. That seems low given that Netflix alone had more than a million Spanish subscribers at the end of 2017 and six million Spanish households currently subscribe to other pay TV services.

The report is available here (Spanish, pdf)

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

Spotify’s Two Million Unauthorized Users Hammered Google For Alternatives

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotifys-two-million-unauthorized-users-hammered-google-for-alternatives-180326/

It is now common knowledge that Spotify launched its service more than a decade ago with the aim of attracting pirates.

With the disruption of The Pirate Bay ringing in the music industry’s ears, Spotify set out to capture the hearts and minds of music fans, particularly those with an aversion to paying.

Although it is yet to turn a profit, there can be little doubt that Spotify is a rampant success, at least as far as user numbers go. With premium and ad-supported free tiers available, the service is superbly accessible, no matter the depth of one’s pockets.

Naturally, those who pay get a better and smoother service so it’s no surprise that many free tier users aspire to that level of access. But while some pay the extra, others prefer to hack their way to music utopia.

How many people were accessing Spotify’s service using mainly hacked Android APK files has remained a mystery, but late last week, as part of the company’s IPO, Spotify dropped the bombshell.

“On March 21, 2018, we detected instances of approximately two million users as of December 31, 2017, who have been suppressing advertisements without payment,” Spotify wrote.

“We previously included such users in calculations for certain of our key performance indicators, including MAUs [Monthly Active Users], Ad-Supported Users, Content Hours, and Content Hours per MAU.”

Two million users is hardly an insignificant number and it appears Spotify felt the need to disclose them since up to January 1, 2017, the company had been including these users in its accounting. A couple of million users on the free tier is great, but not if they’re riding ad-free and therefore less likely to upgrade to premium, the suggestion goes.

Earlier this month, with its IPO process underway, Spotify clearly had these freeloading users on its mind. As previously reported, the company started to send out emails to people using hacked installation files, largely on Android, putting them on notice that their activities were not going unnoticed.

“We detected abnormal activity on the app you are using so we have disabled it. Don’t worry – your Spotify account is safe,” the email from Spotify said.

“To access your Spotify account, simply uninstall any unauthorized or modified version of Spotify and download and install the Spotify app from the official Google Play Store. If you need more help, please see our support article on Reinstalling Spotify.”

At the time it became apparent that this email had gone out to a large number of people, with significant volumes of users reporting problems with their accounts. It also seemed to target users fairly methodically, in that some countries’ users retained access while others suffered, only to be hit later on as more and more waves were sent out.

As the chart below from Google Trends shows, it appears that Spotify began taking action on March 1, which drove people to start searching for Spotify APK files that were still working.

By March 3, search volumes had doubled on the index and on March 7, Google searches for ‘Spotify APK’ reached a dramatic peak never before witnessed in the history of the search term. That’s quite an achievement given how many people use these pieces of software.

No prizes for guessing when Spotify got tough….

But after a flurry of activity, on March 22 search volumes were back down to March 3 levels, which is quite interesting in itself.

Although various modified APKs are still managing to evade Spotify’s ban, there doesn’t seem to be a dominant modified client proving popular enough to stop hundreds of thousands of people from continuing to search for an APK solution. So, presuming these ‘banned’ people still want the music offered by Spotify, where have they gone?

Aside from those using the APKs that have slipped through the net, reports suggest others have migrated to Deezer downloading solutions, which are also being targeted by Deezer. Others are using tools to convert their Spotify playlists to use with other pirate services or even YouTube.

The big question then is whether hitting the ban button to potentially eject up to two million users has resulted in a net positive for Spotify?

There’s no doubt it lowered the bandwidth bill for the growing company but how many former freeloaders traded the pirate high seas for an ad-supported account or even the premium service? Only Spotify has the numbers, and it won’t be sharing those yet – if ever.

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

Deezer Piles Pressure on Pirates, Deezloader Reborn Throws in the Towel

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/deezer-piles-pressure-on-pirates-deezloader-reborn-throws-in-the-towel-180315/

Spotify might grab most of the headlines in the world of music streaming but French firm Deezer is also growing in popularity.

Focused more on non-English speaking regions, the music service still has a massive selection of tens of millions of tracks. More importantly for pirates, it also has a loophole or two that allows users to permanently download songs from the service, a huge ‘selling’ point for the compulsive archiver.

One of the most popular third-party tools for achieving this was Deezloader but last year Deezer put pressure on its operators to cease-and-desist.

“On April 27, 2017 we received takedowns and threatened legal action from Deezer if we don’t shut down by April 29. So we decided to shut down Deezloader permanently,” the team announced.

Rather than kill the scene, the attack on Deezloader only seemed to spur things on. Many other apps underwent development in the months that followed but last December it became evident that Deezer (and probably the record labels supplying its content) were growing increasingly tired of these kinds of applications.

The company sent a wave of DMCA notices to developer platform GitHub, targeting several tools, claiming that they are “in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors.”

GitHub responded quickly by removing access to repositories referencing Deezloader, DeezerDownload, Deeze, Deezerio, Deezit, Deedown, and their associated forks. Deezer also reportedly modified its API, in order to stop or hinder apps already in existence.

However, pirates are a determined bunch and behind the scenes many sought to breathe new life into their projects, to maintain the flow of free music from Deezer. One of those that gained traction was the obviously-titled ‘Deezloader Reborn’ which enjoyed a new lease of life on both Github and Reddit after taking over from DeezLoader V2.3.1.

But in January 2018, Deezer turned up the pressure again, hitting Github with a wave (1,2) of takedown notices targeting various projects. On January 23, Deezer hit Deezloader Reborn itself with the notice detailed below.

The following project, identified in the paragraph below, makes available a hacked version of our Deezer application by describing methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalogue, in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers):

https://github.com/ExtendLord/DeezLoader-Reborn

I therefore ask that you immediately take down the project corresponding to the URL above and all of the related forks by others members who have had access or even contributed to such projects.

Not only did Github comply with Deezer’s request, Reddit did too. According to a thread still listed on the site, Reddit removed a post about Deezloader Reborn following a copyright complaint from Deezer.

Two days later Deezer targeted similar projects on Github but by this time, Deezloader Reborn already had new plans. Speaking with TF, project developer ExtendLord said that he wouldn’t be shutting down but would continue on code repository Gitlab instead. Now, however, those plans have also come to an abrupt end after Gitlab took the page down.

Deezloader Reborn – gone from Gitlab

A copy of the page available on Archive.org shows Deezloader Reborn at version 3.0.5 with the ability to download music ready-tagged and in FLAC quality. Links to newer versions are being shared on Reddit but it appears there is no longer a central trusted source for the application.

There’s no official confirmation yet but it seems likely that Deezer was behind the Gitlab takedown. TorrentFreak has contacted ExtendLord who linked us to this page which states that “DeezLoader Reborn is no longer maintained due to DMCA. [Version] 3.1.0 is the last update, no more updates will be made.”

So, at least for now, it appears that Deezloader Reborn will go the way of various other Deezer-reliant applications. That won’t be the end of the story though, that’s a certainty.

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

Spotify Emails Warning to ‘Pirates’ Using Hacked Apps

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-emails-warning-to-pirates-using-hacked-apps-180305/

Spotify is a fantastic music streaming service used by more than 159 million users around the world. Around 71m of those are premium subscibers according to figures released by the company last December.

Given the above, 88 million Spotify members are using the free tier, meaning that they’re subjected to advertising and other limitations such as shuffle-only play and track skip restrictions.

The idea is that the free user gets a decent level of service but is held back just enough with small irritations to make the jump to a premium subscription a logical step at some point.

What millions of free users don’t know, however, is that there are modified Spotify apps out there that can remove many of these restrictions. All the user has to do is sign up to free Spotify account, download one of the many ‘hacked’ Spotify installation files out there, put in their username and password, and enjoy.

How many people use these hacked versions of Spotify isn’t clear and up to now, it’s been somewhat of a mystery as to why Spotify itself hasn’t done something about them. During the past few days, however, there have been signs that a crackdown could be on the way.

In an email sent to an unknown but significant number of people, Spotify informs users of modified apps that they’re on the company’s radar and there could be consequences for trying to subvert the system.

“We detected abnormal activity on the app you are using so we have disabled it. Don’t worry – your Spotify account is safe,” the email from Spotify reads.

“To access your Spotify account, simply uninstall any unauthorized or modified version of Spotify and download and install the Spotify app from the official Google Play Store. If you need more help, please see our support article on Reinstalling Spotify.”

Users have been popping up on Spotify’s forums asking why they’ve received this email. Some seem to think they’ve done nothing wrong but most signs point to people using modified software.

The warning email from Spotify

While the email signs off with a note thanking the recipient for being a Spotify user, there is also a warning.

“If we detect repeated use of unauthorized apps in violation of our terms, we reserve all rights, including suspending or terminating your account,” Spotify writes.

For people who used their real accounts along with modified apps this could be a problem but many people using hacked versions go in prepared with a secondary or temporary email address and false details.

Quite how far Spotify will go to rid its service of this kind of a user remains unknown but at least for now, the actual effects of this early crackdown seemed mixed.

TorrentFreak has spoken with users who have modified versions and have received the email, yet their installation still works just fine. Others report that they can no longer log in with their modified version.

What is clear, however, is that Spotify has both modified apps and their creators on its radar. On March 1, 2018 the company wrote to Github demanding that a popular Spotify mod known as ‘Dogfood’ be taken down from the repository.

Dogfood is done on Github

The full takedown notice can be found here. It lists Dogfood itself plus a whole bunch of ‘forks’ which have also been taken down by Github.

There were signs in January that the developer of Dogfood might have been under pressure to limit the effectiveness of his app. On January 18 he announced on XDA that some functionality would be removed moving forward.

“In order to comply with XDA’s Rules and CoC, Spotify Dogfood has taken a new direction, and now offers *exclusively* Ad-free music playback,” he wrote.

“Any other features won’t be included anymore in this mod. But, that doesn’t mean anything if you’re a true, a core user of this app, because there will still be regular updates to it, as there has been up until now.”

Where that development will take place now isn’t clear but it clearly won’t be on Github. Indeed, even XDA has been targeted by Spotify, with the site receiving a DMCA notice from the company which required the removal of links and an apparent closure of the whole discussion.

XDA DMCA takedown

For now it seems that Spotify is playing nice, at least with users of modified apps. Whether it will continue with the same relaxed attitude is unclear but it’s hard not to connect the move with its intention to go public and its $23bn valuation.

Still, the company should be more in tune with pirates than most given its history, so may yet have a decent plan up its sleeve.

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

qrocodile: the kid-friendly Sonos system

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/qrocodile-kid-friendly-sonos-system/

Chris Campbell’s qrocodile uses a Raspberry Pi, a camera, and QR codes to allow Chris’s children to take full control of the Sonos home sound system. And we love it!

qrocodile

Introducing qrocodile, a kid-friendly system for controlling your Sonos with QR codes. Source code is available at: https://github.com/chrispcampbell/qrocodile Learn more at: http://labonnesoupe.org https://twitter.com/chrscmpbll

Sonos

SONOS is SONOS backwards. It’s also SONOS upside down, and SONOS upside down and backwards. I just learnt that this means SONOS is an ambigram. Hurray for learning!

Sonos (the product, not the ambigram) is a multi-room speaker system controlled by an app. Speakers in different rooms can play different tracks or join forces to play one track for a smooth musical atmosphere throughout your home.

sonos raspberry pi

If you have a Sonos system in your home, I would highly recommend accessing to it from outside your home and set it to play the Imperial March as you walk through the front door. Why wouldn’t you?

qrocodile

One day, Chris’s young children wanted to play an album while eating dinner. By this one request, he was inspired to create qrocodile, a musical jukebox enabling his children to control the songs Sonos plays, and where it plays them, via QR codes.

It all started one night at the dinner table over winter break. The kids wanted to put an album on the turntable (hooked up to the line-in on a Sonos PLAY:5 in the dining room). They’re perfectly capable of putting vinyl on the turntable all by themselves, but using the Sonos app to switch over to play from the line-in is a different story.

The QR codes represent commands (such as Play in the living room, Use the turntable, or Build a song list) and artists (such as my current musical crush Courtney Barnett or the Ramones).

qrocodile raspberry Pi

A camera attached to a Raspberry Pi 3 feeds the Pi the QR code that’s presented, and the Pi runs a script that recognises the code and sends instructions to Sonos accordingly.


Chris used a costum version of the Sonos HTTP API created by Jimmy Shimizu to gain access to Sonos from his Raspberry Pi. To build the QR codes, he wrote a script that utilises the Spotify API via the Spotipy library.

His children are now able to present recognisable album art to the camera in order to play their desired track.

It’s been interesting seeing the kids putting the thing through its paces during their frequent “dance parties”, queuing up their favorite songs and uncovering new ones. I really like that they can use tangible objects to discover music in much the same way I did when I was their age, looking through my parents records, seeing which ones had interesting artwork or reading the song titles on the back, listening and exploring.

Chris has provided all the scripts for the project, along with a tutorial of how to set it up, on his GitHub — have a look if you want to recreate it or learn more about his code. Also check out Chris’ website for more on qrocodile and to see some of his other creations.

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MagPi 66: Raspberry Pi media projects for your home

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magpi-66-media-pi/

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Issue 66 of The MagPi is out right now, with the ultimate guide to powering your home media with Raspberry Pi. We think the Pi is the perfect replacement or upgrade for many media devices, so in this issue we show you how to build a range of Raspberry Pi media projects.

MagPi 66

Yes, it does say Pac-Man robotics on the cover. They’re very cool.

The article covers file servers for sharing media across your network, music streaming boxes that connect to Spotify, a home theatre PC to make your TV-watching more relaxing, a futuristic Pi-powered moving photoframe, and even an Alexa voice assistant to control all these devices!

More to see

That’s not all though — The MagPi 66 also shows you how to build a Raspberry Pi cluster computer, how to control LEGO robots using the GPIO, and why your Raspberry Pi isn’t affected by Spectre and Meltdown.




In addition, you’ll also find our usual selection of product reviews and excellent project showcases.

Get The MagPi 66

Issue 66 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

I hope you enjoy this issue! See you next month.

The post MagPi 66: Raspberry Pi media projects for your home appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People Pay Pennies For Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Xbox Live & More

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/people-pay-pennies-for-netflix-spotify-hbo-xbox-live-more-180106/

Gaining free access to copyrighted material is not a difficult task in today’s online world. Movies, TV shows, music, games, and eBooks are all just a few clicks away, either using torrent, streaming, or direct download services.

Over the years, however, the growth of piracy has been at least somewhat slowed due to the advent of official services. Where there was once a content vacuum, official platforms such as Netflix, Spotify, HBO, TIDAL, Steam, and others, are helping users to find the content they want.

While most services present reasonable value, subscribing to them all would be a massive strain on even the most expansive of budgets. But what if there was a way to access every single one of them, for just a few dollars a year – in total? Believe it or not, such services exist and have done for some time.

Described as ‘Account Generators’, these platforms grant members with access to dozens of premium services, without having to pay anything like the headline price. The main ones often major on access to a Netflix subscription as a base, with access to other services thrown in on top.

How much a year?

The screenshot above shows one ‘generator’ service as it appeared this week. On the far right is a Netflix offer for $2.99 per year or $4.99 for a lifetime ‘private’ account (more on that later). That is of course ridiculously cheap.

On the near left is the ‘All Access’ plan, which offers access to Netflix plus another 69 online services for just $6.99 per month or $16.99 per year. The range of services available is impressive, to say the least.

Movies and TV Shows: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, Crunchyroll, DIRECTV/Now, Stream TV Live, CBS All Access, Funimation, Slingbox, Xfinity.

On the sports front: BT Sports, Fubo.tv, F1 Access, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NFL Game Pass, UFC Fight Pass, WWE Network.

For music, access is provided to Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Pandora, Saavn, SoundCloud, and TIDAL.

A small selection of the services available

How these services gain access to all of these accounts is shrouded in a level of secrecy but there’s little doubt that while some are obtained legitimately (perhaps through free trials or other account sharing), the roots of others are fairly questionable.

For example, when these services talk about ‘shared and ‘private’ Netflix accounts, the former often appear set up for someone else, with individual user accounts in other people’s names and suggestions for what to watch next already in place. In other words, these are live accounts already being paid for by someone, to which these services somehow gain access.

Indeed, there are notices on account generator platforms warning people not to mess with account passwords or payment details, since that could alert the original user or cause an account to get shut down for other reasons.

“Origin brings you great PC and Mac games. Play the latest RPGs, Shooters, Sim games, and more. These accounts are private (1 per person), however you MUST NOT change passwords,” one warning reads.

Since Origin has just come up, it’s probably a suitable juncture to mention the games services on offer. In addition to EA’s offering, one can gain access to Xbox Live, ESL Gaming, Good Old Games, League of Legends, Minecraft Premium, Steam (game keys) and Uplay.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Need a BitDefender key? No problem. Access to Creative Market? You got it. Want to do some online learning? Queue up for Chegg, CourseHero, Lynda, Mathway, Udemy, and more. There’s even free access to NYTimes Premium. As the image below shows, thousands of accounts are added all the time.

Thousands of accounts, all the time…

While these generator platforms are undoubtedly popular with people on a budget, almost everything about them feels wrong. Staring into someone’s private Netflix account, with what appear to be family names, is unsettling. Looking at their private email addresses and credit card details feels flat-out criminal.

Quite how these services are able to prosper isn’t clear but perhaps the big question is why the platforms whose accounts are being offered haven’t noticed some kind of pattern by now. Maybe they have, but it’s probably a pretty difficult task to sweep up the mess without a lot of false positives, not to mention the risks of ensnaring those who pay for their accounts officially.

The video below, from late 2016, gives a decent overview of how an account generator platform works. Even for many hardcore pirates, especially those who demand privacy and respect the same for others, parts of the viewing will be uncomfortable.

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

Massive Site-Blocking Measures Countered By 100K Browser Addon Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/massive-site-blocking-measures-countered-by-100k-browser-addon-users-171231/

FCT tyIn July 2015, Portugal’s Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain, and representatives from the advertising industry.

The memorandum laid out a new mechanism for blocking so-called ‘pirate’ sites. In common with similar frameworks elsewhere, the process can be triggered by a complaint from a rightsholder association. Local anti-piracy group MAPINET then collates evidence that a site is engaged in the unlawful distribution of copyright works and has failed to cease its activities.

The system was quickly utilized by rightsholders seeking to block access to their content. Within six months, 330 sites had been blocked by ISPs, but that was only the beginning. In the months and years that followed, hundreds more sites were rendered inaccessible but in common with similar programs elsewhere, no official list of blocked sites was made available. People are keeping watch, however.

SitesBloqueados (Blocked Sites) is a web portal run by Revolução dos Bytes (Bytes’ Revolution), a group of like-minded anti-censorship activists in Portugal. Created a few months after blocking began in the region, their comprehensive database now contains almost 1,400 domains, the majority of which have been blocked on copyright grounds.

“SitesBloqueados was mainly created because, although the Memorandum of Understanding contained certain requirements to make a site eligible to be blocked – such as 500 items [or links] to copyright content or one third of the site containing copyrighted material – there was no official way to validate that data and make sure that these ‘rules’ are being respected,” team member Henrique Mouta informs TF.

The manner in which the list is maintained is quite unique. As mentioned earlier, there are no official sources listing blocked domains so the people behind SitesBloqueados had to get creative. Alongside this project they also run Ahoy!, a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows users to circumvent censorship in Portugal and it’s through that tool they gather information.

“Ahoy! basically bypasses any traffic to a blocked site through our own proxies, allowing the users to navigate in a free, uncensored internet,” Henrique explains.

As this extension works on a whitelist basis, we had to create a mechanism to automatically detect and whitelist sites that have been blocked, so if a user accesses a blocked site that is not on our list yet, we get a notification so we can review the site and add it to the list. That is the list that is also powering SitesBloqueados.pt.”

When the voluntary agreement was first announced, local ISPs came under intense criticism for agreeing to work with copyright holders without need for a court process. However, Henrique says they are actually in a precarious position.

“We usually see the ISPs as the bad guys, blocking sites, throttling our internet and, more recently, going against the Internet Neutrality. But, in this particular case, all the major ISPs are forced to block any sites that have been requested in 15 days, or they might pay fines for every single day after the deadline.

“MAPiNET (MOVIMENTO CÍVICOANTI PIRATARIA NA INTERNET) is the organization, alongside with IGAC (Inspecção Geral Das Actividades Culturais), that compiles the lists of sites and sends them to the ISP. It’s usually two lists per month. Of course, I’m not excusing the ISPs, as they should stand up against censorship. But we all know that’s asking too much of them,” Henrique adds.

Interestingly, the first site blockade in Portugal wasn’t actioned on copyright grounds. It was, in fact, targeted at Uber.com.

“This happened in June 2015, after a court order to suspend all Uber activity in Portugal. This opened a huge precedent, with all these anti-piracy organizations seeing how easy is to block a site, technically speaking.

“So, at the end of August of that same year, the [anti-piracy] Memorandum was signed by all the parties and, since then, both MAPiNET and IGAC have the power to request any site block, without any court order, without any legal order,” Henrique notes.

This lit a fire under the team and two and half years later, Ahoy! is now being used by 100k people to unblock almost 1,400 sites, while feeding back information on newly blocked domains. These are then added to the blocklist database and considered for unblocking methods via the addon.

Currently, around 50 new domains are blocked every month in Portugal and Henrique and the team are determined to document every one of them. They believe that by keeping an eye on things publicly, it lets the anti-piracy groups know they are being watched and cannot act with impunity. Around 90% of all blocked domains are restricted on copyright grounds but some also fall foul of new gambling laws that forbid unlicensed sites.

From the beginning, the big question has surrounded potential abuse. So, given the lack of a court process, have any players attempted to game the system?

“So far, we haven’t seen any signs of intentional abuse. There have been a few problems with sites being wrongly blocked. The most popular case is Carbon Games site that was blocked nearly two years ago, and it was mistaken for a different site, a Gambling site, named Carbon Gaming,” Henrique says.

“A few months later, we detected another case. A Spanish journalist had a website where he was posting videoclips of the latest releases. All of these releases were originally on YouTube, uploaded by the respective owners, however that was not enough to keep the site alive.”

Under pressure from Revolução dos Bytes this block was reversed but it’s not the only instance of errors. Non-existent sites have been blocked as have sites publishing headlines and linking to the respective online newspapers.

With blocking continuing at a steady pace, dozens of new domains are restricted every month. But Henrique and the team believe it won’t achieve anything positive and only serves to harm the Internet and democracy.

“Blocking sites to prevent piracy is the same as being on a sinking submarine, trying to patch every leaking hull hole with duct tape. If they want to fight piracy, they should try to understand, in the first place, why it happens and what they can do to change it.

“It’s well known that having cheap and quality services like Netflix and Spotify helped Internet piracy levels drop to record lows, DRM issues aside, of course. And the worst of it is the timing: these organizations see the decreasing levels of piracy as a signal that their stupid censorship is actually working. I’m really afraid that this is now an unstoppable snowball. The Internet in Portugal has seen much better days,” Henrique concludes.

But while he’s pessimistic over current developments, it appears that the Ahoy! movement is only set to grow. The team say they want to bring the browser-based system to other countries that are suffering from similar blockades and that suggestions from the public are welcome.

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

2017’s “Piracy is Dangerous” Rhetoric Was Digital Reefer Madness

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/2017s-piracy-is-dangerous-rhetoric-was-digital-reefer-madness-171230/

On dozens of occasions during the past year, TF has been compelled to cover the latest entertainment industry anti-piracy scare campaigns. We never have a problem doing so since news is to be reported and we’re all adults with our own minds to evaluate what we’re reading.

Unfortunately, many people behind these efforts seem to be under the impression that their target audience is comprised of simpletons, none of whom are blessed with a brain of their own. Frankly it’s insulting but before we go on, let’s get a few things clear.

Copyright infringement – including uploading, downloading, sharing or streaming – is illegal in most countries. That means that copyright holders are empowered under law to do something about those offenses, either through the civil or criminal courts. While unpalatable to some, most people accept that position and understand that should they be caught in the act, there might be some consequences.

With that said, there are copyright holders out there that need to stop treating people like children at best, idiots at worst. At this point in 2017, there’s no adult out there with the ability to pirate that truly believes that obtaining or sharing the latest movies, TV shows and sports is likely to be completely legal.

If you don’t believe me, ask a pirate why he or she is so excited by their fully-loaded Kodi setup. Hint: It’s because they’re getting content for free and they know full well that isn’t what the copyright holder wants. Then ask them if they want the copyright holder to know their name, address and everything they’ve downloaded. There. That’s your answer.

The point is that these people are not dumb. They know what they’re doing and understand that getting caught is something that might possibly happen. They may not understand precisely how and they may consider the risk to be particularly small (they’d be right too) but they know that it’s something best kept fairly quiet when they aren’t shouting about it to anyone who will listen down the pub.

Copyright holders aren’t dumb either. They know only too well that pirates recognize what they’re doing is probably illegal but they’re at a loss as to what to do about it. For reputable content owners, suing is expensive, doesn’t scale, is a public relations nightmare and, moreover, isn’t effective in solving the problem.

So, we now have a concerted effort to convince pirates that piracy is not only bad for their computers but also bad for their lives. It’s a stated industry aim and we’re going to see more of it in 2018.

If pirate sites aren’t infecting people’s computers with malware from God-knows-where, they’re stealing their identities and emptying their bank accounts, the industries warned in 2017. And if somehow people manage to run this gauntlet of terror without damaging their technology or their finances, then they’ll probably have their house burnt down by an exploding set-top box.

Look, the intention is understandable. Entertainment companies need to contain the piracy problem because if they don’t, it only gets worse. Again, there are few people out there who genuinely expect them to do anything different but this current stampede towards blatant scaremongering is disingenuous at best and utterly ridiculous at worst.

And it won’t work.

While piracy can be engaged in as a solo activity, it’s inherently a social phenomenon. That things can be pirated from here and there, in this way and that, is the stuff of conversations between friends and colleagues, in person and via social media. The information is passed around today like VHS and compact cassettes were passed around three decades ago and people really aren’t talking about malware or their houses catching fire.

In the somewhat unlikely event these topics do get raised for more than a minute, they get dealt with in the same way as anything else.

People inquire whether their friends have ever had their bank accounts emptied or houses burnt down, or if they know anyone who has. When the answer comes back as “no” from literally everyone, people are likely to conclude that the stories are being spread by people trying to stop them getting movies, TV shows, and live sports for free. And they would be right.

That’s not to say that these scare stories don’t have at least some basis in fact, they do.

Many pirate sites do have low-tier advertising which can put users at risk. However, it’s nothing that a decent anti-virus program and/or ad blocker can’t handle, which is something everyone should be running when accessing untrusted sites. Also, being cautious about all electronics imported from overseas is something people should be aware of too, despite the tiny risk these devices appear to pose in the scheme of things.

So, what we have here is the modern day equivalent of Reefer Madness, the 1930’s propaganda movie that tried to scare people away from marijuana with tales of car accidents, suicide, attempted rape and murder.

While somewhat more refined, these modern-day cautionary messages over piracy are destined to fall on ears that are far more shrewd and educated than their 20th-century counterparts. Yet they’re all born out of the same desire, to stop people from getting involved in an activity by warning them that it’s dangerous to them, rather than it having a negative effect on someone else – an industry executive, for example.

It’s all designed to appeal to the selfish nature of people, rather than their empathy for others, but that’s a big mistake.

Most people really do want to do the right thing, as the staggering success of Netflix, iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon show. But the ridiculous costs and/or inaccessibility of live sports, latest movies, or packaged TV shows mean that no matter what warnings get thrown out there, some people will still cut corners if they feel they’re being taken advantage of.

Worst still, if they believe the scare stories are completely ridiculous, eventually they’ll also discount the credibility of the messenger. When that happens, what little trust remains will be eroded.

Then, let’s face it, who wants to buy something from people you can’t trust?

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

Sky’s Pirate Site-Blocking Move is Something For North Korea, ISPs Say

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/skys-pirate-site-blocking-move-is-something-for-north-korea-isps-say-171129/

Entertainment companies have been taking legal action to have pirate sites blocked for more than a decade so it was only a matter of time before New Zealand had a taste of the action.

It’s now been revealed that Sky Network Television, the country’s biggest pay-TV service, filed a complaint with the High Court in September, demanding that four local Internet service providers block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.

At this point, the sites haven’t been named, but it seems almost inevitable that the likes of The Pirate Bay will be present. The ISPs are known, however. Spark, Vodafone, Vocus and Two Degrees control around 90% of the Kiwi market so any injunction handed down will affect almost the entire country.

In its application, Sky states that pirate sites make available unauthorized copies of its entertainment works, something which not only infringes its copyrights but also undermines its business model. But while this is standard fare in such complaints, the Internet industry backlash today is something out of the ordinary.

ISPs in other jurisdictions have fought back against blocking efforts but few have deployed the kind of language being heard in New Zealand this morning.

Vocus Group – which runs the Orcon, Slingshot and Flip brands – is labeling Sky’s efforts as “gross censorship and a breach of net neutrality”, adding that they’re in direct opposition to the idea of a free and open Internet.

“SKY’s call that sites be blacklisted on their say so is dinosaur behavior, something you would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand. It isn’t our job to police the Internet and it sure as hell isn’t SKY’s either, all sites should be equal and open,” says Vocus Consumer General Manager Taryn Hamilton.

But in response, Sky said Vocus “has got it wrong”, highlighting that site-blocking is now common practice in places such as Australia and the UK.

“Pirate sites like Pirate Bay make no contribution to the development of content, but rather just steal it. Over 40 countries around the world have put in place laws to block such sites, and we’re just looking to do the same,” the company said.

The broadcaster says it will only go to court to have dedicated pirate sites blocked, ones that “pay nothing to the creators” while stealing content for their own gain.

“We’re doing this because illegal streaming and content piracy is a major threat to the entertainment, creative and sporting industries in New Zealand and abroad. With piracy, not only is the sport and entertainment content that we love at risk, but so are the livelihoods of the thousands of people employed by these industries,” the company said.

“Illegally sharing or viewing content impacts a vast number of people and jobs including athletes, actors, artists, production crew, customer service representatives, event planners, caterers and many, many more.”

ISP Spark, which is also being targeted by Sky, was less visibly outraged than some of its competitors. However, the company still feels that controlling what people can see on the Internet is a slippery slope.

“We have some sympathy for this given we invest tens of millions of dollars into content ourselves through Lightbox. However, we don’t think it should be the role of ISPs to become the ‘police of the internet’ on behalf of other parties,” a Spark spokesperson said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sky’s blocking efforts haven’t been well received by InternetNZ, the non-profit organization which protects and promotes Internet use in New Zealand.

Describing the company’s application for an injunction as an “extreme step”, InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter said that site-blocking works against the “very nature” of the Internet and is a measure that’s unlikely to achieve its goals.

“Site blocking is very easily evaded by people with the right skills or tools. Those who are deliberate pirates will be able to get around site blocking without difficulty,” Carter said.

“If blocking is ordered, it risks driving content piracy further underground, with the help of easily-deployed and common Internet tools. This could well end up making the issues that Sky are facing even harder to police in the future.”

What most of the ISPs and InternetNZ are also agreed on is the need to fight piracy with competitive, attractive legal offerings. Vocus says that local interest in The Pirate Bay has halved since Netflix launched in New Zealand, with traffic to the torrent site sitting at just 23% of its peak 2013 levels.

“The success of Netflix, iTunes and Spotify proves that people are willing to pay to access good-quality content. It’s pretty clear that SKY doesn’t understand the internet, and is trying a Hail Mary to turnaround its sunset business,” Vocus Consumer General Manager Taryn Hamilton said.

The big question now is whether the High Court has the ability to order these kinds of blocks. InternetNZ has its doubts, noting that it should only happen following a parliamentary mandate.

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

Google: Netflix Searches Outweigh Those For Pirate Alternatives

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-netflix-searches-outweigh-those-for-pirate-alternatives-171112/

When large-scale access to online pirated content began to flourish at the turn of the decade, entertainment industry groups claimed that if left to run riot, it could mean the end of their businesses.

More than seventeen years later that doomsday scenario hasn’t come to pass, not because piracy has been defeated – far from it – but because the music, movie and related industries have come to the market with their own offers.

The music industry were the quickest to respond, with services like iTunes and later Spotify making serious progress against pirate alternatives. It took the video industry far longer to attack the market but today, with platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Video, they have a real chance at scooping up what might otherwise be pirate consumption.

While there’s still a long way to go, it’s interesting to hear the progress that’s being made not only in the West but also piracy hotspots further afield. This week, Brazil’s Exame reported on a new study published by Google.

Focused on movies, one of its key findings is that local consumer interest in Netflix is now greater than pirate alternatives including torrents, streaming, and apps. As illustrated in the image below, the tipping point took place early November 2016, when searches for Netflix overtook those for unauthorized platforms.

Netflix vs Pirates (via Exame)

While the stats above don’t necessarily point to a reduction in piracy of movies and TV shows in Brazil, they show that Netflix’s library and ease of use is rewarded by widespread awareness among those seeking such content locally.

“We’re not lowering piracy but this does show how relevant the [Netflix] brand is when it comes to offering content online,” Google Brazil’s market intelligence chief Sérgio Tejido told Exame.

For Debora Bona, a director specializing in media and entertainment at Google Brazil, the success of Netflix is comparable to the rise of Spotify. In part thanks to The Pirate Bay, Sweden had a serious piracy problem in the middle of the last decade but by providing a viable alternative, the streaming service has become part of the solution.

“The event is interesting,” Bona says. “Since the launch of streaming solutions such as Netflix and Spotify, they have become alternatives to piracy. Sweden had many problems with music piracy and the arrival of Spotify reversed this curve.”

Netflix launched in Brazil back in 2011, but Exame notes that the largest increase in searches for the platform took place between 2013 and 2016, demonstrating a boost of 284%. Even more evidence of Netflix’s popularity was revealed in recent surveys which indicate that 77% of surveyed Brazilians had watched Netflix, up from 71% in 2016.

Importantly, nine out of ten users in Brazil said they were “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service, up from 79% in the previous year. An impressive 66% of subscribers said that they were “not at all likely to cancel”, a welcome statistics for a company pumping billions into making its own content and increasingly protecting it (1,2), in the face of persistent pirate competition.

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

N O D E’s Handheld Linux Terminal

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/n-o-d-es-handheld-linux-terminal/

Fit an entire Raspberry Pi-based laptop into your pocket with N O D E’s latest Handheld Linux Terminal build.

The Handheld Linux Terminal Version 3 (Portable Pi 3)

Hey everyone. Today I want to show you the new version 3 of the Handheld Linux Terminal. It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally finished. This one takes all the things I’ve learned so far, and improves on many of the features from the previous iterations.

N O D E

With interests in modding tech, exploring the boundaries of the digital world, and open source, YouTuber N O D E has become one to watch within the digital maker world. He maintains a channel focused on “the transformative power of technology.”

“Understanding that electronics isn’t voodoo is really powerful”, he explains in his Patreon video. “And learning how to build your own stuff opens up so many possibilities.”

NODE Youtube channel logo - Handheld Linux Terminal v3

The topics of his videos range from stripped-down devices, upgraded tech, and security upgrades, to the philosophy behind technology. He also provides weekly roundups of, and discussions about, new releases.

Essentially, if you like technology, you’ll like N O D E.

Handheld Linux Terminal v3

Subscribers to N O D E’s YouTube channel, of whom there are currently over 44000, will have seen him documenting variations of this handheld build throughout the last year. By stripping down a Raspberry Pi 3, and incorporating a Zero W, he’s been able to create interesting projects while always putting functionality first.

Handheld Linux Terminal v3

With the third version of his terminal, N O D E has taken experiences gained from previous builds to create something of which he’s obviously extremely proud. And so he should be. The v3 handheld is impressively small considering he managed to incorporate a fully functional keyboard with mouse, a 3.5″ screen, and a fan within the 3D-printed body.

Handheld Linux Terminal v3

“The software side of things is where it really shines though, and the Pi 3 is more than capable of performing most non-intensive tasks,” N O D E goes on to explain. He demonstrates various applications running on Raspbian, plus other operating systems he has pre-loaded onto additional SD cards:

“I have also installed Exagear Desktop, which allows it to run x86 apps too, and this works great. I have x86 apps such as Sublime Text and Spotify running without any problems, and it’s technically possible to use Wine to also run Windows apps on the device.”

We think this is an incredibly neat build, and we can’t wait to see where N O D E takes it next!

The post N O D E’s Handheld Linux Terminal appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Spotify Threatened Researchers Who Revealed ‘Pirate’ History

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-threatened-researchers-who-revealed-pirate-history-171006/

As one of the members of Sweden’s infamous Piratbyrån (Piracy Bureau), Rasmus Fleischer was also one of early key figures at The Pirate Bay. Over the years he’s been a writer, researcher, debater, and musician, and in 2012 he finished his PhD thesis on “music’s political economy.”

As part of a five-person research team (Pelle Snickars, Patrick Vonderau, Anna Johansson, Rasmus Fleischer, Maria Eriksson) funded by the Swedish Research Council, Fleischer has co-written a book about the history of Spotify.

Titled ‘Spotify Teardown – Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music’, the publication is set to shine light on the history of the now famous music service while revealing quite a few past secrets.

With its release scheduled for 2018, Fleischer has already teased a few interesting nuggets, not least that Spotify’s early beta version used ‘pirate’ MP3 files, some of them sourced from The Pirate Bay.

Fleischer says that following an interview earlier this year with DI.se, in which he revealed that Spotify distributed unlicensed music between May 2007 to October 2008, Spotify looked at ways to try and stop his team’s research. However, the ‘pirate’ angle wasn’t the clear target, another facet of the team’s research was.

“Building on the tradition of ‘breaching experiments’ in ethnomethodology, the research group sought to break into the hidden infrastructures of digital music distribution in order to study its underlying norms and structures,” project leader Pelle Snickars previously revealed.

With this goal, the team conducted experiments to see if the system was open to abuse or could be manipulated, as Fleischer now explains.

“For example, some hundreds of robot users were created to study whether the same listening behavior results in different recommendations depending on whether the user was registered as male or female,” he says.

“We have also investigated on a small scale the possibilities of manipulating the system. However, we have not collected any data about real users. Our proposed methods appeared several years ago in our research funding application, which was approved by the Swedish Research Council, which was already noted in 2013.”

Fleischer says that Spotify had been aware of the project for several years but it wasn’t until this year, after he spoke of Spotify’s past as a ‘pirate’ service, that pressure began to mount.

“On May 19, our project manager received a letter from Benjamin Helldén-Hegelund, a lawyer at Spotify. The timing was hardly a coincidence. Spotify demanded that we ‘confirm in writing’ that we had ‘ceased activities contrary to their Terms of Use’,” Fleischer reveals.

A corresponding letter to the Swedish Research Council detailed Spotify’s problems with the project.

“Spotify is particularly concerned about the information that has emerged regarding the research group’s methods in the project. The data indicate that the research team has deliberately taken action that is explicitly in violation of Spotify’s Terms of Use and by means of technical methods they sought to conceal these breaches of conditions,” the letter read.

“The research group has worked, among other things, to artificially increase the number of plays and manipulate Spotify’s services using scripts or other automated processes.

“Spotify assumes that the systematic breach of its conditions has not been known to the Swedish Research Council and is convinced that the Swedish Research Council is convinced that the research undertaken with the support of the Swedish Research Council in all respects meets ethical guidelines and is carried out reasonably and in accordance with applicable law.”

Fleischer admits that part of the research was concerned with the possibility of artificially increasing the number of plays, but he says that was carried out on a small scale without any commercial gain.

“The purpose was simply to test if it is true that Spotify could be manipulated on a larger scale, as claimed by journalists who did similar experiments. It is also true that we ‘sought to hide these crimes’ by using a VPN connection,” he says.

Fleischer says that Spotify’s lawyer blended complaints together, such as correlating terms of service violations with violation of research ethics, while presenting the same as grounds for legal action.

“The argument was quite ridiculous. Nevertheless, the letter could not be interpreted as anything other than an attempt by Spotify to prevent us from pursuing the research project,” he notes.

This week, however, it appears the dispute has reached some kind of conclusion. In a posting on his Copyriot blog (Swedish), Fleischer reveals that Spotify has informed the Swedish Research Council that the case has been closed, meaning that the research into the streaming service can continue.

“It must be acknowledged that Spotify’s threats have taken both time and power from the project. This seems to be the purpose when big companies go after researchers who they perceive as uncomfortable. It may not be possible to stop the research but it can be delayed,” Fleischer says.

“Sure [Spotify] dislikes people being reminded of how the service started as a pirate service. But instead of inviting an open dialogue, lawyers are sent out for the purpose of slowing down researchers.”

Spotify Teardown. Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music is to be published by MIT Press in 2018.

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

Belgium Wants to Blacklist Pirate Sites & Hijack Their Traffic

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/belgium-wants-to-blacklist-pirate-sites-hijack-their-traffic-170924/

The thorny issue of how to deal with the online piracy phenomenon used to be focused on punishing site users. Over time, enforcement action progressed to the services themselves, until they became both too resilient and prevalent to tackle effectively.

In Europe in particular, there’s now a trend of isolating torrent, streaming, and hosting platforms from their users. This is mainly achieved by website blocking carried out by local ISPs following an appropriate court order.

While the UK is perhaps best known for this kind of action, Belgium was one of the early pioneers of the practice.

After filing a lawsuit in 2010, the Belgian Anti-Piracy Foundation (BAF) weathered an early defeat at the Antwerp Commercial Court to achieve success at the Court of Appeal. Since then, local ISPs have been forced to block The Pirate Bay.

Since then there have been several efforts (1,2) to block more sites but rightsholders have complained that the process is too costly, lengthy, and cumbersome. Now the government is stepping in to do something about it.

Local media reports that Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters has drafted new proposals to tackle online piracy. In his role as Minister of Economy and Employment, Peeters sees authorities urgently tackling pirate sites with a range of new measures.

For starters, he wants to create a new department, formed within the FPS Economy, to oversee the fight against online infringement. The department would be tasked with detecting pirate sites more quickly and rendering them inaccessible in Belgium, along with any associated mirror sites or proxies.

Peeters wants the new department to add all blocked sites to a national ‘pirate blacklist. Interestingly, when Internet users try to access any of these sites, he wants them to be automatically diverted to legal sites where a fee will have to be paid for content.

While it’s not unusual to try and direct users away from pirate sites, for the most part Internet service providers have been somewhat reluctant to divert subscribers to commercial sites. Their assistance would be needed in this respect, so it will be interesting to see how negotiations pan out.

The Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), which was formed nine years ago to represent the music, video, software and videogame industries, welcomed Peeters’ plans.

“It’s so important to close the doors to illegal download sites and to actively lead people to legal alternatives,” said chairman Olivier Maeterlinck.

“Surfers should not forget that the motives of illegal download sites are not always obvious. These sites also regularly try to exploit personal data.”

The current narrative that pirate sites are evil places is clearly gaining momentum among anti-piracy bodies, but there’s little sign that the public intends to boycott sites as a result. With that in mind, alternative legal action will still be required.

With that in mind, Peeters wants to streamline the system so that all piracy cases go through a single court, the Commercial Court of Brussels. This should reduce costs versus the existing model and there’s also the potential for more consistent rulings.

“It’s a good idea to have a clearer legal framework on this,” says Maeterlinck from BEA.

“There are plenty of legal platforms, streaming services like Spotify, for example, which are constantly developing and reaching an ever-increasing audience. Those businesses have a business model that ensure that the creators of certain media content are properly compensated. The rotten apples must be tackled, and those procedures should be less time-consuming.”

There’s little doubt that BEA could benefit from a little government assistance. Back in February, the group filed a lawsuit at the French commercial court in Brussels, asking ISPs to block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.

“Our action aims to block nine of the most popular streaming sites which offer copyright-protected content on a massive scale and without authorization,” Maeterlinck told TF at the time.

“In accordance with the principles established by the CJEU (UPC Telekabel and GS Media), BEA seeks a court order confirming the infringement and imposing site blocking measures on the ISPs, who are content providers as well.”

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

Deploying Java Microservices on Amazon EC2 Container Service

Post Syndicated from Nathan Taber original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/deploying-java-microservices-on-amazon-ec2-container-service/

This post and accompanying code graciously contributed by:

Huy Huynh
Sr. Solutions Architect
Magnus Bjorkman
Solutions Architect

Java is a popular language used by many enterprises today. To simplify and accelerate Java application development, many companies are moving from a monolithic to microservices architecture. For some, it has become a strategic imperative. Containerization technology, such as Docker, lets enterprises build scalable, robust microservice architectures without major code rewrites.

In this post, I cover how to containerize a monolithic Java application to run on Docker. Then, I show how to deploy it on AWS using Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS), a high-performance container management service. Finally, I show how to break the monolith into multiple services, all running in containers on Amazon ECS.

Application Architecture

For this example, I use the Spring Pet Clinic, a monolithic Java application for managing a veterinary practice. It is a simple REST API, which allows the client to manage and view Owners, Pets, Vets, and Visits.

It is a simple three-tier architecture:

  • Client
    You simulate this by using curl commands.
  • Web/app server
    This is the Java and Spring-based application that you run using the embedded Tomcat. As part of this post, you run this within Docker containers.
  • Database server
    This is the relational database for your application that stores information about owners, pets, vets, and visits. For this post, use MySQL RDS.

I decided to not put the database inside a container as containers were designed for applications and are transient in nature. The choice was made even easier because you have a fully managed database service available with Amazon RDS.

RDS manages the work involved in setting up a relational database, from provisioning the infrastructure capacity that you request to installing the database software. After your database is up and running, RDS automates common administrative tasks, such as performing backups and patching the software that powers your database. With optional Multi-AZ deployments, Amazon RDS also manages synchronous data replication across Availability Zones with automatic failover.

Walkthrough

You can find the code for the example covered in this post at amazon-ecs-java-microservices on GitHub.

Prerequisites

You need the following to walk through this solution:

  • An AWS account
  • An access key and secret key for a user in the account
  • The AWS CLI installed

Also, install the latest versions of the following:

  • Java
  • Maven
  • Python
  • Docker

Step 1: Move the existing Java Spring application to a container deployed using Amazon ECS

First, move the existing monolith application to a container and deploy it using Amazon ECS. This is a great first step before breaking the monolith apart because you still get some benefits before breaking apart the monolith:

  • An improved pipeline. The container also allows an engineering organization to create a standard pipeline for the application lifecycle.
  • No mutations to machines.

You can find the monolith example at 1_ECS_Java_Spring_PetClinic.

Container deployment overview

The following diagram is an overview of what the setup looks like for Amazon ECS and related services:

This setup consists of the following resources:

  • The client application that makes a request to the load balancer.
  • The load balancer that distributes requests across all available ports and instances registered in the application’s target group using round-robin.
  • The target group that is updated by Amazon ECS to always have an up-to-date list of all the service containers in the cluster. This includes the port on which they are accessible.
  • One Amazon ECS cluster that hosts the container for the application.
  • A VPC network to host the Amazon ECS cluster and associated security groups.

Each container has a single application process that is bound to port 8080 within its namespace. In reality, all the containers are exposed on a different, randomly assigned port on the host.

The architecture is containerized but still monolithic because each container has all the same features of the rest of the containers

The following is also part of the solution but not depicted in the above diagram:

  • One Amazon EC2 Container Registry (Amazon ECR) repository for the application.
  • A service/task definition that spins up containers on the instances of the Amazon ECS cluster.
  • A MySQL RDS instance that hosts the applications schema. The information about the MySQL RDS instance is sent in through environment variables to the containers, so that the application can connect to the MySQL RDS instance.

I have automated setup with the 1_ECS_Java_Spring_PetClinic/ecs-cluster.cf AWS CloudFormation template and a Python script.

The Python script calls the CloudFormation template for the initial setup of the VPC, Amazon ECS cluster, and RDS instance. It then extracts the outputs from the template and uses those for API calls to create Amazon ECR repositories, tasks, services, Application Load Balancer, and target groups.

Environment variables and Spring properties binding

As part of the Python script, you pass in a number of environment variables to the container as part of the task/container definition:

'environment': [
{
'name': 'SPRING_PROFILES_ACTIVE',
'value': 'mysql'
},
{
'name': 'SPRING_DATASOURCE_URL',
'value': my_sql_options['dns_name']
},
{
'name': 'SPRING_DATASOURCE_USERNAME',
'value': my_sql_options['username']
},
{
'name': 'SPRING_DATASOURCE_PASSWORD',
'value': my_sql_options['password']
}
],

The preceding environment variables work in concert with the Spring property system. The value in the variable SPRING_PROFILES_ACTIVE, makes Spring use the MySQL version of the application property file. The other environment files override the following properties in that file:

  • spring.datasource.url
  • spring.datasource.username
  • spring.datasource.password

Optionally, you can also encrypt sensitive values by using Amazon EC2 Systems Manager Parameter Store. Instead of handing in the password, you pass in a reference to the parameter and fetch the value as part of the container startup. For more information, see Managing Secrets for Amazon ECS Applications Using Parameter Store and IAM Roles for Tasks.

Spotify Docker Maven plugin

Use the Spotify Docker Maven plugin to create the image and push it directly to Amazon ECR. This allows you to do this as part of the regular Maven build. It also integrates the image generation as part of the overall build process. Use an explicit Dockerfile as input to the plugin.

FROM frolvlad/alpine-oraclejdk8:slim
VOLUME /tmp
ADD spring-petclinic-rest-1.7.jar app.jar
RUN sh -c 'touch /app.jar'
ENV JAVA_OPTS=""
ENTRYPOINT [ "sh", "-c", "java $JAVA_OPTS -Djava.security.egd=file:/dev/./urandom -jar /app.jar" ]

The Python script discussed earlier uses the AWS CLI to authenticate you with AWS. The script places the token in the appropriate location so that the plugin can work directly against the Amazon ECR repository.

Test setup

You can test the setup by running the Python script:
python setup.py -m setup -r <your region>

After the script has successfully run, you can test by querying an endpoint:
curl <your endpoint from output above>/owner

You can clean this up before going to the next section:
python setup.py -m cleanup -r <your region>

Step 2: Converting the monolith into microservices running on Amazon ECS

The second step is to convert the monolith into microservices. For a real application, you would likely not do this as one step, but re-architect an application piece by piece. You would continue to run your monolith but it would keep getting smaller for each piece that you are breaking apart.

By migrating microservices, you would get four benefits associated with microservices:

  • Isolation of crashes
    If one microservice in your application is crashing, then only that part of your application goes down. The rest of your application continues to work properly.
  • Isolation of security
    When microservice best practices are followed, the result is that if an attacker compromises one service, they only gain access to the resources of that service. They can’t horizontally access other resources from other services without breaking into those services as well.
  • Independent scaling
    When features are broken out into microservices, then the amount of infrastructure and number of instances of each microservice class can be scaled up and down independently.
  • Development velocity
    In a monolith, adding a new feature can potentially impact every other feature that the monolith contains. On the other hand, a proper microservice architecture has new code for a new feature going into a new service. You can be confident that any code you write won’t impact the existing code at all, unless you explicitly write a connection between two microservices.

Find the monolith example at 2_ECS_Java_Spring_PetClinic_Microservices.
You break apart the Spring Pet Clinic application by creating a microservice for each REST API operation, as well as creating one for the system services.

Java code changes

Comparing the project structure between the monolith and the microservices version, you can see that each service is now its own separate build.
First, the monolith version:

You can clearly see how each API operation is its own subpackage under the org.springframework.samples.petclinic package, all part of the same monolithic application.
This changes as you break it apart in the microservices version:

Now, each API operation is its own separate build, which you can build independently and deploy. You have also duplicated some code across the different microservices, such as the classes under the model subpackage. This is intentional as you don’t want to introduce artificial dependencies among the microservices and allow these to evolve differently for each microservice.

Also, make the dependencies among the API operations more loosely coupled. In the monolithic version, the components are tightly coupled and use object-based invocation.

Here is an example of this from the OwnerController operation, where the class is directly calling PetRepository to get information about pets. PetRepository is the Repository class (Spring data access layer) to the Pet table in the RDS instance for the Pet API:

@RestController
class OwnerController {

    @Inject
    private PetRepository pets;
    @Inject
    private OwnerRepository owners;
    private static final Logger logger = LoggerFactory.getLogger(OwnerController.class);

    @RequestMapping(value = "/owner/{ownerId}/getVisits", method = RequestMethod.GET)
    public ResponseEntity<List<Visit>> getOwnerVisits(@PathVariable int ownerId){
        List<Pet> petList = this.owners.findById(ownerId).getPets();
        List<Visit> visitList = new ArrayList<Visit>();
        petList.forEach(pet -> visitList.addAll(pet.getVisits()));
        return new ResponseEntity<List<Visit>>(visitList, HttpStatus.OK);
    }
}

In the microservice version, call the Pet API operation and not PetRepository directly. Decouple the components by using interprocess communication; in this case, the Rest API. This provides for fault tolerance and disposability.

@RestController
class OwnerController {

    @Value("#{environment['SERVICE_ENDPOINT'] ?: 'localhost:8080'}")
    private String serviceEndpoint;

    @Inject
    private OwnerRepository owners;
    private static final Logger logger = LoggerFactory.getLogger(OwnerController.class);

    @RequestMapping(value = "/owner/{ownerId}/getVisits", method = RequestMethod.GET)
    public ResponseEntity<List<Visit>> getOwnerVisits(@PathVariable int ownerId){
        List<Pet> petList = this.owners.findById(ownerId).getPets();
        List<Visit> visitList = new ArrayList<Visit>();
        petList.forEach(pet -> {
            logger.info(getPetVisits(pet.getId()).toString());
            visitList.addAll(getPetVisits(pet.getId()));
        });
        return new ResponseEntity<List<Visit>>(visitList, HttpStatus.OK);
    }

    private List<Visit> getPetVisits(int petId){
        List<Visit> visitList = new ArrayList<Visit>();
        RestTemplate restTemplate = new RestTemplate();
        Pet pet = restTemplate.getForObject("http://"+serviceEndpoint+"/pet/"+petId, Pet.class);
        logger.info(pet.getVisits().toString());
        return pet.getVisits();
    }
}

You now have an additional method that calls the API. You are also handing in the service endpoint that should be called, so that you can easily inject dynamic endpoints based on the current deployment.

Container deployment overview

Here is an overview of what the setup looks like for Amazon ECS and the related services:

This setup consists of the following resources:

  • The client application that makes a request to the load balancer.
  • The Application Load Balancer that inspects the client request. Based on routing rules, it directs the request to an instance and port from the target group that matches the rule.
  • The Application Load Balancer that has a target group for each microservice. The target groups are used by the corresponding services to register available container instances. Each target group has a path, so when you call the path for a particular microservice, it is mapped to the correct target group. This allows you to use one Application Load Balancer to serve all the different microservices, accessed by the path. For example, https:///owner/* would be mapped and directed to the Owner microservice.
  • One Amazon ECS cluster that hosts the containers for each microservice of the application.
  • A VPC network to host the Amazon ECS cluster and associated security groups.

Because you are running multiple containers on the same instances, use dynamic port mapping to avoid port clashing. By using dynamic port mapping, the container is allocated an anonymous port on the host to which the container port (8080) is mapped. The anonymous port is registered with the Application Load Balancer and target group so that traffic is routed correctly.

The following is also part of the solution but not depicted in the above diagram:

  • One Amazon ECR repository for each microservice.
  • A service/task definition per microservice that spins up containers on the instances of the Amazon ECS cluster.
  • A MySQL RDS instance that hosts the applications schema. The information about the MySQL RDS instance is sent in through environment variables to the containers. That way, the application can connect to the MySQL RDS instance.

I have again automated setup with the 2_ECS_Java_Spring_PetClinic_Microservices/ecs-cluster.cf CloudFormation template and a Python script.

The CloudFormation template remains the same as in the previous section. In the Python script, you are now building five different Java applications, one for each microservice (also includes a system application). There is a separate Maven POM file for each one. The resulting Docker image gets pushed to its own Amazon ECR repository, and is deployed separately using its own service/task definition. This is critical to get the benefits described earlier for microservices.

Here is an example of the POM file for the Owner microservice:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project xmlns="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
         xsi:schemaLocation="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0 http://maven.apache.org/maven-v4_0_0.xsd">
    <modelVersion>4.0.0</modelVersion>
    <groupId>org.springframework.samples</groupId>
    <artifactId>spring-petclinic-rest</artifactId>
    <version>1.7</version>
    <parent>
        <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
        <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-parent</artifactId>
        <version>1.5.2.RELEASE</version>
    </parent>
    <properties>
        <!-- Generic properties -->
        <java.version>1.8</java.version>
        <docker.registry.host>${env.docker_registry_host}</docker.registry.host>
    </properties>
    <dependencies>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>javax.inject</groupId>
            <artifactId>javax.inject</artifactId>
            <version>1</version>
        </dependency>
        <!-- Spring and Spring Boot dependencies -->
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-actuator</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-data-rest</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-cache</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-data-jpa</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-web</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-test</artifactId>
            <scope>test</scope>
        </dependency>
        <!-- Databases - Uses HSQL by default -->
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.hsqldb</groupId>
            <artifactId>hsqldb</artifactId>
            <scope>runtime</scope>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>mysql</groupId>
            <artifactId>mysql-connector-java</artifactId>
            <scope>runtime</scope>
        </dependency>
        <!-- caching -->
        <dependency>
            <groupId>javax.cache</groupId>
            <artifactId>cache-api</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.ehcache</groupId>
            <artifactId>ehcache</artifactId>
        </dependency>
        <!-- end of webjars -->
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
            <artifactId>spring-boot-devtools</artifactId>
            <scope>runtime</scope>
        </dependency>
    </dependencies>
    <build>
        <plugins>
            <plugin>
                <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>
                <artifactId>spring-boot-maven-plugin</artifactId>
            </plugin>
            <plugin>
                <groupId>com.spotify</groupId>
                <artifactId>docker-maven-plugin</artifactId>
                <version>0.4.13</version>
                <configuration>
                    <imageName>${env.docker_registry_host}/${project.artifactId}</imageName>
                    <dockerDirectory>src/main/docker</dockerDirectory>
                    <useConfigFile>true</useConfigFile>
                    <registryUrl>${env.docker_registry_host}</registryUrl>
                    <!--dockerHost>https://${docker.registry.host}</dockerHost-->
                    <resources>
                        <resource>
                            <targetPath>/</targetPath>
                            <directory>${project.build.directory}</directory>
                            <include>${project.build.finalName}.jar</include>
                        </resource>
                    </resources>
                    <forceTags>false</forceTags>
                    <imageTags>
                        <imageTag>${project.version}</imageTag>
                    </imageTags>
                </configuration>
            </plugin>
        </plugins>
    </build>
</project>

Test setup

You can test this by running the Python script:

python setup.py -m setup -r <your region>

After the script has successfully run, you can test by querying an endpoint:

curl <your endpoint from output above>/owner

Conclusion

Migrating a monolithic application to a containerized set of microservices can seem like a daunting task. Following the steps outlined in this post, you can begin to containerize monolithic Java apps, taking advantage of the container runtime environment, and beginning the process of re-architecting into microservices. On the whole, containerized microservices are faster to develop, easier to iterate on, and more cost effective to maintain and secure.

This post focused on the first steps of microservice migration. You can learn more about optimizing and scaling your microservices with components such as service discovery, blue/green deployment, circuit breakers, and configuration servers at http://aws.amazon.com/containers.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.