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How to Compete with Giants

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-compete-with-giants/

How to Compete with Giants

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the sixth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. You need to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap.

That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Backblaze vs. Giants

Competing with established companies that are orders of magnitude larger can be daunting. How can you succeed?

I’ll set the stage by offering a few sets of giants we compete with:

  • When we started Backblaze, we offered online backup in a market where companies had been offering “online backup” for at least a decade, and even the newer entrants had raised tens of millions of dollars.
  • When we built our storage servers, the alternatives were EMC, NetApp, and Dell — each of which had a market cap of over $10 billion.
  • When we introduced our cloud storage offering, B2, our direct competitors were Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. You might have heard of them.

What did we learn by competing with these giants on a bootstrapped budget? Let’s take a look.

Determine What Success Means

For a long time Apple considered Apple TV to be a hobby, not a real product worth focusing on, because it did not generate a billion in revenue. For a $10 billion per year revenue company, a new business that generates $50 million won’t move the needle and often isn’t worth putting focus on. However, for a startup, getting to $50 million in revenue can be the start of a wildly successful business.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let the giants set your success metrics.

The Advantages Startups Have

The giants have a lot of advantages: more money, people, scale, resources, access, etc. Following their playbook and attacking head-on means you’re simply outgunned. Common paths to failure are trying to build more features, enter more markets, outspend on marketing, and other similar approaches where scale and resources are the primary determinants of success.

But being a startup affords many advantages most giants would salivate over. As a nimble startup you can leverage those to succeed. Let’s breakdown nine competitive advantages we’ve used that you can too.

1. Drive Focus

It’s hard to build a $10 billion revenue business doing just one thing, and most giants have a broad portfolio of businesses, numerous products for each, and targeting a variety of customer segments in multiple markets. That adds complexity and distributes management attention.

Startups get the benefit of having everyone in the company be extremely focused, often on a singular mission, product, customer segment, and market. While our competitors sell everything from advertising to Zantac, and are investing in groceries and shipping, Backblaze has focused exclusively on cloud storage. This means all of our best people (i.e. everyone) is focused on our cloud storage business. Where is all of your focus going?

Lesson Learned: Align everyone in your company to a singular focus to dramatically out-perform larger teams.

2. Use Lack-of-Scale as an Advantage

You may have heard Paul Graham say “Do things that don’t scale.” There are a host of things you can do specifically because you don’t have the same scale as the giants. Use that as an advantage.

When we look for data center space, we have more options than our largest competitors because there are simply more spaces available with room for 100 cabinets than for 1,000 cabinets. With some searching, we can find data center space that is better/cheaper.

When a flood in Thailand destroyed factories, causing the world’s supply of hard drives to plummet and prices to triple, we started drive farming. The giants certainly couldn’t. It was a bit crazy, but it let us keep prices unchanged for our customers.

Our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim, used to work at Adobe. Because of their size, any new product needed to always launch in a multitude of languages and in global markets. Once launched, they had scale. But getting any new product launched was incredibly challenging.

Lesson Learned: Use lack-of-scale to exploit opportunities that are closed to giants.

3. Build a Better Product

This one is probably obvious. If you’re going to provide the same product, at the same price, to the same customers — why do it? Remember that better does not always mean more features. Here’s one way we built a better product that didn’t require being a bigger company.

All online backup services required customers to choose what to include in their backup. We found that this was complicated for users since they often didn’t know what needed to be backed up. We flipped the model to back up everything and allow users to exclude if they wanted to, but it was not required. This reduced the number of features/options, while making it easier and better for the user.

This didn’t require the resources of a huge company; it just required understanding customers a bit deeper and thinking about the solution differently. Building a better product is the most classic startup competitive advantage.

Lesson Learned: Dig deep with your customers to understand and deliver a better mousetrap.

4. Provide Better Service

How can you provide better service? Use your advantages. Escalations from your customer care folks to engineering can go through fewer hoops. Fixing an issue and shipping can be quicker. Access to real answers on Twitter or Facebook can be more effective.

A strategic decision we made was to have all customer support people as full-time employees in our headquarters. This ensures they are in close contact to the whole company for feedback to quickly go both ways.

Having a smaller team and fewer layers enables faster internal communication, which increases customer happiness. And the option to do things that don’t scale — such as help a customer in a unique situation — can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Lesson Learned: Service your customers better by establishing clear internal communications.

5. Remove The Unnecessary

After determining that the industry standard EMC/NetApp/Dell storage servers would be too expensive to build our own cloud storage upon, we decided to build our own infrastructure. Many said we were crazy to compete with these multi-billion dollar companies and that it would be impossible to build a lower cost storage server. However, not only did it prove to not be impossible — it wasn’t even that hard.

One key trick? Remove the unnecessary. While EMC and others built servers to sell to other companies for a wide variety of use cases, Backblaze needed servers that only Backblaze would run, and for a single use case. As a result we could tailor the servers for our needs by removing redundancy from each server (since we would run redundant servers), and using lower-performance components (since we would get high-performance by running parallel servers).

What do your customers and use cases not need? This can trim costs and complexity while often improving the product for your use case.

Lesson Learned: Don’t think “what can we add” to what the giants offer — think “what can we remove.”

6. Be Easy

How many times have you visited a large company website, particularly one that’s not consumer-focused, only to leave saying, “Huh? I don’t understand what you do.” Keeping your website clear, and your product and pricing simple, will dramatically increase conversion and customer satisfaction. If you’re able to make it 2x easier and thus increasing your conversion by 2x, you’ve just allowed yourself to spend ½ as much acquiring a customer.

Providing unlimited data backup wasn’t specifically about providing more storage — it was about making it easier. Since users didn’t know how much data they needed to back up, charging per gigabyte meant they wouldn’t know the cost. Providing unlimited data backup meant they could just relax.

Customers love easy — and being smaller makes easy easier to deliver. Use that as an advantage in your website, marketing materials, pricing, product, and in every other customer interaction.

Lesson Learned: Ease-of-use isn’t a slogan: it’s a competitive advantage. Treat it as seriously as any other feature of your product

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Obviously unnecessary risks are unnecessary, and some risks aren’t worth taking. However, large companies that have given guidance to Wall Street with a $0.01 range on their earning-per-share are inherently going to be very risk-averse. Use risk-tolerance to open up opportunities, and adjust your tolerance level as you scale. In your first year, there are likely an infinite number of ways your business may vaporize; don’t be too worried about taking a risk that might have a 20% downside when the upside is hockey stick growth.

Using consumer-grade hard drives in our servers may have caused pain and suffering for us years down-the-line, but they were priced at approximately 50% of enterprise drives. Giants wouldn’t have considered the option. Turns out, the consumer drives performed great for us.

Lesson Learned: Use calculated risks as an advantage.

8. Be Open

The larger a company grows, the more it wants to hide information. Some of this is driven by regulatory requirements as a public company. But most of this is cultural. Sharing something might cause a problem, so let’s not. All external communication is treated as a critical press release, with rounds and rounds of editing by multiple teams and approvals. However, customers are often desperate for information. Moreover, sharing information builds trust, understanding, and advocates.

I started blogging at Backblaze before we launched. When we blogged about our Storage Pod and open-sourced the design, many thought we were crazy to share this information. But it was transformative for us, establishing Backblaze as a tech thought leader in storage and giving people a sense of how we were able to provide our service at such a low cost.

Over the years we’ve developed a culture of being open internally and externally, on our blog and with the press, and in communities such as Hacker News and Reddit. Often we’ve been asked, “why would you share that!?” — but it’s the continual openness that builds trust. And that culture of openness is incredibly challenging for the giants.

Lesson Learned: Overshare to build trust and brand where giants won’t.

9. Be Human

As companies scale, typically a smaller percent of founders and executives interact with customers. The people who build the company become more hidden, the language feels “corporate,” and customers start to feel they’re interacting with the cliche “faceless, nameless corporation.” Use your humanity to your advantage. From day one the Backblaze About page listed all the founders, and my email address. While contacting us shouldn’t be the first path for a customer support question, I wanted it to be clear that we stand behind the service we offer; if we’re doing something wrong — I want to know it.

To scale it’s important to have processes and procedures, but sometimes a situation falls outside of a well-established process. While we want our employees to follow processes, they’re still encouraged to be human and “try to do the right thing.” How to you strike this balance? Simon Sinek gives a good talk about it: make your employees feel safe. If employees feel safe they’ll be human.

If your customer is a consumer, they’ll appreciate being treated as a human. Even if your customer is a corporation, the purchasing decision-makers are still people.

Lesson Learned: Being human is the ultimate antithesis to the faceless corporation.

Build Culture to Sustain Your Advantages at Scale

Presumably the goal is not to always be competing with giants, but to one day become a giant. Does this mean you’ll lose all of these advantages? Some, yes — but not all. Some of these advantages are cultural, and if you build these into the culture from the beginning, and fight to keep them as you scale, you can keep them as you become a giant.

Tesla still comes across as human, with Elon Musk frequently interacting with people on Twitter. Apple continues to provide great service through their Genius Bar. And, worst case, if you lose these at scale, you’ll still have the other advantages of being a giant such as money, people, scale, resources, and access.

Of course, some new startup will be gunning for you with grand ambitions, so just be sure not to get complacent. 😉

The post How to Compete with Giants appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Court Orders Dozens of “Pirate” Site Domain Seizures

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-orders-dozens-of-pirate-site-domain-seizures-170927/

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, has delivered another strike to pirate sites in the United States.

Last week a federal court in Florida signed a default judgment against 43 websites that offered copyright-infringing streams of ABS-CBN owned movies, including Star Cinema titles.

The order was signed exactly one day after the complaint was filed, in what appears to be a streamlined process.

The media company accused the websites of trademark and copyright infringement by making free streams of its content available without permission. It then asked the court for assistance to shut these sites down as soon as possible.

“Defendants’ websites operating under the Subject Domain Names are classic examples of pirate operations, having no regard whatsoever for the rights of ABS-CBN and willfully infringing ABS-CBN’s intellectual property.

“As a result, ABS-CBN requires this Court’s intervention if any meaningful stop is to be put to Defendants’ piracy,” ABS-CBN wrote.

Instead of a lengthy legal process that can take years to complete, ABS-CBN went for an “ex-parte” request for domain seizures, which means that the websites in question are not notified or involved in the process before the order is issued.

After reviewing the proposed injunction, US District Judge Beth Bloom signed off on it. This means that all the associated registrars must hand over the domain names in question.

“The domain name registrars for the Subject Domain Names shall immediately assist in changing the registrar of record for the Subject Domain Names, to a holding account with a registrar of Plaintiffs’ choosing..,” the order (pdf) reads.

In the days that followed, several streaming-site domains were indeed taken over. Movieonline.io, 1movies.tv, 123movieshd.us, 4k-movie.us, icefilms.ws and others are now linking to a notice page with information about the lawsuit instead.

The notice

Gomovies.es, which is also included, has not been transferred yet, but the operator appears to be aware of the lawsuit as the site now redirects to Gomovies.vg. Other domains, such as Onlinefullmovie.me, Putlockerm.live and Newasiantv.io remain online as well.

While the targeted sites together are good for thousands of daily visitors, they’re certainly not the biggest fish.

That said, the most significant thing about the case is not that these domain names have been taken offline. What stands out is the ability of an ex-parte request from a copyright holder to easily take out dozens of sites in one swoop.

Given ABS-CBN’s legal track record, this is likely not the last effort of this kind. The question now is if others will follow suit.

The full list of targeted domain is as follows.

1 movieonline.io
2 1movies.tv
3 gomovies.es
4 123movieshd.us
5 4k-movie.us
6 desitvflix.net
7 globalpinoymovies.com
8 icefilms.ws
9 jhonagemini.com
10 lambinganph.info
11 mrkdrama.com
12 newasiantv.me
13 onlinefullmovie.me
14 pariwiki.net
15 pinoychannel.live
16 pinoychannel.mobi
17 pinoyfullmovies.net
18 pinoyhdtorrent.com
19 pinoylibangandito.pw
20 pinoymoviepedia.ch
21 pinoysharetv.com
22 pinoytambayanhd.com
23 pinoyteleseryerewind.info
24 philnewsnetwork.com
25 pinoytvrewind.info
26 pinoytzater.com
27 subenglike.com
28 tambayantv.org
29 teleseryi.com
30 thepinoy1tv.com
31 thepinoychannel.com
32 tvbwiki.com
33 tvnaa.com
34 urpinoytv.com
35 vikiteleserye.com
36 viralsocialnetwork.com
37 watchpinoymoviesonline.com
38 pinoysteleserye.xyz
39 pinoytambayan.world
40 lambingan.lol
41 123movies.film
42 putlockerm.live
43 yonip.zone
43 yonipzone.rocks

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

The Data Tinder Collects, Saves, and Uses

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/the_data_tinder.html

Under European law, service providers like Tinder are required to show users what information they have on them when requested. This author requested, and this is what she received:

Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook “likes,” my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened…the list goes on.

“I am horrified but absolutely not surprised by this amount of data,” said Olivier Keyes, a data scientist at the University of Washington. “Every app you use regularly on your phone owns the same [kinds of information]. Facebook has thousands of pages about you!”

As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty. I was amazed by how much information I was voluntarily disclosing: from locations, interests and jobs, to pictures, music tastes and what I liked to eat. But I quickly realised I wasn’t the only one. A July 2017 study revealed Tinder users are excessively willing to disclose information without realising it.

“You are lured into giving away all this information,” says Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University. “Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can’t feel data. This is why seeing everything printed strikes you. We are physical creatures. We need materiality.”

Reading through the 1,700 Tinder messages I’ve sent since 2013, I took a trip into my hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets. Tinder knows me so well. It knows the real, inglorious version of me who copy-pasted the same joke to match 567, 568, and 569; who exchanged compulsively with 16 different people simultaneously one New Year’s Day, and then ghosted 16 of them.

“What you are describing is called secondary implicit disclosed information,” explains Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “Tinder knows much more about you when studying your behaviour on the app. It knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you, and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising.”

Tinder’s privacy policy clearly states your data may be used to deliver “targeted advertising.”

It’s not Tinder. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. Everyone does this.

Australian Government Want ISPs to Adopt Anti-Piracy Code

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-want-isps-to-adopt-anti-piracy-code-170915/

Australia has been struggling to find an adequate response to online piracy for several years, but progress has been slow.

While pirate site blockades are in effect now, an earlier plan to implement a three-strikes anti-piracy regime failed.

Despite this setback, Australian legislators are still determined to tackle widespread copyright infringement. The most recent effort comes through an overhaul of the country’s copyright regulations, with a new proposal (pdf) to adopt a voluntary anti-piracy code.

The code would apply to carriage service providers, including Internet providers, to agree on a joint anti-piracy strategy. The voluntary code should be supported by “broad consensus” and include technical measures that are “used to protect and identify copyright material.”

The proposal further stresses that the anti-piracy measures should be “non-discriminatory.” They also shouldn’t impose “substantial costs” on the service providers or “substantial burdens on their systems or networks.”

The code proposal

The description of the code is quite broad can include a wide variety of measures, including a new iteration of the “strikes” scheme where copyright holders report copyright infringements. A website blocking agreement, which avoids costly court procedures, also belongs to the options.

An accompanying consultation paper published by the Government stresses that any monitoring measures to track infringements should not interfere with the technology used at the originating sites, ZDNet notes.

While the Government pushes copyright holders and ISPs to come to a voluntary agreement, the failed “three strikes” negotiations suggest that this will be easier said than done.

At the time, the Australasian Music Publishers Association (AMPAL) noted that merely warning users did not go far enough. Instead, they recommended a system where ISPs themselves would implement monitoring and filtering technology to stop piracy.

It appears, however, that extensive monitoring and filtering on the ISPs’ networks goes beyond the scope of the proposed regulations. After all, that would be quite costly and place a significant burden on the ISPs.

The proposed regulations are not limited to the anti-piracy code but also specify how Internet providers should process takedown notices, among other things.

Before any changes are implemented or negotiations begin, the Government is first inviting various stakeholders to share their views. While it doesn’t intend to change the main outline, the Government welcomes suggestions to simplify the current proposal where possible.

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

Narcos’ Cali Cartel Threatens to ‘Kill’ Illegal Downloaders

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/narcos-cali-cartel-threatens-to-kill-illegal-downloaders-170912/

Netflix offers a great alternative to piracy, and for dozens of millions of people it’s a favorite pastime.

Since Netflix’s priorities are shifting more to the production of original content, piracy is turning into a more serious problem for the company.

This shows, as the video giant now has an anti-piracy policy that’s on par with many major Hollywood studios. Over the past year, Netflix issued over a million takedown requests to Internet services, but they also target downloaders in a more direct fashion.

Where other Hollywood companies approach pirates with settlement demands or warning letters, Netflix is enlisting the stars of the latest Narcos season, who play the Cali Cartel.

In the message, targeted at the French market, the four drug lords warn people not to download any episodes without permission. Or else..

“Hey you, yes you, do you think you’re smart? Do you think we didn’t see you Googling ‘Narcos season 3 download’? Don’t be a fool. Narcos is a business,” Pepe begins.

“If you want your entertainment. If you want your show. You’re gonna pay the Cali Cartel, ‘hijo de puta’,” Pacho adds, using the strong language one expects from a cartel leader.

The message continues with Miguel referencing the French three-strikes law Hadopi, under which file-sharers received several warnings before facing a possible Internet disconnection. The Cali Cartel doesn’t do courtesy letters, he stresses.

“Do you think we’re like Hadopi? Do you think we’re going to send you a nice and polite letter first? Please, sir / madam, could you please not illegally download Narcos? We don’t do courtesy letters.”

“There is no please, no por favor, no s’il vous plait,” Pepe adds.

Finally, the big boss chimes in delivering the final threat. People who continue to download or point others to “shitty” websites with pop-ups that offer Narcos for free, can expect to meet the bullet.

“There’s bullets for you, your family, and all the people you send to watch Narcos on all those shitty websites full of questionable pop-ups,” Gilberto says.

“You know where to find us. Don’t mess around ‘hijo de puta’,” his brother adds.

While the message is amusing and might even be good PR for the show, one has to wonder whether it will be enough for people to sign up for a subscription. Netflix might be wondering the same, as they are still sending out takedown requests targeting pirate download and streaming sites, just in case.

Narcos “takedown”

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

Cloud Storage Doesn’t have to be Convoluted, Complex, or Confusing

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cloud-storage-pricing-comparison/

business man frustrated over cloud storage pricing

So why do many vendors make it so hard to get information about how much you’re storing and how much you’re being charged?

Cloud storage is fast becoming the central repository for mission critical information, irreplaceable memories, and in some cases entire corporate and personal histories. Given this responsibility, we believe cloud storage vendors have an obligation to be transparent as possible in how they interact with their customers.

In that light we decided to challenge four cloud storage vendors and ask two simple questions:

  1. Can a customer understand how much data is stored?
  2. Can a customer understand the bill?

The detailed results are below, but if you wish to skip the details and the screen captures (TL;DR), we’ve summarized the results in the table below.

Summary of Cloud Storage Pricing Test

Our challenge was to upload 1 terabyte of data, store it for one month, and then download it.

Visibility to Data Stored Easy to Understand Bill Cost
Backblaze B2 Accurate, intuitive display of storage information. Available on demand, and the site clearly defines what has and will be charged for. $25
Microsoft Azure Storage is being measured in KiB, but is billed by the GB. With a calculator, it is unclear how much storage we are using. Available, but difficult to find. The nearly 30 day lag in billing creates business and accounting challenges. $72
Amazon S3 Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored. Available on demand. While there are some line items that seem unnecessary for our test, the bill is generally straight-forward to understand. $71
Google Cloud Service Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored. Available, but provides descriptions in units that are not on the pricing table nor commonly used. $100

Cloud Storage Test Details

For our tests, we choose Backblaze B2, Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s S3, and Google Cloud Storage. Our idea was simple: Upload 1 TB of data to the comparable service for each vendor, store it for 1 month, download that 1 TB, then document and share the results.

Let’s start with most obvious observation, the cost charged by each vendor for the test:

Cost
Backblaze B2 $25
Microsoft Azure $72
Amazon S3 $71
Google Cloud Service $100

Later in this post, we’ll see if we can determine the different cost components (storage, downloading, transactions, etc.) for each vendor, but our first step is to see if we can determine how much data we stored. In some cases, the answer is not as obvious as it would seem.

Test 1: Can a Customer Understand How Much Data Is Stored?

At the core, a provider of a service ought to be able to tell a customer how much of the service he or she is using. In this case, one might assume that providers of Cloud Storage would be able to tell customers how much data is being stored at any given moment. It turns out, it’s not that simple.

Backblaze B2
Logging into a Backblaze B2 account, one is presented with a summary screen that displays all “buckets.” Each bucket displays key summary information, including data currently stored.

B2 Cloud Storage Buckets screenshot

Clicking into a given bucket, one can browse individual files. Each file displays its size, and multiple files can be selected to create a size summary.

B2 file tree screenshot

Summary: Accurate, intuitive display of storage information.

Microsoft Azure

Moving on to Microsoft’s Azure, things get a little more “exciting.” There was no area that we could find where one can determine the total amount of data, in GB, stored with Azure.

There’s an area entitled “usage,” but that wasn’t helpful.

Microsoft Azure cloud storage screenshot

We then moved on to “Overview,” but had a couple challenges.The first issue was that we were presented with KiB (kibibyte) as a unit of measure. One GB (the unit of measure used in Azure’s pricing table) equates to roughly 976,563 KiB. It struck us as odd that things would be summarized by a unit of measure different from the billing unit of measure.

Microsoft Azure usage dashboard screenshot

Summary: Storage is being measured in KiB, but is billed by the GB. Even with a calculator, it is unclear how much storage we are using.

Amazon S3

Next we checked on the data we were storing in S3. We again ran into problems.

In the bucket overview, we were able to identify our buckets. However, we could not tell how much data was being stored.

Amazon S3 cloud storage buckets screenshot

Drilling into a bucket, the detail view does tell us file size. However, there was no method for summarizing the data stored within that bucket or for multiple files.

Amazon S3 cloud storage buckets usage screenshot

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.

Google Cloud Storage (“GCS”)

GCS proved to have its own quirks, as well.

One can easily find the “bucket” summary, however, it does not provide information on data stored.

Google Cloud Storage Bucket screenshot

Clicking into the bucket, one can see files and the size of an individual file. However, no ability to see data total is provided.

Google Cloud Storage bucket files screenshot

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.

Test 1 Conclusions

We knew how much storage we were uploading and, in many cases, the user will have some sense of the amount of data they are uploading. However, it strikes us as odd that many vendors won’t tell you how much data you have stored. Even stranger are the vendors that provide reporting in a unit of measure that is different from the units in their pricing table.

Test 2: Can a Customer Understand The Bill?

The cloud storage industry has done itself no favors with its tiered pricing that requires a calculator to figure out what’s going on. Setting that aside for a moment, one would presume that bills would be created in clear, auditable ways.

Backblaze

Inside of the Backblaze user interface, one finds a navigation link entitled “Billing.” Clicking on that, the user is presented with line items for previous bills, payments, and an estimate for the upcoming charges.

Backblaze B2 billing screenshot

One can expand any given row to see the the line item transactions composing each bill.

Backblaze B2 billing details screenshot

Summary: Available on demand, and the site clearly defines what has and will be charged for.

Azure

Trying to understand the Azure billing proved to be a bit tricky.

On August 6th, we logged into the billing console and were presented with this screen.

Microsoft Azure billing screenshot

As you can see, on Aug 6th, billing for the period of May-June was not available for download. For the period ending June 26th, we were charged nearly a month later, on July 24th. Clicking into that row item does display line item information.

Microsoft Azure cloud storage billing details screenshot

Summary: Available, but difficult to find. The nearly 30 day lag in billing creates business and accounting challenges.

Amazon S3

Amazon presents a clean billing summary and enables users to “drill down” into line items.

Going to the billing area of AWS, one can survey various monthly bills and is presented with a clean summary of billing charges.

AWS billing screenshot

Expanding into the billing detail, Amazon articulates each line item charge. Within each line item, charges are broken out into sub-line items for the different tiers of pricing.

AWS billing details screenshot

Summary: Available on demand. While there are some line items that seem unnecessary for our test, the bill is generally straight-forward to understand.

Google Cloud Storage (“GCS”)

This was an area where the GCS User Interface, which was otherwise relatively intuitive, became confusing.

Going to the Billing Overview page did not offer much in the way of an overview on charges.

Google Cloud Storage billing screenshot

However, moving down to the “Transactions” section did provide line item detail on all the charges incurred. However, similar to Azure introducing the concept of KiB, Google introduces the concept of the equally confusing Gibibyte (GiB). While all of Google’s pricing tables are listed in terms of GB, the line items reference GiB. 1 GiB is 1.07374 GBs.

Google Cloud Storage billing details screenshot

Summary: Available, but provides descriptions in units that are not on the pricing table nor commonly used.

Test 2 Conclusions

Clearly, some vendors do a better job than others in making their pricing available and understandable. From a transparency standpoint, it’s difficult to justify why a vendor would have their pricing table in units of X, but then put units of Y in the user interface.

Transparency: The Backblaze Way

Transparency isn’t easy. At Backblaze, we believe in investing time and energy into presenting the most intuitive user interfaces that we can create. We take pride in our heritage in the consumer backup space — servicing consumers has taught us how to make things understandable and usable. We do our best to apply those lessons to everything we do.

This philosophy reflects our desire to make our products usable, but it’s also part of a larger ethos of being transparent with our customers. We are being trusted with precious data. We want to repay that trust with, among other things, transparency.

It’s that spirit that was behind the decision to publish our hard drive performance stats, to open source the infrastructure that is behind us having the lowest cost of storage in the industry, and also to open source our erasure coding (the math that drives a significant portion of our redundancy for your data).

Why? We believe it’s not just about good user interface, it’s about the relationship we want to build with our customers.

The post Cloud Storage Doesn’t have to be Convoluted, Complex, or Confusing appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Piracy ‘Disaster’ Strikes The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-disaster-strikes-the-hitmans-bodyguard-170829/

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an action comedy movie featuring Hollywood stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.

While this hasn’t been a great summer at the box office, the makers of the film can’t complain as they’ve taken the top spot two weeks in a row. While this is reason for a small celebration, the fun didn’t last for long.

A few days ago several high-quality copies of the film started to appear on various pirate sites. While movie leaks happen every day, it’s very unusual that it happens just a few days after the theatrical release. In several countries including Australia, China, and Germany, it hasn’t even premiered yet.

Many pirates appear to be genuinely surprised by the early release as well, based on various comments. “August 18 was the premiere, how did you do this magic?” one downloader writes.

“OK, this was nothing short of perfection. 8 days post theatrical release… perfect 1080p clarity… no hardcoded subs… English translation AND full English subs… 5.1 audio. Does it get any better?” another commenter added.

The pirated copies of the movie are tagged as a “Web-DL” which means that they were ripped from an online streaming service. While the source is not revealed anywhere, the movie is currently available on Netflix in Japan, which makes it a likely candidate.

Screenshot of the leak

While the public often call for a simultaneous theatrical and Internet release, the current leak shows that this might come with a significant risk.

It’s clear that The Hitman’s Bodyguard production company Millennium Films is going to be outraged. The company has taken an aggressive stance against piracy in recent years. Among other things, it demanded automated cash settlements from alleged BitTorrent pirates and is also linked to various ‘copyright troll’ lawsuits.

Whether downloaders of The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be pursued as well has yet to be seen. For now, there is still plenty of interest from pirates. The movie was the most downloaded title on BitTorrent last week and is still doing well.

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

Military Robots as a Nature Analog

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/military_robots.html

This very interesting essay looks at the future of military robotics and finds many analogs in nature:

Imagine a low-cost drone with the range of a Canada goose, a bird that can cover 1,500 miles in a single day at an average speed of 60 miles per hour. Planet Earth profiled a single flock of snow geese, birds that make similar marathon journeys, albeit slower. The flock of six-pound snow geese was so large it formed a sky-darkening cloud 12 miles long. How would an aircraft carrier battlegroup respond to an attack from millions of aerial kamikaze explosive drones that, like geese, can fly hundreds of miles? A single aircraft carrier costs billions of dollars, and the United States relies heavily on its ten aircraft carrier strike groups to project power around the globe. But as military robots match more capabilities found in nature, some of the major systems and strategies upon which U.S. national security currently relies — perhaps even the fearsome aircraft carrier strike group — might experience the same sort of technological disruption that the smartphone revolution brought about in the consumer world.

jSQL – Automatic SQL Injection Tool In Java

Post Syndicated from Darknet original http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/darknethackers/~3/vEsd_Exo0S0/

jSQL is an automatic SQL Injection tool written in Java, it’s lightweight and supports 23 kinds of database. It is free, open source and cross-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X) and is easily available in Kali, Pentest Box, Parrot Security OS, ArchStrike or BlackArch Linux. Features Automatic injection of 23 kinds of databases: Access CockroachDB…

Read the full post at darknet.org.uk

ESET Tries to Scare People Away From Using Torrents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerabilities in Car Washes

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/vulnerabilities_6.html

Articles about serious vulnerabilities in IoT devices and embedded systems are now dime-a-dozen. This one concerns Internet-connected car washes:

A group of security researchers have found vulnerabilities in internet-connected drive-through car washes that would let hackers remotely hijack the systems to physically attack vehicles and their occupants. The vulnerabilities would let an attacker open and close the bay doors on a car wash to trap vehicles inside the chamber, or strike them with the doors, damaging them and possibly injuring occupants.

China Says It Will “Severely Strike” Websites Involved in Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-says-it-will-severely-strike-websites-involved-in-piracy-170729/

When it comes to the protection of intellectual property, China is often viewed as one of the world’s leading scofflaws. Everything is copied in the country, from designer watches to cars. Not even major landmarks can escape the replica treatment.

In more recent times, however, there have been signs that China might be at least warming to the idea that IP protection should be given more priority.

For example, every few months authorities announce a new crackdown on Internet piracy, such as the “Jian Wang 2016” program which shuttered 290 piracy websites in the final six months of last year.

Maintaining the same naming convention, this week China’s National Copyright Administration revealed the new “Jian Wang 2017” anti-piracy program. During a meeting in Beijing attended by other state bodies, copyright groups, rights organizations, and representatives from the news media, the administration detailed its latest plans.

The anti-piracy program will focus on protecting the copyrights of the film, television, and news industries in China. Infringing websites, e-commerce and cloud storage services, social networks, plus mobile Internet applications will all be put under the spotlight, with authorities investigating and prosecuting major cases.

The program, which will run for the next four months, has a mission to improve compliance in three key areas.

The first aims to assist the film and TV industries by cracking down on ‘pirate’ websites, the unlawful use of file-sharing software, plus “forum communities and other channels that supply infringing film and television works.”

Also on the cards is a blitz against users of the hugely popular social media and instant messaging app, WeChat.

Released in 2011, WeChat now has more than 930 million users, some of which use the platform to republish news articles without permission from creators. Chinese authorities want to reduce this activity, noting that too many articles are stripped from their sources and reproduced on personal blogs and similar platforms.

The second area for attention is the booming market for pirate apps. Chinese authorities say that cracked app stores and the software they provide are contributing to a huge rise in the unlawful spread of films, TV shows, music, news and other literature. Set-top boxes that utilize such apps will also be targeted in the crackdown.

Finally, there will be a “strengthening of copyright supervision” on large-scale e-commerce platforms that supply audio and video products, eBooks, and other publications. Cloud storage platforms will also be subjected to additional scrutiny, as these are often used to share copyright works without permission.

What kind of effect the program will have on overall copyrighted content availability will remain to be seen, but if previous patterns are maintained, the National Copyright Administration should reveal the results of its blitz in December.

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

Just How Risky is Internet Piracy in 2017?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/just-how-risky-is-internet-piracy-in-2017-170715/

The world’s largest entertainment companies in the spheres of music, movies, and gaming would jump for joy if the Internet piracy phenomenon came to a crashing halt tomorrow. (Spoiler: it won’t)

As a result, large sums of money are expended every day in an effort to keep unlawful distribution under control. Over the years there have been many strategies and several of these have involved targeting end users.

The world is a very big place and the tackling of piracy differs from region to region, but what most consumers of unauthorized media want to know is whether they’re putting themselves at risk.

The short answer is that no matter where people are, there is always some level of risk attached to obtaining and using pirate content. The long answer is more nuanced.

BitTorrent and other P2P protocols

By its very nature, using BitTorrent to access copyrighted content comes with a risk. Since downloaders are also distributors and their IP addresses are necessarily public, torrent users are extremely easy to track. In fact, with a minimum of equipment, any determined rightsholder is able spot and potentially uncover the identity of a file-sharer.

But while basic BitTorrent sharing gets a 0/10 for privacy, that’s a bit like saying that a speeding car gets 0/10 for stealth. Like the speeding car, anyone can see the pirating torrent user, but the big question is whether there’s anyone around who intends to do anything about it.

The big surprise in 2017 is that users are still statistically unlikely to face any consequences.

In the United States, for example, where copyright trolling can be a serious issue for those who get caught up in the net, the problem still only affects a tiny, tiny proportion of pirates. A one percent risk of getting snared would be overstating the risk but these are still odds that any gambler would be happy to take.

Surprisingly, pirates are also less likely to encounter a simple friendly warning than they were last year too. The “Six Strikes” Copyright Alerts System operated by the MPAA and RIAA, that set out to advise large volumes of pirates using notices sent via their ISPs, was discontinued in January. Those behind it gave in, for reasons unknown.

This means that millions of torrent users – despite exposing their IP addresses in public while sharing copyrighted content – are doing so without significant problems. Nevertheless, large numbers are also taking precautions, by using anonymization technologies including VPNs.

That’s not to say that their actions are legal – they’re not – but outside the few thousand people caught up in trolls’ nets each year, the vast and overwhelming majority of torrent users (which number well over 100 million) are pirating with impunity.

In the UK, not even trolling is a problem anymore. After a few flurries that seemed to drag on longer than they should, copyright trolls appear to have left the country for more lucrative shores. No cases have gone through the courts in recent times which means that UK users are torrenting pretty much whatever they like, with no legal problems whatsoever.

It’s important to note though, that their actions aren’t going unnoticed. Unlike the United States, the UK has a warning system in place. This means that a few thousand customers of a handful of ISPs are receiving notices each month informing them that their piratey behavior has been monitored by an entertainment company.

Currently, however, there are no punishments for those who are ‘caught’, even when they’re accused of pirating on a number of occasions. At least so far, it seems that the plan is to worry pirates into submission and in some cases that will probably work. Nevertheless, things can easily change when records are being kept on this scale.

Germany aside (which is overrun with copyright trolling activity), a handful of other European countries have also endured relatively small troll problems (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) but overall, file-sharers go about their business as usual across the continent. There are no big projects in any country aiming to punish large numbers of BitTorrent users and only France has an active warning notice program.

Canada and Australia have also had relatively small problems with copyright trolls (the former also has a fairly toothless ISP warning system) but neither country is considered a particularly ‘dangerous’ place to share files using BitTorrent. Like the United States, UK, and Europe, the chances of getting prosecuted for infringement are very small indeed.

Why such little enforcement?

There are a number of reasons for the apparent lack of interest in BitTorrent users but a few bubble up to the top. Firstly, there’s the question of resources required to tackle millions of users. Obviously, some scare tactics could be deployed by hitting a few people hard, but it feels like most companies have moved beyond that thinking.

That’s partly due to the more recent tendency of entertainment groups and governments to take a broader view of infringement, hitting it at its source by strangling funds to pirate sites, hitting their advertisers, blocking their websites, and attempting to forge voluntary anti-piracy schemes with search engines.

It’s also worth noting that huge numbers of people are routinely protecting themselves with VPN-like technology, which allows them to move around the Internet with much improved levels of privacy. Just recently, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp partly blamed this for falling revenues.

Importantly, however, the nature of infringement has been changing for some time too.

A few years ago, most people were getting their movies and music from torrent sites but now they’re more likely to be obtaining their fix from a streaming source. Accessing the top blockbusters via a streaming site (perhaps via Kodi) is for the most part untraceable, as is grabbing music from one of the hundreds of MP3 portals around today.

But as recent news revealed, why bother with ‘pirate’ sites when people can simply rip music from sites like YouTube?

So-called stream-ripping is now blamed for huge swathes of piracy and as a result, torrent sites get far fewer mentions from anti-piracy groups than they did before.

While still a thorn in their side, it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that torrent sites are no longer considered the primary problem they once were, at least in respect of music. Now, the ‘Value Gap‘ is more of a headache.

So, in a nutshell, the millions of people obtaining and sharing copyrighted content using BitTorrent are still taking some risks in every major country, and those need to be carefully weighed.

The activity is illegal almost everywhere, punishable in both civil and criminal courts, and has the potential to land people with big fines and even a jail sentence, if the scale of sharing is big enough.

In truth, however, the chances of the man in the street getting caught are so slim that many people don’t give the risks a second thought. That said, even people who drive 10mph over the limit get caught once in a while, so those that want to keep a clean sheet online often get a VPN and reduce the risks to almost 0%.

For people who stream, life is much less complicated. Streaming movies, TV shows or music from an illicit source is untraceable by any regular means, which up to now has made it almost 100% safe. Notably, there hasn’t been a single prosecution of a user who streamed infringing content anywhere in the world. In the EU it is illegal though, so something might happen in future, potentially…..possibly…..at some point….maybe.

And here’s the thing. While this is the general position today, the ‘market’ is volatile and has the ability to change quickly. A case could get filed in the US or UK next week, each targeting 50,000 BitTorrent users for downloading something that came out months ago. Nobody knows for sure so perhaps the best analogy is the one drummed into kids during high-school sex education classes.

People shouldn’t put themselves at risk at all but if they really must, they should take precautions. If they don’t, they could easily be the unlucky one and that is nearly always miserable.

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

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

Balancing Convenience and Privacy

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/privacy-vs-convenience/

balancing convenience and privacy

In early January of this year, in a conference room with a few other colleagues, we were at a point where we needed to decide how to balance convenience and privacy for our customers. The context being our team earnestly finalizing and prioritizing the launch features of our revamped Business Backup product. In the process, we introduced a piece of functionality that we call “Groups.” A Group is a mechanism that centralizes payment and simplifies management for multiple Backblaze users in a given organization or business. As with many services there were tradeoffs, but this one proved thornier than most.

The Trade-off Between Convenience and Privacy

The problem started as we considered the possibility of having a “Managed” Group. The concept is simple enough: Centralized billing is good, but there are clear use cases where a user would like to have someone act on their behalf. For instance, a business may want a System Administrator to create/manage restores on behalf of a group of employees. We have had many instances of someone from the home office ordering a hard drive restore for an employee in the field. Similarly, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) might provide, and potentially charge for, the service of creating/managing restores for their customers. In short, the idea of having an Administrator manage a defined collection of users (i.e. a Group) was compelling and added a level of convenience.

Great. It’s decided then, we need to introduce the concept of a Managed Group. And we’ll also have Unmanaged Groups. You can have infinite Groups of either kind, we’ll let the user decide!

Here’s the problem: The Managed Group feature could have easily been used for evil. For example, an overeager Administrator could restore an employee’s files, at anytime, for any reason – legitimate or nefarious. This felt wrong as we’re a backup company, not spyware company.

This is when the discussion got more interesting. By adding a convenience feature, we realized that there was potential for user privacy to be violated. As we worked through the use cases, we faced potential conflict between two of our guiding principles:

  • Make backup astonishingly easy. Whether you are a individual, family, or business (or some combination), we want to make your life easier.
  • Don’t be evil. With great data storage comes great responsibility. We are the custodians of sensitive data and take that seriously.

So how best to balance a feature that customers clearly want while enabling sane protections for all users? It was an interesting question internally – one where a fair amount of meetings, hallway conversations, and email exchanges were conducted in order to get it right.

Enabling Administration While Safeguarding Team Privacy

Management can be turned on for any Group at the time of Group Creation. As mentioned above, one Administrator can have as many Groups as desired and those Groups can be a mix of Managed and Unmanaged.

But there’s an interesting wrinkle – if Management is enabled, potential members of that Group are told that the feature is enabled before they join the Group.

Backblze for Business Group Invite

We’ve, in plain terms, disclosed what is happening before the person starts backing up. If you read that and choose to start backing up, then you have been armed with full information.

Unfortunately, life isn’t that cut and dry. What if your company selected Backblaze and insists that everyone join the Group? Sure, you were told there are Administrators. Fine, my Administrator is supposed to act in the constructive interest of the Group. But what if the Admin is, as the saying goes, “for badness”?

Our solution, while seemingly innocuous, felt like it introduced a level of transparency and auditability that made us comfortable moving forward. Before an Administrator can do a restore on a Group Member’s behalf, the Admin is presented with a pop up that looks like this:

Backblaze for Business Restore Notification

If the Admin is going to create a restore on a user’s behalf, then that user will be notified of the activity. A less than well intentioned Admin will have some reluctance if he knows the user will receive an email. Since permission for this type of activity was granted when the individual joined the Group, we do allow the Admin to proceed with the restore operation without further approval (convenience).

However, the user will get notified and can raise any questions or concerns as desired. There are no false positives, if the user gets an email, that means an Admin was going to restore data from the user’s account. In addition, because the mechanism is email, it creates an audit trail for the company. If there are users that don’t want the alerts, we recommend simply creating an email filter rule and putting them into a folder (in case some day you did want them).

Customer Adoption

The struggle for us was to strike the right balance between privacy and convenience. Specifically, we wanted to empower our users to set the mix where it is appropriate for them. In the case of Groups, it’s been interesting to see that 93% of Groups are of the “Managed” variety.

More importantly to us, we get consistently good feedback about the notification mechanisms in place. Even for organizations where one Admin may be taking a number of legitimate actions, we’re told that the notifications are appreciated in the spirit that they are intended. We’ll continue to solicit feedback and analyze usage to find ways to improve all of our features. But hearing and seeing customer satisfaction is a positive indicator that we’ve struck the appropriate balance between convenience and privacy.

The late 20th century philosopher, Judge Smails, once posited “the most important decision you can make right now is what do you stand for…? Goodness… or badness?”

We choose goodness. How do you think we did?

The post Balancing Convenience and Privacy appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

RIAA Sues ISP Grande Communications For Failing to Disconnect Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-sues-isp-grande-communications-for-failing-to-disconnect-pirates-170422/

Despite approaching the problem from a number of directions, major copyright holders have been unable to do much to stop millions of BitTorrent-based infringements taking place every day.

A new lawsuit filed by the RIAA against ISP Grande Communications aims to change all that.

Yesterday, UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and almost a dozen other music companies sued the Texas-based provider over the infringements of its subscribers.

“Defendants have been notified that their internet customers have engaged in more than one million infringements of copyrighted works over BitTorrent systems, including tens of thousands of blatant infringements by repeat infringers of Plaintiffs’copyrighted works,” the lawsuit reads.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted
repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence.”

Right from the outset it’s clear that this case has a lot in common with the litigation currently underway against Cox Communications. In that case, Cox was accused by publishing company BMG of not taking significant action against thousands of its customers who persistently shared content using BitTorrent.

Like BMG’s case against Cox, the RIAA’s suit against Grande aims to strip away the protection the ISP normally enjoys under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. By not taking “meaningful action” against repeat infringers, the RIAA says that Grande can be held liable for the copyright infringements of its customers.

“Neither Grande or its management company Patriot has taken any meaningful action to discourage this continuing theft, let alone suspend or terminate subscribers who repeatedly commit copyright infringement through its network, as required by law,” the RIAA writes.

“Upon information and belief, this is so even where Defendants have specific and actual knowledge of those subscribers’ blatant, repeat infringement. Defendants’ effective acquiescence in this wholesale violation of Plaintiffs’ rights, coupled with their failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy to stop repeat infringers, excludes Defendants from the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’).”

The RIAA says that since Grande failed to take action against infringers, especially those identified as repeat infringers, it protected a “significant revenue stream” it receives each month from pirating subscribers. As such it is not only liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, but inducement of copyright infringement too.

What’s also interesting about this case is the involvement of anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp. The anti-piracy settlement company is deeply involved in the Cox case having provided the infringement data for the litigation. The same is true of the case against Grande.

It appears that Rightscorp’s claimed expertise in identifying repeat infringers is now central to the case, having had contact with Grande in the past. It seems likely that historical data collected by the company is now proving useful in the RIAA’s case against Grande.

“Rightscorp has provided Grande with notice of specific infringers using Grande’s internet service to infringe various copyrighted works. Rightscorp also requested that Grande terminate the ‘subscribers and account holders’ who are repeat infringers of copyrighted works,” the RIAA writes.

“Despite its knowledge of specific repeat infringers of copyrighted works, Grande apparently refused to do so.”

The RIAA says that Grande received notices that 1,840 of its customers had engaged in infringement at least 100 times, with 456 customers generating 500 infringement notices between them. More than 200 subscribers generated 1000 notices each with some generating more than 2000.

In closing, the RIAA seeks statutory damages, which could go up to $150,000 per infringed work, actual damages, plus profits generated by Grande as a result of infringement. The music group also asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing Grande from further infringement, plus a jury trial in due course.

Having backed away from the so-called “six strikes” scheme earlier this year, the RIAA was left without any effective means to tackle online infringement. It’s now clear that it intends to force Internet service providers to be its unpaid enforcers.

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

Clever ‘Piracy’ App Keeps Celebrity Embarrassments Off YouTube

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/clever-piracy-app-keeps-celebrity-embarrassments-off-youtube-170401/

While regular members of the public are free to grab a McDonalds in old sportswear or visit a store without full makeup, the mere suggestion of such sloppy behavior has the potential to make an A-List celebrity sweat like a PwC accountant at the Oscars.

Indeed, for people like Kanye West or Kim Kardashian, getting mistaken in public for a drunken bum could have catastrophic financial consequences. If annoying members of the public record and then upload such footage to the Internet, sponsors could back away, horrified at how regular they look without Photoshop.

But for those needing to maintain a perfect public image at all times, both in public and on YouTube, all is not lost. A new app being trialed in the US aims to stop interfering ‘citizen journalists’ in their tracks, rendering embarrassing celebrity footage all but useless.

Under development for iOS and Android, the app is made up of two modules. The first is a tool that downloads the most popular pop track of the week (currently Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’) from one of many pirate sites.

The second is a clever piece of coding that allows the track to be played extremely loudly through the phone’s own speaker, but with a novel twist.

Whenever Kim needs to go out without her hair done, all she needs to do is pop her phone in her pocket and activate the app. The software then transposes the pirate audio to surpass 15 kHz, beyond the normal range of human hearing but within reach of recording equipment utilized by the public.

It’s at this stage the app comes into its own. As soon as the potentially embarrassing footage is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, the site’s recently upgraded Content ID system swings into action.

Completely unfazed by the massive shift in pitch, YouTube’s filtering system spots the pirate song playing in the background and flags the video as a copyright infringement. Thanks to a less tolerant approach to infringers, it’s immediately taken off the site, keeping the celebrity’s image intact.

At the moment the app is being trialed by a few hand-picked public figures who are said to be particularly image-conscious. Their feedback has been largely positive, with a number asking for specific enhancements.

One nameless politician, who has been caught on camera a number of times saying inappropriate things about women, inquired whether the app could be upgraded to play a quickly medley of three or four songs instead of just one. This would ensure that people lose their YouTube account under the site’s tightened three-strike rule. Take that.

Looking towards the possibility of a future takedown/staydown regime, another tester suggested that rather than culling pirate tracks from the Internet, the app could play a unique sequence of notes previously copyrighted by the celebrity.

Once that ‘tune’ has been registered with YouTube’s Content ID, it would be trivial for the public figure to have the app rolling on his or her phone all the time. This would enable them to be excluded from YouTube on a permanent basis, perfect for the politician who likes to act with impunity.

A video of the app in action can be found here.

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

Third of EU Citizens OK With Piracy When There Are No Legal Options

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/third-of-eu-citizens-ok-with-piracy-when-there-are-no-legal-options-170327/

The European Union Intellectual Property Office has published the findings of a new study commissioned from Deloitte which aims to better understand how EU citizens perceive intellectual property issues.

The report is the product of 26,500 interviews with citizens aged 15 and over and paints a fairly positive picture for rightsholders and other businesses that rely on the exploitation of intellectual property.

The striking headline figure is that 97% of respondents believe that content creators should be able to protect their rights in order to get paid for their work. Alongside almost total support for IP rights, an impressive 83% indicate they would prefer to access digital content through legal services when there is an affordable option available.

Across the EU, just 10% of respondents said they’d deliberately obtained content from illegal sources during the past 12 months, a figure that jumps to 27% among 15 to 24-year-olds. A similar survey carried out in 2013 produced close to the same results.

But while 10% is the average percentage of pirates across all EU countries, several major EU members buck the trends in interesting ways.

France, for example, has many years’ experience of the state-sponsored Hadopi “three strikes” anti-piracy program. With millions of notices sent to ISP subscribers, the program was supposed to educate citizens away from piracy. However, 15% of French citizens admit to downloading or streaming from illegal sources, five percentage points higher than the EU average.

In Germany, where copyright trolls have been running rampant for many years and claiming a deterrent effect, just 7% say they download or stream from illegal sources. While this figure lower than the EU average might seem the logical conclusion, the same percentage is shared with Italy where there is no trolling or state-sponsored anti-piracy scheme.

In Spain, a country that is trying to shake off a reputation of being a piracy haven, 16% of citizens admit to online piracy. That’s double the 8% of UK citizens who admit to consuming unauthorized content online.

As usual, however, there are significant gray areas when it comes to content consumption and whether or not people can be labeled as hardcore pirates.

Just under a third (32%) of the those surveyed said they access content online, whether that’s from a legal or illegal source. Under a quarter (22%) say they use only authorized services. Just 5% use illegal sources alone and 5% said they use a mix of paid lawful and illegal sources.

“This suggests that respondents are willing to switch between legal and illegal sources in order to gain access to content,” the study found.

Also of interest are the significant numbers of citizens who feel that piracy is acceptable under particular sets of circumstances.

A not insignificant 35% of respondents said that it’s acceptable to obtain content illegally as long as it’s only for personal use. Since millions of citizens are already taxed via a private copying levy, the notion that copying for yourself is acceptable shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, although the charge itself applies to blank media, not illegal downloads.

Interestingly, close to a third (31%) believe that it’s acceptable to obtain content illegally if there are no immediately available legal alternatives. So, if a distributor chooses to bring content late to a region or makes content otherwise difficult to obtain, millions believe it’s ok for citizens to help themselves. While that’s probably a concern for rightsholders, it’s a problem that can be fixed.

Overall, an encouraging 71% of pirate respondents said they would stop obtaining content from illegal sources if there was an accessible and affordable legal alternative. Around 20% said they would not necessarily go legal, even if there was an available and affordable option.

“The availability of affordable content from legal offers as the top reason for stopping the behavior is most strongly cited by respondents in the following categories: respondents aged 25 to 39 (74 %), employed (76 %), living in large urbanized cities (75 %), and the most educated (72 %), which is in line with the profile of a typical online user,” the survey notes.

Close to 30% believe that being better informed could help them back away from illegal sources while just 5% said they could never be stopped, no matter what.

But while many consumers want to “do the right thing”, there appears to be confusion when it comes to assessing whether an online service is legal or not. Almost a quarter (24%) of Europeans surveyed said they’d questioned whether an online source was legal, a five-point increase over the earlier 2013 study.

That being said, there’s a perception that legal services can provide a better product. When comparing the quality of content offered on legal and illegal platforms, 69% said that licensed services come out on top, an opinion shared by illegal downloaders and legal consumers alike.

However, when it comes to diversity of content, just over half of respondents (56%) said that legal services do a better job, a figure that drops to 45% among those who illegally download some content. Making a broader range of content available online could address this particularly lukewarm response.

António Campinos, Executive Director of EUIPO, said that the results of the survey show that EU citizens generally have respect for intellectual property but there is still room for improvement.

“Overall, we see that support for IP rights is high among EU citizens,” he said.

“But we also see that more needs to be done to help young people in particular understand the importance of IP to our economy and society, especially now, when encouraging innovation and creativity is increasingly the focus of economic policy across our European Union.”

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Police Investigate Former BPI Anti-Piracy Chief & PIPCU Board Member

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-investigate-former-bpi-anti-piracy-chief-pipcu-board-member-170317/

In December 2015, it was reported that the BPI’s Content Protection and Internet Investigations unit leaders would be leaving.

The music group said that the restructuring would enable it to better focus on the task ahead but with long-standing employees David Wood and John Hodge both departing the BPI, it certainly felt like there may have been more to the story.

To be absolutely clear, Hodge’s voluntary departure appears to have been both unconnected to Wood’s and completely benign, with no suggestion of impropriety. However, it now transpires that the story with Wood was much more complex.

After serving 15 years in the police force where he reached the rank of detective, David Wood left West Yorkshire Police in May 2002. Soon after, he began work at the BPI where he remained for the next 13 years, reaching the lofty position of Director of Copyright Protection at his peak.

Wood’s role saw him speaking to the media on many occasions, often decrying the dishonesty of Internet pirates and welcoming lengthy jail sentences as a suitable deterrent. This position eventually led him to the corridors of power at City of London Police.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood became a senior figure within the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) after it was set up in May 2013. He states that he held a stakeholder position on PIPCU’s Management Board and was instrumental in the development of Operation Creative, the UK’s groundbreaking anti-piracy initiative. At some point, however, it all went wrong.

TorrentFreak has learned that while John Hodge’s departure from his role as Head of Internet Investigations at the BPI was his own choice (he served out an orderly notice at a later point and appears to have left on amicable terms), Wood’s earlier and entirely unrelated exit was not a voluntary affair.

According to our sources, Wood and the BPI had – and continue to have – a major dispute over the alleged misappropriation of the latter’s funds. This led to Wood’s dismissal from the company.

In fact, the allegations were so serious that the BPI decided to report the matter to the police, a claim that was confirmed this week when we spoke to the music group.

“BPI can confirm that a former employee, David Wood, was dismissed for gross misconduct in December 2015,” a BPI spokesperson told TF.

“BPI has referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police who are investigating. As investigations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment in any more detail at this stage.”

TorrentFreak sources indicate that very large sums of money are involved in the dispute, running well into six figures. Precise details have proven impossible to verify (the BPI declined to comment) but we understand the numbers involved are “significant”. What we do know for sure, however, is that the BPI felt it necessary to pursue Woods into bankruptcy.

In a bankruptcy petition filed against Woods on November 7, 2016, the BPI is listed as the petitioner. The bankruptcy order itself was granted on January 4, 2017 and was listed in the London Gazette.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood left the BPI in December 2015 and joined a new company, OCAP Ltd, during the same month. Records at the UK’s Companies House reveal that Wood and another individual set the company up as directors during August 2015, months before Wood was dismissed from the BPI.

Archival copies of OCAP’s website reveal that the company was involved in the IP enforcement market, a logical move for Wood considering his history.

“Online Copyright Auditing and Protection (OCAP) is a unique company which specializes in bespoke intellectual property (IP) protection,” a notice on the now-defunct site read.

“Our services help not only brands but law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt those intent on unlawfully exploiting other’s IP Rights. OCAP Ltd also has access to specialist trainers in online investigations and in the field of Anti Money laundering for which we can arrange bespoke training sessions.”

Given the police investigation confirmed by the BPI, the OCAP site surprisingly listed City of London Police – whose PIPCU unit Wood was heavily involved in – as “just one example of a client that trusts us to deliver solutions to their big data problems.”

Now, however, OCAP Ltd is drawing its final breaths. During January and following his bankruptcy, Wood filed an application to strike the company off the register. If there are no further interventions, the company will cease to exist in April 2017 having never filed any accounts.

TorrentFreak attempted to contact Wood for comment, but emails to his listed addresses ultimately bounced.

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