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    Pirate IPTV Supplier Raided By Spain’s National Police, Seven Arrested

    Spain's National Police say they have dismantled a criminal network involved the supply of pirated audiovisual and television content across the country. Following six raids, seven individuals were arrested under suspicion of operating an unlicensed IPTV and card-sharing service that, according to the authorities, caused rightsholders almost 12 million euros in damages during the last year alone.

    With pirate IPTV services still managing to capture the imaginations of people looking for a premium TV package at a fraction of the usual cost, authorities across Europe and the United States continue to crack down.

    Spain has carried out a number of enforcement actions over the past several years and this week the country’s National Police added another scalp to its collection.

    The investigation reportedly began in May 2019 following a criminal complaint filed by EGEDA, a non-profit association and collection society that manages the rights of audiovisual producers. The group sought police action against local supplier Comprarccam, a pirate IPTV supplier that also appears to have offered card-sharing subscriptions.

    According to a police report, initial inquiries determined that the group, which advertised and sold its services via a website and social networks, serviced at least 15,000 customers in Spain. Its two leaders were identified and then traced to the cities of Salamanca and Zamora.

    The dismantling of the service was reportedly actioned in two phases, one during February which netted documentation and accounts and then a second during March. The operation ended with searches carried out on six locations, during which seven individuals were arrested in various areas of the country – two in Zamora and Salamanca, one in Córdoba, three in Valencia and another in Málaga.

    The individuals were detained under suspicion of a range of offenses including intellectual property crimes and telecommunications fraud. During the raids, police seized numerous items of computer equipment and mobile phones, around 11,000 euros in cash, plus seven gold bars.

    At the time of the searches, police also disconnected a total of 5,673 users from the pirate service, closed down the group’s website, and froze online payment and related bank accounts.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/comp...7482006333.png

    “This is the most important operation of this type in Castilla y León [community in the north-west of the country] and one of the most important carried out to date in Spain,” the National Police said in a statement.

    “It has dealt a blow to the illegal distribution of audiovisual and television content throughout Spain through closed groups on social networks, which greatly hinder this type of investigation due to the anonymity that their use confer.

    “Anonymity was increased due to the fact that the main instigators used the identities of third parties without their knowledge, to appear as the owners of the phones and accounts in the financial institutions they used.”

    Police estimate that during the last year alone, the pirate IPTV operation cost rightsholders around 11.8 million euros in revenue, with the country’s treasury losing out on more than 3.14 million euros in taxes.

    However, this appears to presume that all 15,000 subscribers would have paid around 800 euros a year to official suppliers for the same kind of service, had they not had access to a vastly cheaper offering that almost certainly gave them a broader range of content too.

    Torrentfreak.com

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    ‘Popcorn Time Kids’ Launches to Keep Children Occupied During COVID-19 Pandemic

    Keeping children occupied during the global coronavirus pandemic is a daily struggle for millions of parents around the world. Services like Netflix and Disney+ are obvious entertainment choices but there are other, less legal options too. A popular fork of the famous Popcorn Time software has now released a special edition - Popcorn Time Kids - which only offers family-friendly movies and TV shows.

    With many countries now into their second month of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, people all around the world now consider entertainment platforms as essential services.

    This week, for example, Netflix announced that it had signed up 15.77 million new subscribers during the last three months, more than double the 7 million it previously expected. Disney’s streaming platform Disney+ has also hit the jackpot, doubling its subscriber base to 50 million since February.

    As one might expect, piracy levels have gone up too. Interest in pirate sites increased in March and aglobal surge was evident in early April, increasing broadly in line with countries’ lockdown measures.

    One of the many tools contributing to this surge is Popcorn Time. After storming the scene in 2014 and impressing with its ground-breaking Netflix-style interface, it drew an audience of millions. Since then improvements to its multiple variants have been incremental rather than ground-breaking but one Popcorn Time fork has now released Popcorn Time Kids, an app that only presents family-friendly content to the user.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/popcorntimekidsss.png

    According to the team behind the app, they recently noticed a surge in demand, something they attribute to people being in quarantine.

    “The amount of love and thankfulness we’ve received from our millions of users in recent weeks was overwhelming! And taking the risk of sounding corny – they really touched us. We understood suddenly how much this project meant not only to us, but to millions of people from all over the world,” a developer told TF.

    “Out of all the enthusiastic responses, we received thousands(!) of emails from parents asking for something so obvious, a family-friendly version of Popcorn Time!”

    The resulting Popcorn Time Kids software is essentially a version of the regular app but with filters that aim to remove all content unsuitable for the younger viewer.

    “Popcorn Time Kids provides a more contained environment for kids and is designed to help parents and guardians keep their kids entertained as they spend most of their time at home. PT Kids library is filled with a variety of the best family-friendly movies and shows from the broader universe of content on Popcorn Time,” the team add.

    While there have been Kodi-addons that have catered directly to a younger audience in the past, it is relatively unusual to see an app targeted directly at children. In a way, of course, the app seems designed to appeal to adults who might enjoy not having to keep worrying about the type of content their kids might be viewing.

    Popcorn Time Kids will no doubt prove attractive to a certain subset of users but being BitTorrent-based, it comes with the usual caveats. While streaming copyrighted content can be illegal depending on jurisdiction, users will be uploading at the same time, an act that is illegal almost everywhere on the planet. The threat can be mitigated with a VPN but ensuring that stays on in the hands of a seven-year-old sounds like Russian roulette.

    There can be little doubt that plenty of broke and perhaps now unemployed parents will find this kind of app attractive but there is no doubt that copyright holders will not. In many respects then, it’s business as usual, even in these remarkable times.

    Torrentfreak.com

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    YTS Agrees to a Million Dollars in Piracy Settlements and Remains Online

    Popular torrent site YTS has 'settled' another piracy lawsuit, this time with seven movie companies. The site's operator and an associated business agreed to a consent judgment totaling $1,050,000 in damages. YTS removed the relevant movie torrents from the site but remains online. The site's users are not in the clear though, and risk being sued as well.

    Traditionally, when copyright holders go after pirate sites their main mission is to shut them down permanently.

    This strategy has resulted in the demise of thousands of websites over the past decade or so.

    In some cases these shutdowns are easy, only requiring a cease and desist order to be delivered to the owner’s home address. However, there are also prolonged legal battles, such as the one against isoHunt.

    In Hawaii, a group of movie companies, tied to films such as ‘Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ ‘Hunter Killer’ and ‘Mechanic Resurrection,’ has taken a different path. They sued the operator of the popular torrent site YTS.mx last year but are allowing the site to stay online, under certain conditions.

    The tactic previously became public when attorney Kerry Culpepper struck a deal between YTS and other movie companies. This allowed YTS to stay online as long as it paid damages and made sure that their films were not listed at the torrent site.

    Now, a group of seven related movie companies has agreed to a similar deal. In a consent judgment, signed at the Hawaii federal court a few days ago, the torrent site operators agreed to pay $150,000 to each company, which amounts to a total of $1,050,000 in damages.

    The consent judgment lists a person named Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo as the YTS operators. In addition to paying over $1 million in piracy damages, they also agreed to remove the torrents of the movie companies, and prevent these from being reuploaded.

    While a monetary settlement is not unprecedented, it is worth mentioning that YTS is being allowed to continue to operate as usual. Aside from removing torrents that point to the seven movies, nothing appears to have changed. YTS still lists hundreds of other pirated movies.

    This pragmatic stance is understandable. However, it does seem odd, especially considering the recent anti-piracy push from Millenium Media co-president Jonathan Yunger, who urged US Congress towards more stringent anti-piracy legislation.

    “Piracy is an existential threat to our business and the livelihoods of all the individual creatives who work so hard to bring entertainment to audiences,” Yunger told Congress last month.

    This is worth mentioning since Yunger’s company produced many of the movies that are at the base of this lawsuit. In fact, most of the companies that signed a deal with YTS are affiliates of Millenium Media.

    TorrentFreak spoke to attorney Kerry Culpepper, who informed us that his goal is to represent his clients, not the major studios.

    “I don’t represent the larger studios, so I have no authority to make any demands on their behalf to a website. If the piracy website removes my clients’ movies, agrees to adopt filters to keep them from popping back up and agrees to pay damages I consider it a victory.”

    “If those larger studios want me to make a demand on their behalf, they need to hire me,” Culpepper adds.

    YTS.mx today

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/yts2.jpg

    We also do know that these consent judgments are not the end of the story. At least not for YTS users.

    After the first deal was announced a few months ago, the movie companies started filing lawsuits against YTS users. This included some who were using a VPN. The associated complaints further included information that appeared to have come directly from the torrent site’s database.

    So, it’s possible that the rightsholders received more from YTS than money alone. Details from the user database perhaps? That would be in line with earlier enforcement efforts, where the film companies obtained user information from the operator of the piracy app CotoMovies.

    TorrentFreak spoke to the attorney of the movie companies this week who confirmed that YTS users are indeed at risk. However, in recent weeks, no new lawsuits have been filed as far as we can see.

    We will keep a close eye on these and other cases to see if more details emerge.

    In addition to the proposed consent judgment against YTS, the seven movie companies also agreed to a similar deal with the operator of YIFYmovies.is. This torrent site was considerably smaller and shut down months ago, however, the operator also agreed to pay $1,050,000 in damages, on paper.



    : Torrentfreak.com

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    Motion Picture Association Doubles Down on Push for US Pirate Site Blocking

    Responding to questions from US Senators, the Motion Picture Association is stressing that DMCA takedown notices alone don't cut it anymore. The Hollywood group argues that the current legal framework should be complemented with other tools, such as pirate site blocking. The MPA believes that these blockades are highly effective and no danger to free speech, but that idea isn't shared by everyone.

    For a long time, pirate site blocking was regarded as a no-go topic in US politics.

    This was a remnant of the SOPA defeat, which drove copyright holders to focus on blocking efforts in other countries instead, with success.

    Now that nearly a decade has passed, momentum is changing. After Canada became the first North American country to impose a pirate site blockade, the issue is now openly debated on the Hill. Just a few weeks ago, it was the main topic during a Senate subcommittee hearing.

    This hearing was informative but also raised further questions from Senators Tillis, Coons, and Blumenthal, who asked participants to follow up in writing. Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA region, for example, was asked to go into the site-blocking issue in more detail.

    His answers, which have now been published, are carefully worded but clearly suggest that “takedown notices” alone are not effective in stopping piracy. According to the MPA, the standard takedown procedure must be paired with site blocking.

    “The lesson of our experience at the Motion Picture Association is that notice-and-takedown must be complimented [sic] by voluntary proactive measures and other legal tools, such as no-fault injunctive relief,” McCoy writes.

    This experience comes from the various blocking efforts in other countries. These have shown that the process works without significantly affecting the availability of legal content.

    [T]he experiences of numerous jurisdictions that have implemented site blocking to date demonstrate clearly that the remedy is highly effective and has posed no obstacle to innovation, nor has it adversely affected the internet and online services in those countries.

    “Quite the contrary in fact: By curbing piracy, this remedy enhances the opportunity for legitimate services to flourish,” McCoy adds.

    During the Senate hearing, it was stressed that site blocking is already an option in the US. Under DMCA section 512(j), copyright holders can request such an injunction, without making any changes to the current law.

    At the time, MPA’s Stan McCoy said this was a “hypothetical remedy” that may not work, so Senator Tillis asked him to explain what the problem is.

    In his response, McCoy writes that the MPA indeed believes that the relevant DMCA section allows courts to order pirate site blockades. However, the text of the law is not entirely clear on whether ISPs have to be held liable or not.

    “[T]his provision suffers from some drafting ambiguity – including its location within the overall safe harbor regime – and has likely not been used due to concern by rightsholders that the provision might be interpreted as requiring a finding of liability on the part of the ISP,” McCoy responds.

    According to some, this could be fixed by changing the provision to allow for so-called “no-fault” injunctions. However, the MPA understands that legislative change is not easy, so they are also looking for alternative legal options, while also trying to get ISPs and other intermediaries to cooperate voluntarily.

    Throughout his answers, the MPA executive repeats that site blocking is an effective tool. In response to a question from Senator Coons, McCoy confirms that the US can implement a similar framework while providing adequate due process protections and without violating free speech rights.

    “[M]any jurisdictions around the world that share a strong commitment to human rights, including freedom of speech, have implemented site blocking with due process safeguards appropriate to their legal systems,” McCoy writes.

    The responses clearly show that the MPA is continuing to push US lawmakers to consider options for ‘no fault’ site-blocking injunctions in the US.

    The hearing and subsequent questions also included different opinions, however. As highlighted earlier, former Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda stressed that the availability of affordable legal options should be the priority.

    More recently, Daphne Keller of Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center cautioned senators that site blockades have led to negative consequences in other countries, and that foreign standards may prove to be problematic in the US.

    “Whatever attempted safeguards may pass muster under European or international standards for protection of free expression, however, there will likely remain serious questions under the U.S.’s stringent constitutional standards,” Keller cautioned.

    As said before, these recent developments are a clear change compared to previous years, when the site-blocking topic was largely avoided. The question is whether this will result in any concrete legislative proposals.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    Europol Says Pirate IPTV Services Are Upping Their Game During COVID-19

    EU law enforcement agency Europol is warning citizens to stay away from pirate IPTV services during the coronavirus pandemic. While part of the message includes the usual cautions over potential malware and security issues, the agency says that the services are maintaining high-quality video streams and offering a wider range of content due to a lack of sports broadcasts.

    From a standing start just few short years ago, pirate IPTV services are now just a few clicks away for anyone determined to obtain a subscription.

    Packages start at pocket-money prices of just a few dollars, euros, or pounds each month and in return, subscribers are treated to packages that can include up to thousands of otherwise premium channels, plus PPV events.

    One of the big draws is live sporting events, which goes a long way to explaining why companies like the Premier League are determined to disrupt IPTV providers. However, during the more or less global coronavirus lockdown, sports are a major casualty, meaning that everyone from the Premier League to the NBA, NFL and UFC aren’t putting out any new content at all.

    While this is a serious problem for the sports organizations and traditional broadcasters, this week EU law enforcement agency Europol inadvertently pointed out something that looks like a bit of an own goal. Due to the current restrictions, pirate IPTV services are apparently stepping up their game to ensure that subscribing to them remains attractive to the public at large.

    In an advisory covering streaming but majoring on ‘pirate’ IPTV, Europol warned that due to millions of people being locked down, many will turn to online entertainment outlets to cope with social isolation. If that choice involves an illegal service, consumers have at least a couple of things to look forward to.

    “Criminals are quickly adapting their activities, offering high-quality stream while legitimate providers have agreed to reduce stream quality due to EU broadband overload,” Europol writes.

    This is an obvious reference to Netflix which agreed last month to reduce the bitrate of streams for 30 days in an effort to reduce the load on the Internet in Europe. Europol’s aim, it seems, is to portray pirate services as behaving irresponsibly towards the yet-to-emerge Internet capacity crisis. Counter-intuitively, however, it seems to suggest that if people want high-quality video, pirate sources are a good option.

    While pirate suppliers could probably care less about available bandwidth, the vast majority of suppliers don’t provide content in anywhere near the highest quality available via Netflix. Certainly, true 4K streams are so rare as to seem non-existent, so the claim they’re using up too much bandwidth seems a little picky in the scheme of things.

    Additionally, Europol goes on to inadvertently highlight another benefit of using pirate services – content choice. While mainstream subscription TV companies are struggling to fill in the gaps, especially those created by a lack of live sporting content, the EU law enforcement agency claims that pirate suppliers are actually upping their game by offering “more content variety to compensate [for] the lack of sport events.”

    While both of these claims sound like reasons for people to take interest in pirate suppliers rather than stay away, Europol also balances things out with a number of warnings. These take the form of the standard caveats regularly cited by the entertainment industries, including malicious software infecting devices, ‘criminals’ stealing payment credentials, and bank accounts getting compromised.

    As is common with these types of warnings, the standard advice from Europol doesn’t highlight how these things happen or how they can be prevented. The agency simply states that people should stay away from pirate services which would work, as would staying off the Internet completely. However, with most (but not all) users enjoying the benefits trouble-free, the warnings may not have much of an effect. That’s not to say that Europol doesn’t have some genuinely good advice in other areas though.

    While there is no single piece of guidance that covers all streaming apps, the agency warns that people are probably better off not accessing “free IPTV platforms”. They don’t give a specific reason why but it is true that users could do worse than to consider how free IPTV services, usually supplied via apps, are funding their operations.

    Much like free VPNs, there will be a cost somewhere, whether that’s intrusive or lots of advertising or, as Europol points out, potentially crypto-miners or other software that most people would prefer not to have on their machines. But sound advice from the law enforcement agency doesn’t stop there.

    “Don’t share your phone number, email address or contact details with unofficial streaming platforms,” Europol warns.

    While casual users might think that handing over such information is required, it shouldn’t be shared under any circumstances. Whether it’s a ‘reputable’ pirate IPTV supplier or one seeking to monetize free streams, no supplier needs to know a user’s personal details.

    Fake names, phone numbers, temporary email addresses and imaginary physical addresses are never a problem for ‘reputable’ pirate suppliers because they have no interest in any of this information. Many use standard platforms that request it as part of the sign-up process but the information (email address aside) is never used to make contact or deliver goods.

    Equally, providing fake details to a malicious third-party effectively gives them nothing, which is exactly what many savvy users already do with Internet-based services they are unsure of, whether that’s an IPTV provider or anything else for that matter.

    Finally, Europol mentions something that cannot be disputed. While giving money to Netflix means that you will get precisely what you pay for, subscribing to pirate IPTV services directly or through a reseller is always a gamble. Either can disappear at any time taking subscribers’ money with them and many do.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    qBittorrent v4.2.5 has been released

    qBittorrent v4.2.5 was released.
    It contains fixes for two crashes.
    ATTENTION WINDOWS USERS: There's a "qBittorrent" app on the Windows Store which costs money. It isn't an official release nor it is coming from us. The person publicizing it doesn't have permission to use the qBittorrent name/logo.
    v4.2.4 changelog:
     

    BUGFIX: Fix crash when torrent is deleted on limit reached (glassez)

    BUGFIX: Register datatype properly (Chocobo1)

    WEBUI: Add ability to send custom HTTP headers (Chocobo1)

    WEBUI: Expand RSS related API (Sepro)

    WINDOWS: Installer: Update german translation (schnurlos)

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    Anti-Piracy Lawyer Offers to Withdraw Complaint Against Popcorn Time for a Settlement

    Anti-Piracy Lawyer Offers to Withdraw Twitter Complaint Against Popcorn Time in Exchange for a Settlement

    A Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer, who represents several prominent movie companies, has presented Popcorn Time with a deal. After first offering a license to use the Popcorn Time trademark, he proposed a $4,900 'settlement' "not to sue," payable in Bitcoin. To sweeten the deal, the attorney also promised to unsuspend Popcorn Time's Twitter account, provided that the app removes the movies of his other clients.

    Earlier this month we reported that a popular Popcorn Time fork had its Twitter account suspended over an alleged trademark violation.

    As it turned out, this was the work of Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper, who used the “Popcorn Time” trademark as ammunition.

    This trademark was recently registered by the attorney in name of the Hawaiian company ’42 Ventures.’ When we inquired about the reason for this peculiar move, the attorney’s answer was clear.

    “42 has partnered with various content providers to deliver a platform of LEGAL streaming media. One or more of these providers have been providing content since 2009 under same or related trademark,” Culpepper said, adding that the company will continue to protect its rights in the future.

    The content the company refers to can be found on Popcorntime4u.com, which links to content from the YouTube channel Popcorned Planet. The channel’s operator, Andy Signore, later informed us that he has a distribution deal with 42 Ventures, but he seemed to be unaware of the trademark issues.

    It is safe to say that using a trademark as a tool to combat online piracy – using the name of a piracy app against itself – is quite unusual. However, this was just the beginning. It turns out that an even more bizarre discussion was taking place behind the scenes.

    TorrentFreak spoke to the Popcorn Time operators who handed over a long chain of email communication they had with Mr. Culpepper at the beginning of April. This shows that the attorney was willing to ‘license’ the trademark to the Popcorn Time team, and more.

    It started when Popcorn Time complained about the trademark registration, threatening to file a complaint at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The attorney responded to this, by offering Popcorn Time a license to use the trademark, under certain conditions.

    In an email, Culpepper explained that he doesn’t only represent 42 Ventures but also other clients, including several movie companies, such as Millennium Films and Voltage Films. These copyright holders would like to have their films removed from Popcorn Time.

    Popcorn Time replied that it was willing to remove the films. However, the license was a different issue.

    The anti-piracy lawyer, however, framed the deal as a win-win and sweetened it by offering to drop the Twitter complaint. This meant that Popcorn Time could get their Twitter handle back, while the accounts of their competitors stayed down. In addition, Culpepper promised not to go after Popcorn Time’s domain name.

    “If you agree to a license 42 Ventures will withdraw the complaint against your twitter handle or other social media account. The other popcorn time twitter handles will be removed so only yours would remain,” the attorney wrote.

    “Also, 42 will not institute a domain dispute against your domain. Please let me know if you still refuse to pay for a license to 42,” he added.

    42 Ventures’ licensing offer is intriguing, considering the earlier mentioned focus on “LEGAL streaming” and copyright enforcement. Popcorn Time also appeared to be interested.

    When the developers asked what this license would cost, Culpepper replied that it depends on the app’s monthly earnings. This would be $500 a month at most, according to the developers.

    The lawyer responded that a typical license fee would usually be tens of thousands of dollars, and opted to settle the matter with a “covenant not to sue.” That would cost Popcorn Time $4,900.

    “I propose a payment of $4,900 for covenant of 42 not to sue and to let you have your twitter profile,” he wrote, later adding that an agreement was being drafted and that money can be transferred to a Bitcoin address.

    Not much later the agreement, seen in full by TorrentFreak, did indeed arrive. It doesn’t include a licensing deal but spells out other terms, including a promise to keep the settlement amount confidential, and the covenant not to sue.

    Under the terms, 42 Ventures agrees not to sue Popcorn Time as long as it doesn’t violate US copyright law [which seems meaningless]. In addition, the company stresses that it doesn’t give “any opinion on the legality of Infringers’website or related operations.”

    As promised, 42 Ventures will also withdraw its complaint at Twitter and agrees not to file any domain disputes over popcorntime.app and popcorntime.sh.

    Interestingly, the agreement doesn’t mention that Popcorn Time is required to remove any torrents, not even those that point to movies of the attorney’s clients. That said, the agreement is only valid if Popcorn Time doesn’t violate US copyright law, something that wasn’t made explicitly clear in the email communication.

    Today, several weeks have passed but the Bitcoin address remains empty. The Popcorn Time team decided not to sign the agreement.

    “We were unable to get the money,” Popcorn Time informs us. Another complication was that VPN.ht, one of the app’s sponsors, wasn’t happy with the proposed agreement and the demands of the lawyer.

    As a result, Popcorn Time’s Twitter account remains suspended. It is possible that Culpepper will eventually file a domain dispute over the Popcorn Time domains, or even a copyright infringement lawsuit.

    TorrentFreak also spoke to Culpepper, who confirms that he offered to settle the trademark issue. According to the attorney, Popcorn Time indeed stopped responding after he requested more details regarding the link between the app and VPN.ht.

    The attorney also said that he recently requested GitHub to remove the Popcorn Time repository. For now, however, that’s still online.

    Without taking any sides here, it will definitely be interesting to see this email chain and the proposed agreement being brought up in court. Given the circumstances and the unique situation, we have a feeling that the fingers of some attorneys are itching already.

    Get the popcorn ready…

     Torrentfreak.com

    Edited by Amias
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    Anti-Piracy Outfit Seeking ‘Ethical Hacker’ to Reverse Engineer Pirate Technologies

    As pirates probe loopholes and develop code to deliver copyrighted content to the masses, anti-piracy groups are working hard to mitigate the threat. To that end, anti-piracy group Rights Alliance is currently seeking an ethical hacker or cybersecurity expert to reverse engineer pirate technologies so that their functionality can be explained to both the authorities and judges alike.

    The existence of many thousands of pirate-focused sites and applications available on the Internet today shows that there’s no shortage of skilled individuals interested in the piracy scene.

    On the other hand, there’s also no shortage of copyright holders and anti-piracy groups keen to disrupt their activities using any means at their disposal. At least on the ‘battlefield’, these opposing parties are not entirely dissimilar, with a shared interest in piracy but always at the expense of the other.

    An example can be found at Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. While their arch-rivals are beavering away developing the next Popcorn Time, Kodi add-on, TV app, or YouTube-ripper, Rights Alliance wants to keep up with all of these developments so that strategies can be put in place to deal with them.

    “We are dealing with an area that is always evolving and where the people behind the services we try to stop are creative and often very technically proficient. This places great demands on us, as we must proactively follow the latest trends in the online marketplace for illegal content sharing and adapt our activities accordingly,” a job listing posted this week explains.

    “Here you will have a big role to play, as you need to keep an eye on the new technologies and help find solutions to obstruct their functionality and organize our enforcement strategy.”

    The successful candidate will also be required to dissect ‘pirate’ apps and the systems behind them. This is so the anti-piracy organization can present an analysis to law enforcement and in some cases, the courts.

    “One of the other important tasks of the position will be to ‘reverse engineer’ technology / computer programs so that the functionality can be described and explained to judges and authorities. In addition, there will be ample opportunity for programming of crawlers, plugins and other automation tools,” the listing reads.

    This is only part of the responsibilities for the position of IT Investigator, however. Leveraging data collected from publicly available sources, the candidate will be expected to unmask the often anonymous entities behind piracy tools and services, as well as those who use them to obtain copyrighted material.

    “Our work requires a great deal of investigative efforts on various internet forums and platforms, and your work will therefore largely be to use OSINT and other investigative tools to describe the methods and uncover the identities behind the operators of platforms and people who illegally share our members’ content,” Rights Alliance adds.

    While the anti-piracy group says that an “ethical hacker” or computer scientist could have the necessary qualities for the job, there are numerous cases where former pirates have changed sides. So, for fun, we approached someone who previously built and ran a torrent site and tracker, to see if he could ever be tempted by a job offer from the ‘other side’.

    “I’m good thanks (lol) but you can see why someone like me might be a good fit. Some might balk at the idea but given the chance to do what we like and get paid for it in a new environment could be really interesting,” he explained.

    “My problem would come at the end watching someone in court because of my work so I’ll pass if you don’t mind. Anyway, I don’t want them Googling me.”

    Torrentfreak.com

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    Covid-19 Measures Boosted Visits to Film Piracy Sites by Over 50%, New Data Show

    New data published by piracy tracking firm MUSO shows that, in some countries, the Covid-19 measures have boosted traffic to film piracy sites by more than 50%. This includes Italy, India, and Spain. An increase in traffic is also visible in many other countries, also for other content categories, such as software. The number of visits to live sports streaming sites logically tanked.

    The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in how people live their lives.

    These changes are visible in all parts of society as well as all corners of the Internet. This includes pirate sites.

    One of the earliest effects we reported was the increased interest in the movie Contagion, a decade-old classic which depicts a worldwide virus outbreak. Mid-March, the first signs revealed an increased interest in pirate sites and services in severely affected regions.

    Earlier this month, we completed this picture with a detailed dataset of BitTorrent traffic. This showed that torrent traffic spiked in many countries when lockdown measures were put in place.

    Today, UK piracy tracking company MUSO adds to these findings. The company continuously monitors the number of visits to pirate sites across various categories. According to their data, visits to film piracy sites increased significantly from the end of February to the and of March.

    The table below shows an overview of the increase in visits to film piracy sites from the last seven days of February to the last seven days of March. This shows that the increase in traffic is clearly visible around the world.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/musoco.png

    Italy and Spain, two of the most widely affected countries, are both in the top three. However, an uptick in visits is also observed in other regions where lockdown measures were introduced.

    MUSO shared some additional data with TorrentFreak which shows that traffic to software piracy sites also rose. The effect is less pronounced than with film piracy, but it’s still a sizable 41% and 32% for Italy and Spain respectively.

    The piracy tracking company doesn’t separately report data on TV piracy, but it found that the increase is less pronounced there. This is in part due to the effect that this includes visits to live sports streaming sites. These numbers have tanked because there are virtually no live events.

    “MUSO measured a drop of -49.10% in global visits to live sport piracy domains,” MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley tells TorrentFreak.

    “When looking at daily trends from February to March you can see a clear drop in visits over the weekend spikes as live sports has ceased across the world. When tracking individual piracy domains that distribute recorded content we see an upward trend in visits, we expect this to continue into April.”

    Overall, the data reported by MUSO are in line with earlier observations. The effects on various piracy channels very much mimic the increase in other consumption methods, such as legal streaming.

    “Piracy or unlicensed consumption trends are closely linked to paid-for or licensed content. So, just as Netflix has seen large subscriber gains, we have seen a significant spike in visits to film piracy sites,” Chatterley says.

    MUSO will continue to look at how these trends develop over time. It will be particularly interesting to see if there are any lasting changes in piracy behavior, or if everything will eventually return to normal.

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    Telegram Piracy Channels Face Blockin After Italian Prosecutor Issues Emergency Order

    An emergency order signed by a deputy prosecutor in Italy has been delivered to local telecoms watchdog AGCOM. It requires Telegram to shut down 19 channels involved in the illegal distribution of newspapers, periodicals and books. In the event the chat platform fails to cooperate, ISPs could be required to block the channels or, in the extreme, block Telegram completely.

    Instant messenging platform Telegram has an estimated 400 million users who use the service to communicate on an limitless number of topics. It is also used for piracy purposes, which has resulted in criticism from copyright holders.

    In Italy, significant pressure has been building following complaints from the Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEG). According to the association, a sample of 10 Telegram channels, that are specifically used for the illicit distribution of newspapers, have around 580,000 users obtaining copyrighted content without permission.

    “The estimate of the losses suffered by publishing companies is alarming,” FIEG President Andrea Riffeser Monti complained earlier this month.

    “In a highly conservative hypothesis, we estimate €670 thousand per day, approximately €250 million per year: a figure which I trust that the sector authority wants to intervene against firmly and promptly.”

    In light of soaring illicit consumption during the coronavirus pandemic, FIEG said that it had asked local telecoms watchdog AGCOM, which has site-blocking powers, to take “exemplary and urgent measures” against Telegram, which stands accused of not doing enough to tackle piracy. It is a position supported by the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA).

    “We asked AGCOM for an exemplary measure because we think that the authority has this power but it also has a duty: one cannot witness a daily illegal act, the circulation of copies of newspapers fraudulently,” ENPA President Carlo Perrone told local media this month.

    “It is a lack of respect for the work of thousands of serious journalists as well as restricting citizens’ rights to be informed.”

    The problem is complex, however. Telegram is based in Russia where even the Russian government, with all its determination, hasn’t been able to block Telegram effectively. Nevertheless, the Italian publishers have been pushing ahead, demanding an intervention in proportion to the economic damages their members are said to be suffering.

    Late last week, in response to building pressure from the publishers, AGCOM said it had examined an application from FIEG which demanded that either all pirated copies of its members’ works should be removed from Telegram channels or the platform should be completely blocked. According to AGCOM, it entered into urgent discussion with Telegram which resulted in the platform deleting seven of the eight channels initially reported by FIEG.

    The announcement came with words of caution, however. While reiterating that it is committed to protecting copyrights, AGCOM clarified that its interventions can only take place within the limits of relevant local regulations. When violations take place overseas, matters become more complex.

    “When the violation occurs on the channels of a site located outside the national territory, as in the case of Telegram, the Authority can only turn to the Italian providers that provide internet access, ordering them to proceed to disable access to the entire site. It is not possible to order selective removal of only illegal content, as this would involve the use of filtering techniques that the Court of European justice has found incompatible with Union law,” AGCOM wrote.

    “In the current state of legislation, a possible indiscriminate blocking measure of access to all Telegram channels – such as the one requested by the FIEG – appears to lack the necessary requirement.”

    A key factor here is that AGCOM acts as a regulator and as such has limited powers. The Postal and Communications Police and the Guardia di Finanza law enforcement agency, on the other hand, can pursue cases more aggressively. So, while expressing “satisfaction” at the closure of the seven Telegram channels, FIEG said it would also be using those law enforcement avenues to protect its members’ rights.

    This morning it became evident that the screw was being tightened further. According to a report from La Repubblica, officers of the Economic and Financial Police Unit of the Guardia di Finanza of Bari arrived at AGCOM’s headquarters in Rome to notify the agency of an unprecedented “emergency preventative seizure order” signed by Deputy Prosecutor Roberto Rossi. This, the publication said, “marked a point of no return in the war on piracy.”

    The prosecutor’s case centers around complaints to Telegram over a series of copyright infringement offenses committed by yet-to-be-identified individuals.

    “They distributed, transmitted and disseminated in PDF format, magazines, newspapers and books (copyright protected assets), after having illegally acquired them through abusive access to the computer system (or in any case with illegal subtraction from legitimate holders), tens of thousands of files,” the report reads.

    In tandem are allegations that alongside the copyright infringement offenses, money laundering is taking place, a crime that can result in a sentence of up to 12 years. the Bari prosecutor’s office states that Telegram has never wanted to assist in identifying the offenders nor disable access to their channels.

    As a result, the financial police have been given a mandate to close 19 Telegram channels said to be involved in mass infringement of various publications’ copyrights. However, in the event that Telegram fails to cooperate, local Internet service providers could be required to block access to the channels or, if that is not possible, the entire Telegram service in Italy.

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    Massive & Unprecedented Security Breach Takes Usenet Providers Offline

    A massive security breach has taken at least one major Usenet provider offline. UseNext says that a "security hole in a partner company" could have revealed names and bank account information, exposing customers to fraud and identity theft. The precise nature of the breach isn't clear but reports that a Usenet client has been stealing login credentials is being linked to the security disaster.

    While the majority of people seeking movies, TV shows, music and other content obtain access via BitTorrent or streaming sources, huge numbers still use the newsgroups, otherwise known as Usenet.

    In basic terms, the Usenet system is comprised of thousands of servers around the world where users can post discussions or content, otherwise known as binaries. These banks of servers share this information with other banks, allowing the data to propagate around the world. Having its roots in 1979, it is one of the oldest methods still around to share files on a large scale.

    While most Usenet use flies under the radar these days, huge volumes of data are shared on a daily basis. To access this content, users can subscribe to Usenet providers which, for a fee, supply Usenet login credentials allowing often metered access to the ‘newsgroups’. This weekend, however, signs of trouble became evident.

    In a post on Obload, a web-based German-language Usenet discussion forum, an administrator alerted users to a serious situation involving the Momentum Usenet client, a software tool used to access Usenet. According to research carried out by a user called ‘Tensai’, Momentum – a relative new-comer to the Usenet scene – not only facilitates access to Usenet but also swipes Usenet users’ login credentials and NZB data and uploads it to a site called Newzbee.

    The immediate advice was to stop using Momentum and since users have to enter their Usenet providers’ username and password into Momentum to have it work, immediately change their passwords at their Usenet provider. If true, and to put things another way, this situation is akin to users using a third-party application to access Netflix then have that application steal their Netflix username and password.

    TorrentFreak contacted both Momentum and Newzbee on Monday but neither responded to our requests for comment. However, at the same time and quite unusually, another major development was breaking in the Usenet space.

    On Usenet1, a site dedicated to Usenet matters, a post revealed that several major Usenet providers and tool operators were experiencing “massive problems”. They included UseNext, Usenet.nl, Gigaflat, plus HolmeZ.com and Momentum Plus, the latter two sites being directly connected to the Momentum client.

    Checking UseNext’s and Usenet.nl’s portals revealed both to be completely offline, which is extremely rare for such high-profile suppliers of Usenet access. With the latter reporting nothing, the former has now issued a major security advisory to its substantial customer base.

    “Unauthorized persons have accessed our infrastructure via a security hole in a partner company. We are currently analyzing what damage may have occurred. For security reasons, all systems are currently offline,” the company said in a statement.

    At the time of writing there is no clear evidence to link the alleged misconduct of the Momentum client with the downtime at major Usenet providers. However, that two serious events have occurred almost simultaneously has set alarm bells ringing and for UseNext, which listed Momentum as a preferred Usenet client on its site (before it was taken down), the implications appear extremely serious.

    “There could be a risk that attackers could gain access to your account information. Your name, billing address, payment data such as IBAN and account number and other data that we have processed to carry out your contract are potentially affected. Accessing your bank details puts you at risk of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft,” the company warns.

    While UseNext is advising its users to change their passwords, the ability to do so on UseNext.de doesn’t exist as the site is down. However, there are bigger problems too. If users have duplicated passwords on other sites, they may also be compromised.

    “Change your account passwords immediately. Most important are the accounts that are needed to restore other accounts or passwords. If you also use these passwords for other sites, you should change them there too,” UseNext advises.

    “Check the settings of your accounts (e.g. automatic forwarding of messages). Any changes indicate unauthorized access. Correct the settings if necessary. If you find that someone is using your identity, please notify the provider of the affected account immediately and have the account blocked.

    “Also let friends know about possible identity theft. As of now, watch out for suspicious debits on your accounts. Check your inbox for fraudulent phishing emails. Do not click on any links that appear suspicious to you, but report them,” UseNext adds.

    UseNext says it has reported the matter to the authorities but in the meantime, its service will remain down until the company can determine the scale of the breach. Users can contact the company for information via a dedicated hotline.

    For now, and at least until the makers of the Momentum client issue a statement, the general advice is to stop using the client and consider any Usenet credentials entered into the software as compromised, including the related Usenet provider accounts. And any other services where passwords were duplicated, of course.

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    Piracy Sees 'Unprecedented' Pandemic Bounce, But So Does All Media Consumption

    With a large part of the planet on lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, streaming video consumption has seen explosive growth. Streaming platform Mux this week issued a study stating that during one three-week period measured by the company, streaming video usage overall jumped 239%.

    UK piracy tracking firm Muso TNT says they've also seen "unprecedented" traffic to movie streaming websites around the world in the last few months. The firm found that in many countries, the kind of piracy traffic traditionally reserved for weekends is now the norm during most weeks:

    "Data provided to Motherboard by London-based Muso TNT show that between February 20 and March 20, visits to pirated movie websites by users in both the U.S. and UK jumped 31 percent. The data shows similar growth in Spain (35 percent), Portugal (37 percent), India (33 percent), and Germany (30 percent), with Italy the highest overall at 50 percent."

    In just one month in the U.S. alone, the firm tracked 137 million page views to more than 19,000 websites offering streaming and BitTorrent access to pirated films, and more than 601 million page views of sites offering access to pirated TV content. The company says its data originates from an “industry-leading website traffic data provider.”

    None of this should be particularly surprising given that pirates are some of the heaviest consumers and buyers of movies, films, and television content.

    But it's worth noting that piracy, and BitTorrent use in general, had already been seeing a bounce even before the pandemic started. Why? While streaming is certainly cheaper with better customer service than traditional cable TV options, the rise of a universe of exclusivity silos has started to confuse and annoy some customers. With every broadcaster and their uncle now flooding the sector, hunting and pecking between a laundry list of exclusives and ever-shifting licensing agreements has become frustrating (aka "subscription fatigue"), driving some of these users back to the simplicity of piracy.

    "Piracy is a level playing field,” Muso wrote in one recent white paper. “No walled data-garden, no exclusivity, no windowing and no theatrical release. It’s all there: consumption with no barriers."

    Sure, this "subscription fatigue" is a minority of subscribers and not the end of the world, given streaming revenues are exploding. But pandemic or no, there's still some familiar lessons here about viewing piracy as a competitor or as a useful gauge of customer dissatisfaction. And based on the kind of price hikes we're still seeing at major cable TV providers, these remain challenging ideas for many traditional cable and broadcast execs to wrap their heads around.

    Muso found that while visits to illegal movie streaming websites have surged, visits to pirated TV stream outfits hasn't seen the same level of growth, in large part due to the suspension of most sports leagues. With sports, one of the few things that keeps people subscribing to traditional pay TV, several studies on cord cutters have shown that the cord cutting trend is likely to accelerate -- with bloated TV bundles a likely early casualty as a growing number of folks experience financial hardwhip:

    "Considering the financial crisis element of the pandemic, something has to give for the consumer,” Chatterley said. “If they discover piracy now the question is do they go back to multiple subscriptions?"

    So while many things have certainly changed, the same core issues still apply. Companies still need to compete with the simplicity and affordability of piracy if they want to hinder its growth. That's particularly true of the traditional cable sector, which, for the better part of the last decade, has treated competing on price as a some kind of deadly contagion in its own right. Just because an entertainment industry executive doesn't think its fair that they have to compete with privacy has never mattered -- and still doesn't.

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    Woman Who Sold Access to Pirated Books on Dropbox Handed Suspended Sentence

    A woman who sold access to pirated copies of academic textbooks stored on Dropbox has been handed a suspended jail sentence by a court in Denmark. The case was pursued by Rights Alliance with assistance from the police and mirrors two previously concluded cases where two pirates were handed similar sentences.

    Regular eBooks are among the cheapest items of digital content available to buy today but due to their cost, the underground market for academic textbooks continues to thrive.

    Pirated textbooks are relatively easy to find on the open web and via dedicated pirate sites. However, some people are creating their own libraries in an effort to make money, offering online access to such material in exchange for a fee.

    Danish anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance (Rettighedsalliancen) has been homing on these for-profit pirates for some time and this week reported another success in a local court.

    According to the group, which acts on behalf of a wide range of copyright holders, publishers included, routine monitoring for pirated content drew its attention to an advert placed on Den Blå Avis (The Blue Newspaper), Denmark’s largest buying and selling site.

    For a fee of 20 kronor (US$2.91) it offered access to 115 digital copies of books usually sold by publishers including Gyldendal, Lindhardt and Ringhof, University of Southern Denmark, and Social Literature. The books were conveniently stored on Dropbox, with customers able to download them with minimum fuss.

    With assistance from local police, Rights Alliance was able to have the advert quickly removed but also managed to identify the seller, a woman from the Vanløse district of Copenhagen. The group said that the woman admitted to the unlawful distribution of the content, which included books dedicated to physiotherapy.

    This week her fate was decided by a court in Nykøbing Falster, which reopened for business on Monday after a closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Following a guilty plea, the court handed down a suspended sentence of 20 days in prison accompanied by a financial confiscation order.

    The decision is being welcomed by Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund who notes that such offenses carried out by individuals can have serious consequences, including police involvement and a criminal record.

    “It is crucial that the police move quickly in these cases, as the extent of illegal activities can quickly increase if the rumor about the possibilities for free books spreads among students. Although it may seem innocent to copy a textbook and sell it to other students, it has serious consequences in a systematic way,” Fredenslund says.

    The case and sentencing appear broadly similar to one previously reported by TF during October 2019. In that matter, a 26-year-old student also advertised illegal access to textbooks via the Blue Newspaper and was subsequently tracked down by Rights Alliance with assistance from the police.

    While he sold access to books for a much higher fee (between US$12.50 and US$88.00) the Court of Fredericksberg handed down an identical 20-day suspended prison sentence plus a confiscation order. The man also entered into a settlement agreement with Rights Alliance. In 2019, another man tracked down by Rights Alliance in a similar case received a 30-day suspended sentence.

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    The Pirate Bay Has Made it Harder to Find Stuff

    The Pirate Bay resurfaced at its original .org domain earlier this month, but not everything is running smoothly. Finding torrents is a bit more complicated now, as paged search results and browsing features are missing. A lot of regular pages and links are gone too, including the famous Kopimi logo. The staff is aware of the issues but must wait until "Winston" addresses them.

    After more than a month of downtime, The Pirate Bay’s .org domain started working again recently.

    This was good news for the site’s millions of users, but the comeback has resulted in some frustrations as well.

    As previously reported, the site’s operator – also known as Winston – used the downtime to rewrite some code. While these changes appear to be minimal at first sight, the site’s usability hasn’t improved. Some even wonder whether something had gone horribly wrong.

    One of the most frequently reported issues is that torrents appear to be missing. This isn’t immediately obvious to a casual visitor, but the more demanding ones can’t seem to find everything they’re looking for.

    The Pirate Bay has changed the way search results are pulled from the database. This now goes through an API hosted at Bayapi.org. This API doesn’t always return full results. In fact, there seems to be a limit of a hundred results, presented on a single page.

    This restriction is fine when someone’s looking for a very specific torrent, but not for broader searches.

    The same limits also apply to the site’s general navigation across categories. The software, video, and audio sections all show just one page. There is no option to browse through more pages.

    The good news for Pirate Bay users is that all torrent links are still in the database, as far as we can see. However, they may be required to use more targeted search phrases to find what they’re looking for.

    Although casual browsing through various pages of results is no longer possible, there is a partial workaround though, as pointed out in the Pirate Bay forums. Users can find the next pages in the category results by adding :1, :2 or even :99. That trick doesn’t appear to work for regular searches, however.

    Other stuff remains missing as well if we compare the new homepage with the old one, shown below.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/tpboldcop2.jpg

    A quick glance shows that the official blog has disappeared, for example. The ‘doodle’ page has gone too, and the same is true for the RSSfeeds, the usage policy, the daily dumps, and the famous “How do I download” explainer.

    And as if that wasn’t enough, the Kopimi icon – one of Pirate Bay’s hallmarks – is no longer featured either.

    All the changes, including a domain Whois update where the registrant is now hidden, have fueled conspiracy theories. These originate from a small minority and speculate that The Pirate Bay has changed owners, or that something more nefarious is going on.

    We have been no proof that this is the case. A more likely scenario, in our opinion, is that the code changes were implemented without proper testing and care. And that they serve a technical need, rather than an increased user experience.

    That theory is just a theory of course, but it’s no secret that the full attention of the operator may not be with the site. After all, user registrations have also been closed for almost a year, a measure that was taken to patch a technical problem.

    TorrentFreak spoke to a staffer who admits that not everything is functioning as it should. However, they can’t do much either and have to wait until “Winston” springs into action. That could take a few days, or weeks, or…

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    German Anti-Piracy Outfit GVU Files For Bankruptcy, Despite Many Historic Victories

    After 35 years of chasing pirates of all kinds, infamous anti-piracy group GVU has filed for bankruptcy in Germany. Perhaps best known for its participation in the unprecedented EU raids that took down Kino.to in 2011, GVU - the Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringement - has now come to the end of the road after becoming financially unviable.

    While the vast majority of movie and TV show piracy occurs on the Internet today, back in the mid 1980s it was VHS and Betamax tapes causing headaches for copyright holders.

    Desperate to rein in what then-MPAA head Jack Valenti described as the Bostom Strangler of the movie industry, the video cassette recorder (VCR) found rivals on both sides of the Atlantic. In Germany, that role fell to Gesellschaft zur Verfolgung von Urheberrechtsverletzungen (GVU), the Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Infringement.

    Between 1985 and 2010, GVU grew to become a major anti-piracy force in Germany. Boasting around 50 members, including the major Hollywood studios, music industry groups and video games companies, GVU’s reputation was certainly on the up. In 2011 it played its biggest role yet as a key player in the Europe-wide raids targeting Kino.to, one of Germany’s most infamous piracy portals, and the prosecutions that followed.

    Since then GVU has been involved in various major actions, including against the alleged operators of Kinox.to, a site that stepped in following the demise of Kino.to. In 2014, GVU upped the ante again with an investigation and subsequent anti-piracy operation targeting pirate linking forum Boerse.bz during which a reported 121 homes were raided.

    Even beyond then, GVU kept its foot on the gas. In 2019 and following a GVU-led investigation, two men were jailed for a total of 66 months for running a Usenet portal and during the same year, the anti-piracy group was the driving force behind the operation that took down Share-Online.biz, Germany’s largest file-hosting site.

    In the background, however, all was not well at GVU. In 2018, the MPAA (now MPA) withdrew its significant funding from GVU. The move wasn’t entirely unexpected as two years earlier the Hollywood group had withdrawn funding for the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft, instead choosing to pursue its copyright-infringing adversaries via the nascent Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment.

    Danger signs became more obvious at the end of March 2020 when German news outlet Tarnkappe received news from several sources that GVU was in trouble and might even cease to exist in the near future. Despite repeated attempts, GVU had effectively become unreachable and this week, the anti-piracy group’s fate was confirmed.

    According to a posting on the Berlin Consumer Protection forum, an insolvent GVU filed for bankruptcy at the start of April, appointing a Berlin lawyer as an insolvency administrator.

    While the loss of the Hollywood studios as major financiers of GVU would’ve come as an extreme blow to the organization, Tarnkappe speculatesthat GVU’s focus on criminal cases was a key factor in rendering the outfit financially unviable.

    While the cases pursued by GVU were sometimes dramatic, even historically so, they always took a long time to come to fruition and with no enforcement in the civil realm to bring in settlements and similar types of revenue, the writing was already on the wall when a more powerful and versatile ACE began to make waves all over the Internet.

    Indeed, on what would’ve been GVU’s exclusive stomping ground, ACE recently shut down several German-based piracy giants including Openload, Steamango and VeryStream, all with civil settlements that fell outside of GVU’s remit.

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    Amazon Joins Pirate Bay and FMovies on US Govt’s “Notorious” Markets List

    The US Government has classified some of the largest websites as notorious piracy and counterfeiting venues. The report includes pirate sites such as 1337x, FMovies, RARBG, and The Pirate Bay. Surprisingly, Amazon is also tagged for providing a platform to copyright infringers. For the first time, the USTR also lists an advertising company as a "notorious" actor in the piracy ecosystem.

    Every year the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes an updated list of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets.”

    Drawing on input from copyright holders, the report includes a non-exclusive overview of sites and services that are believed to be involved in piracy or counterfeiting.

    The targets traditionally include popular piracy portals such as well known torrent sites, cyberlockers, and streaming portals. However, in recent years we have also seen domain registrars, hosting companies, and advertisers thrown into the mix.

    That is also the case this year. As expected, the USTR mentions cyberlockers such as 1fichier and Uploaded, streaming portals including FMovies, and the torrent sites RARBG, Rutracker, The Pirate Bay, and 1337x.

    The latter site is a new addition, of which there are a few. BestBuyIPTV, for example, which sells access to pirate IPTV services, and the streaming site Cimaclub.com, which is very popular in Saudi Arabia.

    The most surprising new additions are in another league, however. For the first time ever, the USTR has listed an advertising company as a notorious market. The report calls out Propeller Ads for its role in funding piracy websites and spreading malware.

    “Right holders identify Propeller Ads as providing significant advertising revenue for many popular torrent sites, cyberlockers, and other pirate websites. Propeller Ads has also been linked to serious ‘malvertising’ operations whereby malware is distributed through online advertisements,” USTR writes.

    The malware angle plays an important role, as it’s the USTR’s special focus this year. The report cites a broad list of articles that highlight the malware risks on pirate sites. However, it also references a TorrentFreak article that describes some of these claims as overblown.

    It’s a significant step for the USTR to add an advertising company to the report, but this is largely overshadowed by Amazon’s surprise appearance.

    As a US-based company, Amazon.com can’t be listed as a notorious market, because this list is exclusively meant for foreign actors. However, the USTR bypassed this restriction by calling out Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon.in.

    The world’s largest online retailer is being labeled a notorious market because it reportedly provides a platform for copyright infringers, counterfeiters to be precise. While that is true for many online retailers, Amazon’s response to these infringers has apparently been below par.

    The USTR mentions that copyright holders complain that sellers are not vetted, that the removal process is burdensome, while the counterfeiting problem continues to grow. Amazon should change its policies to address these issues.

    “[Rightsholders] ask that Amazon take additional actions to address their concerns, including by collecting sufficient information from sellers to prevent repeat infringers from creating multiple storefronts on the platforms, making detailed information about the real seller of a product obvious to consumers and right holders,” the USTR writes.

    Responding to the listing, an Amazon spokesperson characterized the company’s inclusion as being part of a personal vendetta of the Trump administration against the company.

    “This purely political act is another example of the administration using the U.S. government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon,” the company informed Politico.

    Vendetta or not, Amazon was reported to the Government by the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which specifically asked for a listing of the foreign Amazon domains.

    Amazon is not the only online retailer that’s listed. The US Government also sees the Chinese platform Taobao, India’s Snapdeal, and the Indonesian store Tokopedia as notorious platforms.

    Below we have compiled a full list of all the online sites and services that are mentioned. Although some harsh language is used, the USTR stresses that its overview doesn’t “make findings of legal violations” and that these are merely “illustrative.”

    Most importantly, perhaps, the report is used to send a clear warning to the sites and companies involved, suggesting that it might be a good idea to implement some changes. That’s not likely to impress sites such as The Pirate Bay, but others may be more susceptible.



    A copy of the USTR’s 2019 overview of notorious markets (published yesterday) is available here (pdf). The full list of highlighted online sites/service, including those focused on counterfeiting, is as follows:

    -1337x.to
    -1Fichier.com
    -Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon.in
    -Bestbuyiptv.com
    -Bukalapak.com
    -Carousell.com
    -Chomikuj.pl
    -Cimaclub.com
    -DHgate.com
    -Dytt8.net
    -FlokiNET
    -Flvto.biz and 2Conv.com
    -FMovies.is
    -Hosting Concepts B.V.
    -MP3juices.cc
    -Mp3va.com
    -Mpgh.net
    -Newalbumreleases.net
    -Phimmoi.net
    -Pinduoduo.com
    -Private Layer Hosted Sites
    -Propellerads.com
    -Rapidgator.net
    -RARBG.to
    -Rutracker.org
    -Sci-Hub and LibGen
    -Seasonvar.ru
    -Shopee.sg
    -Snapdeal.com
    -Taobao.com
    -Thepiratebay.org
    -Tokopedia.com
    -Torrentz2.eu
    -Turbobit.net
    -Uploaded.net
    -Uptobox.com
    -VK.com
    -Warmane.com

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    Pirated ‘DVD Screeners’ Will be History After Next Year’s Oscars

    The Academy announced this week that DVD and Blu-Ray screeners will be banned after the next Oscars ceremony. This marks the end of a long-standing tradition. Not just in the movie business, but also on pirate sites where the DVDscr tag is closely watched. Although Oscar DVD Screeners may soon be history, this doesn't mean that screener leaks will be thing of the past.

    The Oscars is the most watched awards show of the year. It’s widely covered in the press and highly anticipated by movie fans.

    In the weeks leading up to the awards ceremony, movie pirates also have something to be excited about: screener leaks.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/dvdscr2020.jpg

    Many Oscar screeners, which are sent to Academy members as part of the voting process, end up in the hands of pirates. When that happens, the leaked screeners are typically shared by millions of people.

    The leaks are often tagged “DVDscr,” referring to the DVD screener source format which is still in use. While streaming screeners have become more and more common, tens of thousands of physical screener copies are still sent out via mail.

    This year, plenty of discs will be shipped too but, after the upcoming Oscars ceremony, that will be a thing of the past. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week that physical screeners will no longer be allowed in 2021.

    “[T]he 93rd Awards season will be the final year DVD screeners will be allowed to be distributed; these mailings will be discontinued starting in 2021 for the 94th Academy Awards,” the Academy writes.

    The Oscars follow the same path as the Emmys, which already made the switch this year. According to the Academy, the transition is part of its sustainability efforts. This also includes a ban on physical music CDs, hard copies of screenplays, paper invites, and other things that possibly hurt the environment.

    Banning physical screeners will indeed be much more sustainable. Manufacturing tens of thousands of discs and shipping these all over the country takes up more resources than sharing a link to an online screener. As an added benefit, it also saves the studios a lot of money.

    Piracy is not mentioned by the Academy but the transition does mean that the infamous ‘DVDscr’ tag will eventually be obsolete for Oscar screeners. That marks the end of an era.

    Whether piracy was considered as a factor at all remains a guess. Some insiders believe that digital screeners are easier to protect and therefore more secure, but that is up for debate.

    There may be fewer leak opportunities in the distribution process, but it’s common knowledge that streaming platforms can be easily compromised. In fact, we have already seen several screeners being leaked from online sources. This was corroborated by pirate release group EVO last year.

    “We had access to digital screeners and they are indeed easy to leak. The DRM on it is a joke. We had an account last year with three screeners on it and they were pretty much MP4 ready to encode,” the EVO team informed us at the time.

    Whether streaming or physical screeners are more secure ultimately depends on the type of protection measures that are implemented for each. The safest conclusion, for now, is that piracy will likely remain a problem no matter what the distribution platform is.

    Two years from now, we’ll likely know more. During the upcoming season, however, there will likely several ‘DVDscr’ leaks again.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    • 4 weeks later...

    Hacker Mods Old Calculator to Access the Internet, CASIO Files DMCA Complaint

    A hobbyist electronics hacker who took a cheap standard calculator and modified it to access the Internet has been hit with a DMCA copyright complaint. According to CASIO, the project uses its copyrighted source code but the developer informs TorrentFreak that his code was written entirely from scratch.

    Hobbyist electronics hacker and YouTuber ‘Neutrino’ only has 10 videos on his channel but many are extremely popular.

    Back in April he constructed his own interactive and contactless handwash dispenser to help people avoid the coronavirus and earlier this month published an absolute gem, transforming an old CASIO scientific calculator into something better.

    After a not inconsiderable amount of work, Neutrino’s device was able to communicate with similar devices nearby and even connect to the Internet. Pretty impressive for a supposed amateur.

    As standard, the CASIO calculator chosen for the project can be picked up on eBay for just a few dollars but other components are also required, as listed on Neutrino‘s YouTube channel. After desoldering the solar panel and various other steps, Neutrino managed to squeeze an OLED display into the space, along with a WiFi module and other goodies.

    “Since we were in lockdown I wanted to do something really fun, which can keep me occupied for a week or two,” Neutrino informs TF.

    “I did not have many components to work with so using this calculator (CASIO fx-ms991) was not a problem, because it was roughly 5+ years old and it was given by my uncle.”

    Gizmodo published an article on the invention earlier this month, highlighting that it could potentially be used to cheat in exams. Neutrino says he doesn’t want that but does hope that the hack will inspire others to learn and participate in the ‘maker community’.

    But now, just a couple of weeks after winning plenty of praise, the project has also attracted the attention of an anti-counterfeiting organization working for CASIO.

    REACT describes itself as a not-for-profit organization with over 30 years experience in fighting counterfeit trade. “One of our main objectives is to keep the costs of anti-counterfeiting actions affordable,” its site reads. A wide range of high-profile companies are listed as members, from Apple to Yves Saint Laurent and dozens in between.

    This week REACT wrote to Github, where Neutrino has his ‘Hack-Casio-Calculator‘ repository, with a demand that it should be completely taken down for infringing its client’s intellectual property rights.

    “I am writing on behalf of CASIO, which is a member of REACT (also known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Network ). REACT actively fights the trade-in counterfeiting products on behalf of its members,” the complaint reads.

    “It came to our attention that the below-mentioned repository is using copyrighted source code in order to modify Casio’s copyrighted program.

    “The code the repository contains is proprietary and not to be publicly published. The hosted content is a direct, literal copy of our client’s work. I hereby summon you to take expeditious action: to remove or to disable access to the infringing content immediately, but in any case no later than ten days as of today.”


    The full DMCA notice submitted to Github is available here and claims that the “entire repository is infringing” and that hosted content is a “direct, literal copy of [CASIO’s] work.

    The repository has been disabled by Github in response to the complaint so validating the notice’s claims is not straightforward. That being said, Neutrino informs TF that the claim is nonsense and all work is his own.

    “They accuse me of using copyrighted source code in order to modify CASIO’s copyrighted program. But my code has nothing to do with it,” he explains.

    “The code was written completely from scratch and all the libraries included in my source file were open-source. Everything was clearly mentioned in the [now removed] readme file of my GitHub repository. They also allegedly accuse me by stating that ‘The entire repository is infringing’, but in reality whatever the original content they pointed out has nothing to do with my code.”

    Neutrino informs us that he has already filed a DMCA counternotice with Github to get his project back. While he may yet be successful, this is just the type of action that has ‘freedom-to-tinker’ proponents throwing their hands up in despair wondering why big corporations have nothing better to do.

    Unfortunately, these types of complaints can discourage people from being innovative or sharing their ideas and knowledge, the exact opposite of what Neutrino hoped to achieve. CASIO may somehow feel it’s in the right here but it does seem just a little bit petty.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    Spotify Launches Crackdown on Tools Offering Premium Service For Free

    Spotify has filed a wave of DMCA takedown notices with Google in an effort to remove links to software claiming to offer a premium experience without paying. In many of its complaints Spotify warns that the company believes that the tools are intended to be used as "instruments of fraud".

    Spotify is currently the most popular music streaming platform in the world with 286 million users. An impressive 130 million subscribe to the company’s premium service with the remainder using the ad-supported tier.

    Somewhere in those figures are a small minority who enjoy the features of Spotify Premium but yet manage to do so without paying the subscription fees charged by the company. This is achieved by deploying various hacks and workarounds that remove the restrictions imposed on users of the ad-supported service.

    In many cases this means users obtaining a hacked variant of the Spotify software, often on the Android platform. These applications don’t subject users to adverts and in some cases claim to enable other features such as unlimited track skipping and a departure from enforced shuffling.

    Needless to say, Spotify views these applications as a threat to its business model. The company has previously taken action against specific tools in an effort to make them harder to find but more recently the Swedish streaming service appears to have stepped up its efforts.

    Beginning back in March but increasing as the weeks have passed, Spotify AB has been sending DMCA notices to Google targeting domains that appear to be offering the types of tools highlighted above. Torrentfreak learned of the complaints from a third-party and we were able to track many of them down using the Lumen Database repository.

    The majority targeted at Google’s search indexes contain similar wording, with claims that the domains in question are infringing on Spotify’s intellectual property rights. However, the company goes further still with allegations that the tools are designed for fraudulent purposes.

    “This site uses Spotify intellectual property in its content without authorization and this falsely suggests Spotify sponsorship or endorsement of the website and violates Spotify exclusive rights,” many read.

    “We reasonably believe that it is the intention of its owners to use it as an instrument of fraud.”

    Spotify DMCA complaint to Google
    At the time of writing Spotify has targeted at least 20 domains with requests like this one to remove more than 60 URLs. Many seem to be so-called APK download sites or similar platforms giving hints and tips about how to obtain Spotify and indeed other services for free, with accompanying links.

    However, when testing the domains in the numerous takedown notices our interest was piqued by at least one that triggered a Malwarebytes ‘fraud’ alert. Spotify took a particular interest in this domain by targeting 14 of its URLs, which raises the question of what type of fraud is taking place on the site.

    SpotifyPlus.com blocked
    Spotify appears to use the term in connection with using its intellectual property and accessing its platform in an unauthorized manner but it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to think that something even more nefarious might be at play with some modified APK files available online today.

    In the vast majority of cases, Google has complied by delisting the requested URLs. At the time of writing there are a handful of more recent Spotify complaints marked as pending a decision (1,2,3)but it would be no surprise if they were removed during the days to come.

     Torrentfreak.com

     

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    ‘App Watch’ Allows Operators to Monitor and Ban Piracy Apps on Android Set-Top Boxes

    Irdeto is mostly known for its 'Denuvo' anti-piracy tool, which protects many high profile games. However, the digital security company operates a broad suite of anti-piracy tools. This includes "App Watch," a service that allows content providers to monitor and restrict the use of pirate apps on their Android-based set-top boxes.

    pirate boxMany content providers and networks have their own set-top boxes that can be connected to any modern TV.

    These devices are often running on Android and sometimes allow users to install third-party apps, via Google’s Play store, for example.

    This opens the door to a wide range of other apps which can be problematic, especially when they offer a gateway to pirated content that directly competes with the operator’s service.

    To address this potential threat, digital security company Irdeto is offering an ‘App Watch’ service. This is part of the company’s broad range of piracy tools and services which also includes the game anti-tamper software Denuvo, which recently expanded with an anti-cheat service.

    App Watch is targeted at providers of streaming services who have their own set-top boxes. It’s meant to safeguard these companies against abuse and prevent consumers from using their boxes as piracy tools.

    “The problem with giving consumers choice is that they may get distracted from your services, on your platform,” Irdeto writes, pointing out the worst-case scenario.

    “Consumers may use your top-of-the-line STB for everything EXCEPT your services, or at most just your basic package. The potential damage ranges from losing content upsell opportunities to outright enabling piracy on your box.”

    Irdeto mentions that Google has a vetting process and removes clearly infringing apps from its store. However, the system isn’t perfect, with apps remaining on set-top boxes even after deletion by Google. App Watch monitors pirate apps and can delete them from users’ devices if needed.

    irdeto app watch
    In addition, it tackles another major problem that software like Kodi presents. Irdeto stresses that Kodi is perfectly legal. However, it can be abused and exploited by pirate add-ons. This is something App Watch can take care of as well.

    App Watch monitors all activity on set-top boxes and it can also see how apps are used. When they connect to pirate streaming sites or use pirate add-ons, the operator can take action. This includes blocking or removing Kodi add-ons, while Kodi itself remains available to users.

    “Irdeto provides a range of actions you can take to stop app-based piracy on the set-top box, such as disabling add-ons or blocking URLs,” Irdeto explains, adding that its services can also be used to pursue legal action against pirate suppliers.

    All the options and data can be monitored through a dedicated dashboard which reveals how many pirate apps and services are installed. This gives providers full control over their users’ devices.


    These app usage data are collected anonymously, but providers can use it to reach out to users directly, and point them back toward the legal options if needed.

    “By knowing the demand and methods used to bypass your offers, you can devise promotional strategies and on-screen features that entice and enable viewers to easily switch back to your content offers.”

    All in all App Watch sounds like a pretty clever system. Whether consumers will appreciate the monitoring and tracking remains to be seen.

    Looking at Irdeto’s Denuvo technology, an often-heard complaint is that the anti-piracy tool decreases performance. While that claim has been disputed, the company is aware of the sensitivities and stresses that App Watch users have nothing to worry about.

    “The agent running on the set-top box for monitoring app usage is lightweight and has no performance impact on the viewing experience,” Irdeto concludes.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    Pirate ‘Treasures’ Continue to Show Up on Google Maps

    Spammers continue to abuse Google Maps to promote scammy pirate links. These 'treasures' show up through the maps feature from where they are picked up by search engines. This can be pretty effective, it seems, as some links are getting thousands of views.

    pirate map legoGoogle Maps is a wonderful tool that helps millions of people find their way around the world. Some would be literally lost without it.

    Generally speaking, Maps is used to navigate the real world. However, spammers are also using it to guide prospective pirates on the Internet.

    This leads to rather unusual findings. For example, this week one of our searches guided us to a user-generated Google Map that marked a location in the middle of New Delhi, India.

    While it’s no secret that there are millions of pirates in the Asian country, it was still a bit of a surprise to see the location tagged as “GTA V Free Download For PC Full Version Setup+Torrents”

    Below is a screenshot on the map, which links to a now-removed page at hellboundgamers.com. It also reveals that these links can generate quite a lot of traffic, with this particular map having been viewed more than 12,000 times.

    GTA Maps pirate scam
    When we investigated further, we found dozens of these pirates ‘treasures’ scattered around Google Maps. Some pinpoint specific locations, others just load a generic map. What they all have in common is that they are filled with pirate keywords.

    For example, one Google Maps layer targets prospective pirates of the movie “Boy Erased.” It is advertised with a bunch of related terms, such as ‘Full Movie Online Boy Erased,’ ‘Online Free Watch Boy Erased online free HDQ,’ ‘Boy Erased watch online free 1080P,’ to name a few.

    boy erased pirate keywords
    Some links are more nefarious than others. The trick can be used by pirates to draw attention to their sites, but more often it’s abused by scammers who link to some kind of paysite, where people should never leave their credit card details.

    That begs the question of how many people who viewed these links fell into a trap?

    The scammers use the My Maps trick because these search results are more likely to rank well. Google Maps is seen as a trusted site, as opposed to a random page where links are spammed.

    This problem isn’t entirely new either. We signaled similar issues in the past and Google is undoubtedly aware of them too. As is often the case with user-generated content, however, they rely on copyright holders to alert them.

    When we look at Google’s received takedown notices reported by Lumen, we see that many of these My Maps links have been reported by copyright holders. However, that doesn’t deter scammers and spammers from hiding new ‘treasures’ on Google Maps.

     Torrentfreak.com

     
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    DISH Sues Canada-Based Pirate IPTV Provider ‘Voodoo IPTV’

    TV broadcaster DISH Network has filed a lawsuit in a Texas court targeting the operators of Canada-based 'pirate' IPTV supplier Voodoo IPTV. The lawsuit names four Ontario residents as defendants along with fifth individual said to reside in Nepal. A further 11 'Doe' defendants are said to have created DISH accounts in order to capture and rebroadcast its programming.

    IPTVTV broadcaster DISH Network has filed more lawsuits against ‘pirate’ IPTV providers and resellers than any other company in the world. Depending on how the services operate, the company either brings cases under the Copyright Act or the Federal Communications Act (FCA).

    This week DISH won a $3.3 million default judgment against pirate IPTV reseller Boom Media and its operators John and Debra Henderson. The case was actioned under the FCA and before the judge’s ink was dry, DISH was in court again filing a similar lawsuit against Voodoo IPTV and its alleged operators.

    “The Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service is, and has been, retransmitting the DISH Programming without authorization from DISH. The DISH Programming was received from DISH’s satellite television service without authorization,” the complaint alleges.

    Unlike many other cases filed by DISH, the defendants in this matter aren’t based in the United States. Cren Motasaki, Atta Ur Rauf, Rafayet Alam and Pepin Woolcock are all said to be based in Ontario, Canada. A fifth defendant, Sajan Kyubi Shrestha, is reportedly a resident of Nepal while the locations of 11 ‘Doe’ defendants are yet to be determined.

    Filed in a Texas court this week, the complaint alleges that Motasaki is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of Voodoo IPTV and has overall decision-making power. He is said to have a history of involvement with piracy-related activities and was identified as a member of the WorldofIPTV.com forum having made posts in an Xtream Codes-related thread.

    Alam (aka Rafa Abdul) is reportedly in charge of sales at Voodoo, with DISH claiming that he operated CDN.tm which hosted VOD content for the JadooTV service, including DISH programming.

    Woolcock, a programmer and developer for Voodoo, reportedly controls another domain offering IPTV services while Shrestha, who has the same role at Voodoo, is said to run four piracy-related repos on Github including Stalker, Xtream-Codes-2.2.0-Nulled, and eurekatv.

    Rauf is said to be the person who manages sales and finance at Voodoo while several others are accused of being the sources for some of its content.

    “Defendants Does 1-11 are one or more persons responsible for eleven DISH subscription accounts that were created with false information and used to receive DISH’s channels for retransmission on the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service without authorization. An Internet Protocol (‘IP’) address located in Toronto, Canada was used to access at least seven of these eleven DISH subscription accounts,” the complaint reads.

    DISH says that all defendants act in concert to steal its programming and as a result requests relief that holds them jointly and severally liable. The company says that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants because they have purposefully directed their conduct towards the United States while causing injury there.

    “Upon information and belief, Defendants sold subscriptions to approximately 50,000 users of the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service, many of whom are located in the United States,” DISH notes.

    The complaint alleges that ‘device codes’ (aka IPTV subscriptions) were sold on various websites including IPTVVoodoo.com, VoodooTV.in, and BuyIPTVOnline.net. At the time of writing only the latter is still available, offering monthly subscriptions at US$15 or CAD$20 up to US$75 or CAD$100 for six months.

    Voodoo IPTV subscription
    As the image above shows, processors including PayPal are used to buy and sell the Voodoo service and DISH indicates it has identified at least three connected email accounts that were also used to pay for computer servers running the Voodoo platform.

    “Defendants’ sale and distribution of Android TV Boxes and Device Codes [subscriptions] for accessing the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service assists end users to receive the DISH Programming or the content therein, without having authorization from DISH and for the benefit of the Voodoo IPTV end users, in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a),” the complaint notes, adding:

    “Defendants sell and distribute Android TV Boxes and Device Codes used for accessing the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4). The Android TV Boxes and Device Codes are knowingly provided by Defendants for purposes of enabling customers access to the servers that are used to stream the television programming on the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service, including the DISH Programming.”

    In addition to a permanent injunction, DISH predictably requests a damages award to compensate for the activities of Voodoo in the United States.

    Statutory damages of between $1,000 and $10,000 are available for each violation of Section 605(a) and up to $100,000 if the violation was committed willfully and for financial gain.

    Section 605(e)(4) allows for statutory damages up to $100,000 for each violation which at least on paper has the potential to push any damages award into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    Which VPN Providers Really Take Anonymity Seriously in 2020?

    Picking the best VPN can be a tricky endeavor. There are hundreds of VPN services out there, all promising to keep you private. Some are more anonymous than others, however. To help you pick the best one for your needs, we asked dozens of VPNs what their logging policies are, how they handle torrent users, and what else they do to keep you anonymous.

    The VPN industry is booming and prospective users have hundreds of options to pick from. All claim to be the best, but some are more anonymous than others.

    The VPN review business is also flourishing. Just do a random search for “best VPN service” or “VPN review” and you’ll see dozens of sites filled with recommendations and preferred picks.

    We don’t want to make any recommendations. When it comes to privacy and anonymity, an outsider can’t offer any guarantees. Vulnerabilities are always lurking around the corner and even with the most secure VPN, you still have to trust the VPN company with your data.

    Instead, we aim to provide an unranked overview of VPN providers, asking them questions we believe are important. Many of these questions relate to anonymity and security, and the various companies answer them in their own words.

    We hope that this helps users to make an informed choice. However, we stress that users themselves should always make sure that their VPN setup is secure, working correctly, and not leaking.

    This year’s questions and answers are listed below. We have included all VPNs we contacted that don’t keep extensive logs or block torrent traffic on all of their servers.

    The order of the providers is arbitrary and doesn’t carry any value. A few links in this article are affiliate links. This won’t cost you a penny more but it helps us to keep the lights on.



    1. Do you keep (or share with third parties) ANY data that would allow you to match an IP-address and a timestamp to a current or former user of your service? If so, exactly what information do you hold/share and for how long?

    2. What is the name under which your company is incorporated (+ parent companies, if applicable) and under which jurisdiction does your company operate?

    3. What tools are used to monitor and mitigate abuse of your service, including limits on concurrent connections if these are enforced?

    4. Do you use any external email providers (e.g. Google Apps), analytics, or support tools ( e.g Live support, Zendesk) that hold information provided by users?

    5. In the event you receive a DMCA takedown notice or a non-US equivalent, how are these handled?

    6. What steps would be taken in the event a court orders your company to identify an active or former user of your service? How would your company respond to a court order that requires you to log activity for a user going forward? Have these scenarios ever played out in the past?

    7. Is BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic allowed on all servers? If not, why? Do you provide port forwarding services? Are any ports blocked?

    8. Which payment systems/providers do you use? Do you take any measures to ensure that payment details can’t be linked to account usage or IP-assignments?

    9. What is the most secure VPN connection and encryption algorithm you would recommend to your users?

    10. Do you provide tools such as “kill switches” if a connection drops and DNS/IPv6 leak protection? Do you support Dual Stack IPv4/IPv6 functionality?

    11. Are any of your VPN servers hosted by third parties? If so, what measures do you take to prevent those partners from snooping on any inbound and/or outbound traffic? Do you use your own DNS servers?

    12. In which countries are your servers physically located? Do you offer virtual locations?

    Tip: Here’s a list of all VPN providers covered here, with direct links to the answers.



    Private Internet Access
    1. We do not store any logs relating to traffic, session, DNS or metadata. There are no logs kept for any person or entity to match an IP address and a timestamp to a current or former user of our service. In summary, we do not log, period. Privacy is our policy.

    2. Private Internet Access, Inc. is an Indiana corporation, under the parent company Kape Technologies PLC, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

    3. We have an active, proprietary system in place to help mitigate abuse including attempts to bypass our simultaneous connection limit.

    4. At the moment we are using Google Apps Suite and Google Analytics on our website only with interest and demographics tracking disabled and anonymized IP addresses enabled. We utilize DeskPro for our support team.

    5. Primarily, we stress that our service is not intended to be used for illegal activities and copyright infringements and we request our users to comply with this when accepting our Terms of Use. That said, we have an active, proprietary system in place to help mitigate abuse that preserves the privacy of our customers while following the letter of the law.

    6. Every subpoena is scrutinized to the highest extent for compliance with both the “spirit” and “letter of the law.” While we have not received any valid court orders to identify an active or former user of service, we do periodically receive subpoenas from law enforcement agencies that we scrutinize for compliance and respond accordingly. If forced to provide logs by a court of law, Private Internet Access has verified in court multiple times that we keep no logs. Our company would fight a court order that requires us to do any sort of logging.

    7. BitTorrent and file-sharing traffic are not discriminated against or throttled. We do not censor our traffic, period. We do provide port forwarding services on some of our VPN servers, check here for the full list of PIA VPN servers that support port forwarding.

    8. We utilize a variety of payment systems, including, but not limited to: PayPal, Credit Card (with Stripe), Amazon, Google, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Zcash, CashU, OKPay, PaymentWall, and even support payment using major store-bought gift cards. Payment details are only linked to accounts for billing purposes. IP assignments and other user activity on our VPN servers aren’t linkable to specific accounts or payment details because of our strict and demonstrated no-log policy.

    9. At the moment, the most secure and practical VPN connection and encryption algorithm that we recommend to our users would be our cipher suite of AES-256 + RSA4096 + SHA256 over OpenVPN.

    10. Our users gain access to a plethora of additional tools, including but not limited to a Kill Switch, IPv6 Leak Protection, DNS Leak Protection, Shared IP System, and MACE, which protect users from malware, trackers, and ads.

    11. We utilize our own bare metal servers in third-party data centers that are operated by trusted business partners with whom we have completed serious due diligence. When countries or data centers fail to meet our high privacy standards, we remove our VPN server presence as has previously happened in Brazil, South Korea, Germany, and Russia.

    12. We currently operate 3,395 servers across 64 locations in 44 countries. For more information on what countries are available, please visit our PIA network page. All of our locations are physical and not virtualized.

    Private Internet Access details

    ExpressVPN
    1. No, ExpressVPN doesn’t keep any connection or activity logs, including never logging browsing history, data contents, DNS requests, timestamps, source IPs, outgoing IPs, or destination IPs.

    2. Express VPN International Ltd is a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company.

    3. We reserve the right to block specific abusive traffic to protect the server network and other ExpressVPN customers. With regards to limits on the number of devices, our systems are merely able to identify how many active sessions a given license has at a given moment in time and use that counter to decide whether a license is allowed to create one additional session. This counter is temporary and is not tracked over time.

    4. We use Zendesk for support tickets and SnapEngage for live chat support; we have assessed the security profiles of both and consider them to be secure platforms. We use Google Analytics and cookies to collect marketing metrics for our website and several external tools for collecting crash reports (only if a user opts into sharing these reports). ExpressVPN is committed to protecting the privacy of our users, and our practices are discussed in detail in our comprehensive Privacy Policy.

    5. As we do not keep any data or logs that could link specific activity to a given user, ExpressVPN does not identify or report users as a result of DMCA notices. User privacy and anonymity are always preserved.

    6. Legally our company is only bound to respect subpoenas and court orders when they originate from the British Virgin Islands government or in conjunction with BVI authorities via a mutual legal assistance treaty. As a general rule, we reply to law enforcement inquiries by informing the investigator that we do not possess any data that could link activity or IP addresses to a specific user. Regarding a demand that we log activity going forward: Were anyone ever to make such a request, we would refuse to re-engineer our systems in a way that infringes on the privacy protections that our customers trust us to uphold.

    Not storing any sensitive information also protects user privacy and security in the event of law enforcement gaining physical access to servers. This was proven in a high-profile case in Turkey in which law enforcement seized a VPN server leased by ExpressVPN but could not find any server logs that would enable investigators to link activity to a user or even determine which users, or whether a specific user, were connected at a given time.

    7. We do not believe in restricting or censoring any type of traffic. ExpressVPN allows all traffic, including BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic (without rerouting), from all of our VPN servers. At the moment, we do not support port forwarding.

    8. ExpressVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, and a large number of local payment options. We also accept Bitcoin, which we recommend for those who seek maximum privacy in relation to their form of payment. As we do not log user activity, IP addresses, or timestamps, there is no way for ExpressVPN or any external party to link payment details entered on our website with a user’s VPN activities.

    9. By default, ExpressVPN automatically chooses the protocol best-suited to your network depending on a variety of factors. For example, our primary protocol, OpenVPN, uses a 4096-bit CA with AES-256-GCM encryption, TLSv1.2, and SHA256 signatures to authenticate traffic.

    10. Yes, our Network Lock feature, which is turned on by default, prevents all types of traffic including IPv4, IPv6, and DNS from leaking outside of the VPN. We do not yet support IPv6 routing through the VPN tunnel. ExpressVPN also protects users from data leaks in a number of ways.

    11. Our VPN servers are hosted in trusted data centers with strong security practices, where the data center employees do not have server credentials. The efforts we take to secure our VPN server infrastructure are extensive and have been audited. For example, with our proprietary TrustedServer technology, we reinstall the entire VPN server software stack from scratch with every reboot, ensuring we have complete confidence in what software is running on each of our servers and that no unauthorized software or backdoors can persist on these servers. More details are available here.

    We run our own logless DNS on every server, meaning no personally identifiable data is ever stored. We do not use third-party DNS.

    12. ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. For more than 97% of these servers, the physical server and the associated IPaddresses are located in the same country. For countries where it is difficult to find servers that meet ExpressVPN’s rigorous standards, we use virtual locations. The specific countries are published on our website here.

    ExpressVPN details

    NordVPN
    1. We do not keep connection logs nor timestamps that could allow us to match customers with their activity.

    2. Tefincom S.A., operating under the jurisdiction of Panama.

    3. We are only able to see the server load. We also use an automated tool that limits the maximum number of concurrent connections to six per customer. Apart from that, we do not use any other tools.

    4. NordVPN uses third-party data processors for emailing services and to collect basic website and app analytics. We use Iterable for correspondence, Zendesk to provide customer support, Google Analytics to monitor website and app data, as well as Crashlytics, Firebase Analytics and Appsflyer to monitor application data. All third-party services we use are bound by a contract with us to never use the information of our users for their own purposes and not to disclose the information to any third parties unrelated to the service.

    5. NordVPN is a transmission service provider, operating in Panama. DMCA takedown notices are not applicable to us.

    6. If the order or subpoena is issued by a Panamanian court, we would have to provide the information if we had any. However, our zero-log policy means that we do not store any information about our users’ online activity – only their email address and basic payment info. So far, we haven’t had any such cases.

    7. We do not restrict any BitTorrent or other file-sharing applications on most of our servers. We have optimized a number of our servers specifically for file-sharing. At the moment, we do not offer port forwarding and block outgoing SMTP 25 and NetBIOS ports.

    8. Our customers are able to pay via all major credit cards, regionally localized payment solutions and cryptocurrencies. Our payment processing partners collect basic billing information for payment processing and refund requests, but they cannot be connected to an internet activity of a particular customer. Bitcoin is the most anonymous option, as it does not link the payment details to the user identity or other personal information.

    9. All our protocols are secure, however, the most advanced encryption is used by NordLynx. NordLynx is based on the WireGuard® protocol and uses ChaCha20 for encryption, Poly1305 for authentication and integrity, and Curve25519 for the Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman key agreement protocol.

    10. We provide automatic kill switches and DNS leak protection. Dual-Stack IPv4/IPv6 functionality is not yet supported with our service; however, all NordVPN apps offer an integrated IPv6 Leak Protection.

    11. Most of our servers are leased; however, the security of our infrastructure is our top priority. To elevate our standards to a higher level, we have partnered with VerSprite, a global leader in cybersecurity consulting and advisory services. Due to our special server configuration, no one is able to collect or retain any data, ensuring compliance with our no-logs policy. We do have our own DNS servers, and all DNS requests travel through a VPN tunnel. Our customers can also manually setup any DNS server they like.

    12. We do not offer virtual locations, our servers are located in places we state they are. At the time of writing, we have almost 6000 servers in 59 countries.

    NordVPN details

    HideIPVPN
    1. We do not store or share any such information that allows doing that. The only information we store is that related to the payment process. But it is not shared anywhere outside the payment systems.

    2. The registered name of the company is Server Management LLC and we operate under US jurisdiction.

    3. A single subscription can be used simultaneously for three connections. Abuses of service usually mean using non-P2P servers for torrents or DMCA notices.

    Also, our no-log policy makes it impossible to track who downloaded/uploaded any data from the internet using our VPN. We use IPtables plugin to block P2P traffic on servers where P2P is not explicitly allowed. We block outgoing mail on port 25 to prevent spamming activity.

    4. We use the live chat provided by tawk.to and Google Apps for incoming email. For outgoing email, we use our own SMTP server.

    5. Since no information is stored on any of our servers there is nothing that we can take down. We reply to the data center or copyright holder that we do not log our user’s traffic and we use shared IP-addresses, which make it impossible to track who downloaded any data from the internet using our VPN.

    6. HideIPVPN may disclose information, including but not limited to, information concerning a client, to comply with a court order, subpoena, summons, discovery request, warrant, statute, regulation, or governmental request. But because we have a no-logs policy and we use shared IPs there won’t be anything to disclose, excepting billing details. This has never happened before.

    7. This type of traffic is welcomed on our German (DE VPN), Dutch (NL VPN), Luxembourg (LU VPN) and Lithuanian (LT VPN) servers. It is not allowed on US, UK, Canada, Poland, Singapore, and French servers as stated in our TOS. The reason for this is our agreements with data centers. We do not allow port forwarding and we block ports 22 and 25 for security reasons.

    8. HideIPVPN accepts the following methods: PayPal, Bitcoin, Credit & Debit cards, JCB, American Express, Diners Club International, Discover. All our clients’ billing details are stored in the WHMCS billing system.

    9. SoftEther VPN protocol looks very promising and secure. Users can currently use our VPN applications on Windows and OSX systems. Both versions have a “kill switch” feature in case the connection drops. Our apps can re-establish a VPN connection and once active restart closed applications. Also, the app has the option to enable DNS leak protection.

    10. Yes, our free VPN apps have both features built-in. It is worth mentioning that our free VPN apps for Windows and macOS – there is a brand new version of them – have even more cool and unique features. We were one of the first – if not THE FIRST – to introduce as you call it a “kill switch” in our apps. Now, we give users the ability to easily choose the best, “fastest” VPN server available for them in their location – a “Sort by speed” option.

    11. We don’t have physical control of our VPN servers. Servers are outsourced in premium data-centers with high-quality Tier 1 networks. Our servers are self-managed and access is restricted to our personnel only.

    12. At the moment we have VPN servers located in 11 countries – US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Canada, Poland, France, Australia and Singapore.

    HideIPVPN website

    IVPN
    1. No. We believe that not logging VPN connection related data is fundamental to any privacy service regardless of the security or policies implemented to protect the log data. Specifically, we don’t log: traffic, DNS requests, connection timestamps and durations, bandwith, IPaddress or any account activity except simultaneous connections.

    2. Privatus Limited, Gibraltar. No parent or holding companies.

    3. We limit simultaneous connections by maintaining a temporary counter on a central server that is deleted when the user disconnects (we detail this process in our Privacy Policy).

    4. No. We made a strategic decision from day one that no company or customer data would ever be stored on third-party systems. All our internal services run on our own dedicated servers that we setup, configure and manage. No third parties have access to our servers or data. We don’t host any external scripts, web trackers or tracking pixels on our website. We also refuse to engage in advertising on platforms with surveillance-based business models, like Google or Facebook.

    5. Our legal department sends a reply stating that we do not store content on our servers and that our VPN servers act only as a conduit for data. In addition, we inform them that we never store the IP addresses of customers connected to our network nor are we legally required to do so. We have a detailed Legal Process Guideline published on our website.

    6. Firstly, this has never happened. However, if asked to identify a customer based on a timestamp and/or IP address then we would reply factually that we do not store this information. If legally compelled to log activity going forward we would do everything in our power to alert the relevant customers directly (or indirectly through our warrant canary).

    7. We do not block any traffic or ports on any servers. We provide a port forwarding service.

    8. We accept Bitcoin, Cash, PayPal, and credit cards. When using cash there is no link to a user account within our system. When using Bitcoin, the transaction is processed through our self-hosted BitPay server. We store the Bitcoin transaction ID in our system.
    If you wish to remain anonymous to IVPN you should take the necessary precautions when purchasing Bitcoin. When paying with PayPal or a credit card a token is stored that is used to process recurring payments but this is not linked in any way to VPN account usage or IP-assignments.

    9. We offer and recommend WireGuard, a high-performance protocol that utilizes state-of-the-art cryptography. Since its merge into Linux Kernel (v5.6) and the release of 1.0 version of the protocol, we consider it to be ready for wide-scale use. Alternatively, we also offer OpenVPN with RSA-4096 / AES-256-GCM, which we also believe is more than secure enough for the purposes for which we provide our service.

    10. Yes, the IVPN client offers an advanced VPN firewall that blocks every type of IP leak possible including IPv6, DNS, network failures, WebRTC STUN etc. Our VPN clients work on a dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 but we currently only support IPv4 on our VPN gateways.

    11. We use bare metal dedicated servers leased from third-party data centers in each country where we have a presence. We install each server using our own custom images and employ full disk encryption to ensure that if a server is ever seized the data is worthless.
    We also operate an exclusive multi-hop network allowing customers to choose an entry and exit server in different jurisdictions which would make the task of legally gaining access to servers at the same time significantly more difficult. We operate our own network of log-free DNS servers that are only accessible to our customers through the VPN tunnel.

    12. We have servers in 32 countries. No virtual locations. Full list of servers is available here.

    IVPN website

    AzireVPN
    1. No, we do not record or store any logs related to our services. No traffic, user activity, timestamps, IP addresses, number of active and total sessions, DNS requests, or any other kind of logs are stored.

    2. The registered company name is Netbouncer AB and we operate under Swedish jurisdiction where there are no data retention laws that apply to VPN providers.

    3. We took extra security steps to harden our servers. They are running using Blind Operator mode, a software module that ensures that it is extremely difficult to set up any kind of traffic monitoring. Abuses like incoming DDoS attacks are usually mitigated with UDP filtering on the source port used by an attacker.

    4. No, we do not rely on and refuse to use external third-party systems. We run our own email infrastructure and encourage people to use PGP encryption for reaching us. The ticketing support system, website analytics (Piwik, with anonymization settings) and other tools are hosted in-house on open-source software.

    5. We politely inform the sender that we do not keep any logs and are unable to identify a user.

    6. In the case that a valid court order is issued, we will inform the other party that we are unable to identify an active or former user of our service due to our particular infrastructure. In that case, they would probably force us to handover physical access to the server, which they would have to reboot to disable the Blind Operator mode and to be able to gain any kind of access. Since we are running our custom system images directly into RAM, all data would be lost.

    So far, we have never received any court order and no personal information has ever been given out.

    7. Yes, BitTorrent, peer-to-peer and file-sharing traffic is allowed and treated equally to any other traffic on all of our servers. We do not provide port forwarding services yet, however, we do provide a public IPv4+IPv6 addresses mode on OpenVPN which assigns IP addresses being used by only one user at a time for the whole duration of the connection to the server. In this mode, all ports are opened, with the exception of unencrypted outgoing port 25 TCP, usually used by the SMTP protocol, which is blocked to prevent abuse by spammers.

    8. As of now, we offer a variety of payment options including anonymous methods such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Monero and some other cryptocurrencies, and cash money via postal mail. We also offer PayPal (with or without recurring payments), credit cards (VISA, MasterCard and American Express through Paymentwall) and Swish. We do not store sensitive payment information on our servers, we only retain an internal reference code for order confirmation, and the customer connected to the transaction information is removed after 6 months.

    9. We recommend our users to use our WireGuard servers, using official clients available on Windows, Linux, macOS and OpenWrt (routers). We propose an easy-to-use WireGuard-based client on Android and iOS.

    – Data channel cipher: ChaCha20 with Poly1305 for authentication and data integrity.
    – Authenticated key exchange: Noise Protocol Framework’s Noise_IKpsk2, using Curve25519, Blake2s, ChaCha20, and Poly1305. It uses a formally verified construction.

    10. We offer a custom open-source VPN application called azclient for all major desktop platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux) which currently supports OpenVPN. Its source code is released on Github under the GPLv2 license. We are currently revamping this client to a WireGuard-based one and are planning to add a kill switch and DNS leak protection features to it in the future.

    As we provide our users with a full dual-stack IPv4+IPv6 functionality on all servers and VPN protocols, we do not need to provide any IPv6 leak protection. Our tunnels are natively supporting IPv6 even from IPv4 only Internet lines, by tunneling IPv6 traffic into IPv4 transparently. Also, our WireGuard servers can be reached through both IPv4 and IPv6.

    11. We physically own all our servers in all locations, co-located in closed racks in different data centers around the world meeting our strict security criteria, using dedicated network links and carefully chosen network upstream providers for maximum privacy and network quality. We host our own non-logging DNS servers in different locations.

    12. As of now, we operate across 11 locations on 3 continents. New locations in France, Germany, Romania, Spain and Switzerland are planned soon. There are no virtual locations.

    AzireVPN website

    Windscribe
    1. No.

    2. Windscribe Limited. Ontario, Canada.

    3. Byte count of all traffic sent through the network in a one month period as well as a count of parallel connections at any given moment.

    4. No. Everything is self-hosted.

    5. Our transparency policy is available here.

    6. Under Canadian law, a VPN company cannot be compelled to wiretap users. We can be legally compelled to provide the data that we already have (as per our ToS) and we would have to comply with a valid Canadian court order. Since we do not store any identifying info that can link an IP to an account, the fact that emails are optional to register, and the service can be paid for with cryptocurrency, none of what we store is identifying.

    7. We allow P2P traffic in most locations. Yes, we provide port forwarding for all Pro users. Only ports above 1024 are allowed.

    8. Stripe, Paypal, Coinpayments, Paymentwall. IP addresses of users are not stored or linked to payments.

    9. The encryption parameters are similar for all protocols we support. AES-256 cipher with SHA512 auth and a 4096-bit RSA key. We recommend using IKEv2, as it’s a kernel space protocol that is faster than OpenVPN in most cases.

    10. Our desktop apps have a built-in firewall that blocks all connectivity outside of the tunnel. In an event of a connection drop, it fails closed – nothing needs to be done. The firewall protects against all leaks, IPv4, IPv6 and DNS. We only support IPv4 connectivity at this time.

    11. We lease servers in over 150 different datacenters worldwide. Some datacenters deploy networking monitoring for the purposes of DDOS protection. We request to disable it whenever possible, but this is not feasible in all places. Even with it in place, since most servers have dozens/hundreds of users connected to them at any given moment, your activity gets “lost in the crowd”. Each VPN server operates a recursive DNS server and performs all DNS resolution locally.

    12. Our server overview is available here. We don’t offer virtual locations.

    Windscribe website

    VPNArea
    1. We do not keep or record any logs. We are therefore not able to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user of our service.

    2. The registered name of our company is “Offshore Security EOOD” (spelled “ОФШОР СЕКЮРИТИ ЕООД” in Bulgarian). We’re a VAT registered business. We operate under the jurisdiction of Bulgaria.

    3. To prevent email spam abuse we block mail ports used for such activity, but we preemptively whitelist known and legit email servers so that genuine mail users can still receive and send their emails.

    To limit concurrent connections to 6, we use an in-house developed system that adds and subtracts +1 or -1 towards the user’s “global-live-connections-count” in a database of ours which the authentication API corresponds with anonymously each time the user disconnects or connects to a server. The process does not record any data about which servers the subtracting/detracting is coming from or any other data at any time, logging is completely disabled at the API.

    4. We host our own email servers. We host our own Ticket Support system on our servers. The only external tools we use are Google Analytics for our website and Live Chat software.

    5. DMCA notices are not forwarded to our users as we’re unable to identify a responsible user due to not having any logs or data that can help us associate an individual with an account. We would reply to the DMCA notices explaining that we do not host or hold any copyrighted content ourselves and we’re not able to identify or penalize a user of our service.

    6. This has not happened yet. Should it happen our attorney will examine the validity of the court order in accordance with our jurisdiction, we will then inform the appropriate party that we’re not able to match a user to an IP or timestamp, because we’re not recording any logs.

    7. BitTorrent and torrents in general are allowed on all our servers. We offer port forwarding only on the dedicated IP private VPN servers at the moment with the goal to allow it on shared servers too. The only ports which are blocked are those widely related to abuse, such as spam.

    8. We accept PayPal, Credit/Debit cards, AliPay, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, WebMoney, GiroPay, and bank transfers. In the case of PayPal/card payments, we link usernames to the transactions so we can process a refund. We do take active steps to make sure payment details can’t be linked to account usage or IP assignments. In the case of Bitcoin, BCH, ETH we do not link usernames to transactions.

    9. We use AES-256-CBC + SHA256 cipher and RSA4096 keys on all our OpenVPN servers without exception. We also have Double VPN servers, where for example the traffic goes through Russia and Israel before reaching the final destination. We also have Tor over VPN servers to provide diversity in the anonymous setup a user prefers.

    10. Yes, we provide both KillSwitch and DNS Leak protection. We actively block IPv6 traffic to prevent IP leaks, so connections are enforced via IPv4.

    11. We use our own no-logs DNS servers. We work with reliable and established data centers. Nobody but us has virtual access to our servers. The entire logs directories are wiped out and disabled, rendering possible physical brute force access to the servers useless in terms of identifying users.

    12. All our servers are physically located in the stated countries. A list of our servers in 60+ countries is available here.

    VPNArea website

    AirVPN
    1. No, we do not keep or share with third parties ANY data that would allow us to match an IP address and a timestamp to a current or former user of our service

    2. AirVPN in Italy. No parent company/companies.

    3. No tools are used.

    4. No, we do not use any external email providers, analytics, or support tools that hold information provided by users.

    5. They are ignored if they pertain to P2P, they are processed, verified and handled accordingly (rejected or accepted) if they pertain to web sites (or FTP services etc.) hosted behind our VPN servers.

    6. a) We would co-operate to the best of our abilities, although we can’t give out information we don’t have. b) We are unable to comply due to technical problems and limitations. c) The scenario in ‘case b’ has never occurred. The scenario in ‘case a’ has occurred multiple times, but our infrastructure does not monitor, inspect or log customers’ traffic, so it is not possible to correlate customer information (if we had it) with customers’ traffic and vice-versa.

    7. a) Yes, BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic is allowed on all servers. AirVPN does not discriminate against any protocol or application and keeps its network as agnostic as possible. b) Yes, we provide remote inbound port forwarding service. c) Outbound port 25 is blocked.

    8. We accept payments via PayPal and all major credit cards. We also accept Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Doge, and Monero. By accepting directly various cryptocurrencies without intermediaries we get rid of privacy issues, including correlations between IP addresses and payments. By accepting directly Monero we also offer the option to our customers to pay via a cryptocurrency which protects transactions with a built-in layer of anonymity.

    9. CHACHA20-POLY1305 and AES-256-GCM

    10. We provide Network Lock in our free and open-source software. It can prevent traffic leaks (both IPv4 and IPv6 – DNS leaks included) even in case of application or system processes wrong binding, in case of UPnP caused leaks, wrong settings, WebRTC and other STUN related methods, and of course in case of unexpected VPN disconnection. b) Yes, we do provide DS IPv4/IPv6 access, including IPv6 over IPv4, pure IPv4 and pure IPv6 connections. In this way even customers whose ISP does not support IPv6 can access IPv6 services via AirVPN.

    11. We do not own our datacenters and we are not a transit provider, so we buy traffic from Tier 1, Tier 2 and only occasionally Tier 3 providers and we house servers in various datacenters. The main countermeasures are: exclusive access to IPMI etc. via our own, external IP addresses or specific VPN for the IPMI etc.; reboot inhibition (requiring remote validation); some other methods we will not reveal. However, if servers lines are wiretapped externally and transparently, and server tampering does not occur, there is no way inside the server to prevent, or be aware of, ongoing wiretapping. Wiretapping prevention must be achieved with other methods on the client-side (some of them are integrated into our software), for example, VPN over Tor, Tor over VPN etc.

    12. NO, we do not offer virtual locations and/or VPS. We declare only real locations of real “bare metal” servers.

    AirVPN website

    CactusVPN
    1. No, we don’t keep any information of this type.

    2. CactusVPN Inc., Canada

    3. We restrict our services with up to 5 devices per package for VPN connections and to unlimited devices for our SmartDNS service as long as all of them have the same IP address. Abuse of services is regulated by our Linux firewall and most of the datacenters we hire servers from provide additional security measures for server attacks.

    4. No

    5. We did not receive any official notices yet. We will only respond to a local court order.

    6. If we have a valid order from Canadian authorities we have to help them identify the user. Bus as we do not keep any logs we just can’t do that. We did not receive any orders yet.

    7. BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic is allowed on Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Latvia and Romanian servers.

    8. PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Bitcoin & Altcoins, Alipay, Qiwi, Webmoney, Boleto Bancario, Yandex Money and other less popular payment options.

    9. We recommend users to use SoftEther with ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 cipher suite.

    10. Yes, our apps include Kill Switch and Apps. Killer options in case a VPN connection is dropped. Also, they include DNS Leak protection. We only support IPv4.

    11. We use servers from various Data Centers. All the VPN traffic is encrypted so the datacenters cannot see the nature of the traffic, also the access on all servers is secured and no datacenter can see its configuration.

    12. Here’s the link to all our servers.

    CactusVPN website

    Trust.Zone
    1. Trust.Zone doesn’t store any logs. Therefore, we have no data that could be linked and attributed to the current or former user. All we need from customers is an email to sign up.

    2. Trust.Zone is under Seychelles jurisdiction. The company is operated by Internet Privacy Ltd.

    3. Our system can understand how many active sessions a given license has at a given moment in time. This counter is temporarily placed in RAM and never logged or saved anywhere.

    4. Trust.Zone has never used any third-party tools like Google Analytics, live chat platform, support tools or other.

    5. If we receive any type of DMCA requests or Copyright Infringement Notices – we ignore them. Trust.Zone is under offshore jurisdiction, out of 14 Eyes Surveillance Alliance. There is no data retention law in Seychelles.

    6. A court order would not be enforceable because we do not log information and therefore there is nothing to be had from our servers. Trust.Zone supports Warrant Canary. Trust.Zone has not received or been subject to any searches, seizures of data, or requirements to log any actions of our customers.

    7. BitTorrent and file-sharing traffic is allowed on all Trust.Zone servers. Moreover, we don’t restrict any kind of traffic. Trust.Zone does not throttle or block any protocols, IP addresses, servers or any type of traffic whatsoever.

    8. All major credit cards are accepted. PayPal, Alipay, wire transfer, and many other types of payments are available. As we don’t store any logs, there is no way to link payment details with user’s internet activity

    9. We use the most recommended protocols in the VPN industry – IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN. We also support our own protocol which is faster than OpenVPN and also includes Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). Trust.Zone uses AES-256 Encryption by default.

    10. Trust.Zone supports a kill-switch function. We also own our DNS servers and provide users with the ability to use our DNS to avoid any DNS leaks. All features listed above are also available with a 30-day Free Plan. Trust.Zone does not support IPv6 to avoid any leaks. We also provide users with additional recommendations to be sure that there are no DNS leaks or IP leaks.

    11. We have a mixed infrastructure. Trust.Zone owns some physical servers and we have access to them physically. In locations with lower utilization, we normally host with third-parties. But the most important point is that we use dedicated servers in this case only, with full control by our network administrators. DNS queries go through our own DNS servers.

    12. We are operating with 175+ dedicated servers in 93 geo-zones and are still growing. We also provide users with dedicated IP addresses if needed. The full map of the server locations is available here.

    Trust.Zone website

    SwitchVPN
    1. No, SwitchVPN does not store any logs which would allow anyone to match an IP address and a time stamp to a current or former user of our services.

    2. Our company name is “CS SYSTEMS, INC” and it comes under United States jurisdiction.

    3. We pro-actively take steps to mitigate abuse of our service/servers by implementing certain firewall rules. Such as blocking default SMTP ports which are likely to be abused by spammers.

    4. We use Chatra for providing Live Chat and our web-based ticketing system which is self-hosted. No personal information is collected.

    5. SwitchVPN is transitory digital network communications as per 17 U.S.C § 512(a) of the Copyright Act. So in order to protect the privacy of our users we use shared IP addresses, which makes it impossible to pinpoint any specific user. If the copyright holder only provides us with an IP address as identifying information, then it is impossible for us to associate a DMCA notice with any of our users.

    6. There have been no court orders since we started our operation in 2010, and as we do not log our users’ sessions and we utilize shared IPaddresses, it is not possible to identify any user solely based on timestamps or IP addresses. Currently, there are no mandatory data logging requirements in the United States but in case the situation changes, we will migrate our company to another privacy-friendly jurisdiction.

    7. Yes, We have P2P optimized servers that provide dynamic port forwarding. It can be easily filtered in our VPN application.

    8. We accept all major payment methods such as Credit Card, PayPal, Bitcoin and other Crypto Currencies. We use shared IPs and every account is assigned an alias username for connecting to the VPN server.

    9. SwitchVPN utilizes AES-256bit encryption with SHA512 Authentication Channel by default.

    10. Yes, Kill Switch & DNS Leak protection is provided on our Windows and Mac application. Currently we only support IPv4.

    11. Before we get into an agreement with any third party, we make sure the company does not have any poor history for privacy and we make sure the company is in-line with our privacy requirements for providing our users with a no-log VPN service. We also use our own DNS servers to anonymize all DNS requests.

    12. All of our servers are physically located in the countries we have mentioned, we do not use virtual locations.

    SwitchVPN website

    PrivateVPN
    1. We DO NOT keep any logs. We do not store logs relating to traffic, session, DNS, or metadata.

    2. We’re registered in Sweden under the name “Privat Kommunikation Sverige AB”

    3. The nature of our VPN service makes it practically impossible for us to do any sort of monitoring of abuses. We do monitor the realtime state of the total amount of connections per user account as we allow 6 connections simultaneously. This specific information is never stored.

    4. We are using LAdesk support tools, included ticket system and Live Chat. They remain on the chat server for the duration of the chat session, then optionally sent by email to a user, and then destroyed.

    5. Since we don’t keep any information on any of our servers DMCA is not applicable to our service as it is not a codified law or act under Swedish jurisdiction

    6. We don’t retain or log any identifiers at all. So, basically even when ordered to actively investigate a user we are limited to the number of active logins which is just a numerical value. That being said, we have not received a court order to date

    7. P2P is allowed on all our servers as a matter of policy. We are not in the business of restricting and throttling things. The whole point of a user connecting to our VPN servers is to get uncensored and unrestricted Internet. We do support port forwarding with one open port to all ports opened.

    8. We accept all forms of Credit/Debit card payments through the Stripe payment gateway, PayPal payment method, and Bitcoins. A credit card or a PayPal payment has to be linked to a user account for us to be able to refund a customer due to our 30-day money-back guarantee. More important, a VPN IP can’t be linked to a user account.

    9. OpenVPN over UDP with 256-bit security for both data and TLS control channel encryption and Wireguard.

    10. Our Windows and macOS VPN app offers a robust Kill switch and DNS leak protection. DNS leaks on any major platform are owing to broken installations which are fixed as soon we see a report or any issues. IPv6 leak protection is available on every platform and multiple VPN protocols. We offer guides and instructions to set up a kill switch on macOS, GNU/Linux, and Android. At this stage, we do not support any Dual Stack IPv4/IPv6 functionality.

    11. We have physical control over our servers and network in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, United Kindom – London, Netherlands, France Italy, Spain, Switzerland, USA – NYC – LA, and Canada – Toronto as those locations and networks are 100% managed and owned by PrivateVPN. With all other locations, we use a variation of different hosting providers such as M247. All inbound and outbound traffic is encrypted and can’t be inspected. Yes, each VPN server has its own DNS server which is pushed to the VPN client.

    12. We use a mix of physical and virtual servers depending on the demand and needs of a given location. Virtual servers are categorized in our server list on our website to avoid confusion and maintain transparency.

    PrivateVPN website

    WhatTheServer
    1. We do not maintain any logs that would allow us to identify a user.

    2. What The * Services, LLC is incorporated in the USA.

    3. As mentioned above we do not log. We have no way to log bandwidth. All limiting is done by active sessions to prevent one person from sharing an account with hundreds of people. We use a custom session management system that operates completely on real-time data and keeps no logs.

    4. We run our own communications infrastructure. No analytics are used currently.

    5. We send out the below response as we have no logs. “Thanks for the note today. Just for clarification to you (‘InsertDatacenterNameHere’) and you only (this message is not for distribution); the operator(s) of the named network(s) within the notification provide no validation of any claim(s) made on behalf of an ‘abuse’ complainant. The operator(s) of this network, hosts, and network devices have no knowledge of any activities named in the complaint and operate in the absence of logs, records, or other commonly used identifying materials. We appreciate you (‘InsertDatacenterNameHere’) bringing such items to our attention, and if we are able to assist in any way in the future, please let us know. Thanks. This ticket may be closed upon receipt and review.”

    6. We have only had one of these requests for a VPS client. We responded by replying to the requester letting them know we were looking into it, and we notified the customer via his email on file. Then we contacted the EFF and they put us in touch with a lawyer who helped us get the case dropped, because we did not have the information requested. If we do have another request in the future we will take several steps. First, we would consult with our lawyers to confirm the validity of the order/subpoena, and respond accordingly if it is NOT a valid order/subpoena. Then we would alert our user of the event if we are legally able to.

    If the order/subpoena is valid, we would see if we have the ability to provide the information requested, and respond accordingly we do NOT have the information requested. If we DO have the information requested,
    we would immediately reconfigure our systems to stop keeping that information. Then we would consult with our lawyer to determine if there is anyway we can fight the order/subpoena and/or what is the minimum
    level of compliance we must meet, as well as, notify the user of the event if we are legally able to do so. If we were forced to start keeping logs on our users, we would go out of business and start a new company in a different jurisdiction.

    7. We allow file sharing on our network. We do ask people to use the EU nodes for file-sharing. We have no way to enforce that, but it helps to prevent the USA-based nodes from complaints and shutdown from overzealous copyright trolls. We do offer port forwarding plans with our Perfect Dark Plans. We do not block any ports or monitor.

    8. We accept PayPal and Cryptocurrency. All that is required is a working email for signup. Signups via Tor or proxies are highly encouraged along with placeholder information if paying in cryptocurrency. We also use a completely different authentication infrastructure and random usernames for the VPN accounts.

    9. We recommend OpenVPN and Our VPN has Perfect Forward Secrecy setup with ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 for all our VPN servers which is based on Softether and Ubuntu which allows people to use any protocols their devices supports. This ensures maximum compatibility and the best protection for all.

    10. Our VPN profiles are compatible with Qomui (Qt OpenVPN Management UI) and others that have this built into the opensource VPN client. We push custom Adblocking DNS to clients. We also have ‘push “block-outside-dns”’ in our OpenVPN server config files which will prevent the client from leaking DNS requests. Additionally, we include “resolve-retry infinite” and “persist-tun” in the OpenVPN client config files which will prevent the client from sending data in the clear if the VPN connection goes down. We do have dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 support which can be used if IPv6 is enabled on the device.

    11. All of our infrastructure is hosted in third-party colocations. However, we use full-disk-encryption on all of our servers. We also use custom DNS servers with adblocking to mitigate tracking from ad networks. We notice this also speeds up mobile devices and removes ads from lots of the apps without paid ad-free versions.

    12. We offer VPN server locations in US,NL,UK,HK,JP. We do offer virtual locations upon request.

    WhatTheServer website

    ibVPN
    1. We do not keep and we do not share with third parties ANY logs that can identify a user of our service with an IP address and/or a timestamp. We are also GDPR compliant and (in our opinion) keeping this kind of logs is not respecting the Privacy by Design guidelines.

    2. The company’s registered name is Amplusnet SRL. We are a Romanian company, which means we are under EU jurisdiction. In Romania, there are no mandatory data retention directives.

    3. We limit the number of concurrent connections and we are using Radius for this purpose.

    4. The back end of the website is a dedicated WHMCS for billing and support tickets. We do not use external email providers (we host our own mail server). Our users can contact us via live chat (Zendesk). The chat activity logs are deleted on a daily basis. There is no way to associate any information provided via live chat with the users’ accounts.

    5. So far we did not receive any DMCA notice for any P2P server from our server list. That is normal considering that the servers are located in DMCA-free zones. For the rest of the servers, P2P and file-sharing activities are not allowed/supported.

    6. So far, we have not received any court order. We do not support criminal activities, and in case of a valid court order, we must follow the EU laws under which we operate.

    7. We have dedicated P2P servers that allow BitTorrent and other file-sharing applications. The servers are located in Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Hong Kong and Lithuania. We do not reroute P2P connections. We do not provide port forwarding. We are blocking the SMTP ports 25 and 465 to avoid spam from our servers.

    8. Payments are performed exclusively by third-party processors, thus no credit card info, PayPal ids, or other identifying info are stored in our database. For those who would like to keep a low profile, we accept BitCoin, LiteCoin, Ethereum, WebMoney, Perfect Money etc.

    9. We support SSTP and SoftEther on most of the servers. We also offer double VPN and TOR over VPN.

    10. Yes, Kill Switch and DNS leak protection are implemented in our VPN clients. Kill Switch is one of the most-used features. Our users can decide to block all the traffic when the VPN connection drops or to kill a list of applications. We allow customers to disable IPv6 traffic and to make sure that only our DNS servers are used while connected to the VPN. Also, we support SOCKS5 on our P2P servers which can be used for downloading torrents and do not leak any data if the connection to the SOCKS5 proxy drops.

    11. We do not have physical control over our VPN servers. We have full remote control to all servers. Admin access to servers is not provided for any third-party.

    12. The full list of server locations is available here.

    ibVPN website

    Mullvad
    1. No, all details are explained in our no-logging data policy.

    2. Mullvad VPN AB – Swedish. Parent company is Amagicom AB – Swedish.

    3. We mitigate abuse by blocking the usage of ports 25, 137,139, and 445 due to email spam and Windows security issues. The number of connections: Each VPN server reports to a central service. When a customer connects to a VPN server, the server asks the central service to validate the account number, whether or not the account has any remaining time, if the account has reached its allowed number of connections, and so on. Everything is performed in temporary memory only; none of this information is permanently stored to disk.

    We also monitor the real-time state of total connections per account as we only allow for five connections simultaneously. As we do not save this information, we cannot, for example, tell you how many connections your account had five minutes ago.

    4. We have no external elements at all on our website. We do use an external email provider; for those who want to email us, we encourage them to use PGP encryption which is the only effective way to keep email somewhat private. The decrypted content is only available to us.

    5. As explained here, there is no such Swedish law that is applicable to us.

    6. From time to time, we are contacted by governments asking us to divulge information about our customers. Given than we don’t store activity logs of any kind, we have no information to give out. Worst-case scenario: we would discontinue the servers in the affected countries. The only information AT ALL POSSIBLE for us to give out is records of payments since these are stored at PayPal, banks etc.

    7. All traffic is treated equally, therefore we do not block or throttle BitTorrent or other file-sharing protocols. Port forwarding is allowed. Ports 25, 137,139, and 445 are blocked due to email spam and Windows security issues.

    8. We accept cash, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, bank wire, credit card, PayPal, and Swish. We encourage anonymous payments via cash or one of the cryptocurrencies. We run our own full node in each of the blockchains and do not use third parties for any step in the payment process, from the generation of QR codes to adding time to accounts. Our website explains how we handle payment information.

    9. We offer OpenVPN with RSA-4096 and AES-256-GCM. And we also offer WireGuard which uses Curve25519 and ChaCha20-Poly1305.

    10. We offer a kill switch and DNS leak protection, both of which are supported in IPv6 as IPv4. While the kill switch is only available via our client/app, we also provide a SOCKS5 proxy that works as a kill switch and is only accessible through our VPN.

    11. At 12 of our locations (4 in Sweden, 1 in Denmark, 1 in Amsterdam, 1 in Norway, 1 in UK, 1 in Finland, 1 in Germany, 1 in Paris, 1 in Zurich) we own and have physical control over all of our servers. In our other locations, we rent physical, dedicated servers (which are not shared with other companies) and bandwidth from carefully selected providers. Keep in mind that we have 5 locations in the UK and 3 in Germany, the servers we physically own are the ones hosted by 31173.se (they start with gb-lon-0* and de-fra-0* , and gb4-wireguard, gb5-wireguard, de4-wireguard and de5-wireguard).

    Yes, we use our own DNS servers. All DNS traffic routed via our tunnel is ‘hijacked’, even if you accidentally select another DNS our DNS will anyhow be used. Except if you have setup DNS over HTTPS or DNS over TLS.

    12. We don’t have virtual locations. All locations are listed here.

    Mullvad website

    TorGuard
    1. TorGuard has never kept or retained logs for any user. No timestamps or IP logs are kept on any VPN or authentication server. The only information TorGuard has is statistical network data which helps us to determine the load of a given server.

    2. TorGuard is owned by VPNetworks LLC and its parent company Data Protection Services. We operate under US jurisdiction.

    3. We use custom modules in a platform called Nagios to monitor VPN/Proxy hardware utilization, uptime and latency. TorGuard does enforce an eight device per user limit in real-time and each session is immediately wiped once the user has logged out. If that user failed to logout or was disconnected accidentally, our system automatically discards these stale sessions within a few minutes.

    4. We use Google Apps for email and anonymized Google Analytics data for performance reporting. All support is handled internally and TorGuard does not utilize third-party tools for customer support.

    5. If a valid DMCA takedown notice is received it would be handled by our legal team. Due to our no-log policy and shared IP network, we are unable to forward any requests to a single user.

    6. If a court order is received, it is first handled by our legal team and examined for validity in our jurisdiction. Should it be deemed valid, our legal representation would be forced to further explain the
    nature of our shared IP network configuration and the fact that we do not hold any identifying logs or time stamps.

    TorGuard’s network was designed to operate with minimum server resources and is not physically capable of retaining user logs. Due to the nature of shared VPN servers and the large traffic volume flowing through our network, it would not be possible to retain such logs. No, that scenario has never played out.

    7. Yes, torrents work on all servers except our residential IP network as these are performance optimized for specific streaming platforms. TorGuard does offer port forwarding for all ports above 2048 and the only port we block outgoing is SMTP port 25 to prevent abuse.

    8. We use Stripe for credit or debit card processing and utilize our own BTCPay instance for Bitcoin and Litecoin transactions. TorGuard accepts all cryptocurrency through coinpayments.net and use Paymentwall and PayGarden for Gift Card payments. TorGuard has gone through extreme measures by heavily modifying our billing system to work with various payment providers and to help protect our users’ privacy.

    9. For a high level of security, we would recommend using OpenVPN with AES-256-GCM-SHA512 using our stealth VPN protocol as an added measure through the TorGuard desktop or mobile apps.

    10. Yes – our kill switch is uniquely designed to send all traffic into a *black hole* if the user loses connectivity or the app crashes for any reason. Dual stack IPv4/IPv6 is currently in development and will be released very soon.

    11. We do have servers hosted at third parties but only select a location after extensive due diligence on very specific security criteria. We encrypt all disks and run 80% so far on virtual RAM disks. We do provide secure public DNS but we also provide our internal DNS on every endpoint which queries root VPN servers directly.

    12. At this time we have three virtual locations: Taiwan, Greece and Mexico. TorGuard would rather not provide any virtual locations but occasionally if we cannot find a bare-metal data center that meets our security criteria we won’t take the risk.

    TorGuard website

    Perfect Privacy
    1. We do not store or log any data that would indicate the identity or the activities of a user.

    2. The name of the company is VECTURA DATAMANAGEMENT LIMITED COMPANY and the jurisdiction is Switzerland.

    3. The number of connections/devices at the same time is not limited because we do not track it. In case of malicious activity towards specific targets, we block IP addresses or ranges, so they are not accessible from our VPN servers. Additionally, we have limits on new outgoing connections for protocols like SSH, IMAP, and SMTP to prevent automated spam and brute force attacks. We do not use any other tools.

    4. Our websites use Google Analytics to improve the quality of the user experience and it’s GDPR compliant with anonymized IP addresses. You can prohibit tracking with just one click on a provided link in the privacy policy. If a customer has a problem with Google, he has the possibility to disable the tracking of all Google domains in TrackStop. I believe we are the only VPN provider who offers this possibility. All other solutions like email, support and even our affiliate program is in-house software and under our control.

    5. Because we do not host any data, DMCA notices do not directly affect us. However, we generally answer inquiries. We point out that we do not keep any data that would allow us to identify a user of the used IP address.

    6. If we receive a Swiss court order, we are forced to provide the data that we have. Since we don’t log any IP addresses, timestamps or other connection-related data, the only step on our side is to inform the inquiring party that we do not have any data that would allow the identification of a user based on that data. Should we ever receive a legally binding court order that would require us to log the activity of a user going forward, we’d rather shut down the servers in the country concerned than compromise our user’s privacy.

    There have been incidents in the past where Perfect Privacy servers have been seized, but no user information was compromised that way. Since no logs are stored in the first place and additionally all our services are running within RAM disks, a server seizure will never compromise our customers. Although we are not subject to US-based laws, there’s a warrant canary page available.

    7. With the exception of our US servers and French servers, BitTorrent and other file-sharing software is allowed. We offer port forwarding and do not block any ports.

    8. We offer Bitcoin, PayPal and credit cards for users who prefer these options and over 60 other payment methods. Of course, it is guaranteed that payment details are not associated with any IP addresses. The only
    thing you know about a person is that he or she is a customer of Perfect Privacy and which email address was used.

    9. The most secure protocol we recommend is still OpenVPN with 256-bit AES-GCM encryption. With our VPN Manager for Mac and Windows you also have the possibility to create cascades over four VPN servers. This Multi
    Hop feature works tunnel in tunnel. If you choose countries for the hops which are known not to cooperate with each other, well you get the idea. On top of that you can activate our NeuroRouting feature, which changes the routing depending on the destination of the visited domain and dynamically selects different hops for the outgoing server to ensure it is geographically close to the visited server.

    10. Yes, our servers support full Dual Stack IPv4/IPv6 functionality, even when your ISP does not support IPv6. Our VPN Manager has a “kill switch” which has configurable protection with three security levels.

    11. We run dedicated bare-metal servers in various data centers around the world. While we have no physical access to the servers, they all are running within RAM disks only and are fully encrypted.

    12. Currently, we offer servers in 26 countries worldwide. All servers are located in the city displayed in the hostname – there are no virtual locations. For full details about all servers locations, please
    check our server status site as we are constantly adding new servers.

    Perfect Privacy website

    SlickVPN
    1. SlickVPN doesn’t log traffic or session data of any kind. We don’t store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, or IP addresses.

    2. Slick Networks, Inc. is our recognized corporate name. We operate a complex business structure with multiple layers of offshore holding companies, subsidiary holding companies, and finally some operating companies to help protect our interests. The main marketing entity for our business is based in the United States of America but the top level of our operating entity is based out of Nevis.

    3. We block port 25 to reduce the likelihood of spam originating from our systems. The SlickVPN authentication backend is completely custom and limits concurrent connections.

    4. We utilize third party email systems to contact clients who opt-in for our newsletters and Google Analytics for basic website traffic monitoring and troubleshooting. We believe these platforms to be secure. Because we do not log your traffic/browsing data, no information about how users may or may not use the SlickVPN service is ever visible to these platforms.

    5. If a valid DMCA complaint is received while the offending connection is still active, we stop the session and notify the active user of that session. Otherwise, we are unable to act on any complaint as we have no way of tracking down the user. It is important to note that we rarely receive a valid DMCA complaint while a user is still in an active session.

    6. This has never happened in the history of our company. Our customer’s privacy is of topmost importance to us. We are required to comply with all valid court orders. We would proceed with the court order with complete transparency, but we have no data to provide any court in any jurisdiction. SlickVPN uses a warrant canary to inform users if we have received any such requests from a government agency. Users can monitor our warrant canary here: SlickVPN Warrant Canary.

    7. Yes. All traffic is allowed. SlickVPN does not impose restrictions based on the type of traffic our users send. Outgoing mail is blocked but we offer a method to split tunnel the mail out if necessary. We can forward ports upon request. Some incoming ports may be blocked with our NAT firewall but these can be opened on request

    8. We accept PayPal, Credit Cards, Bitcoin, Cash, and money orders. We keep user authentication and billing information on independent platforms. One platform is operated out of the United States of America (marketing) and the other platform is operated out of Nevis (operations).

    Payment details are held by our marketing company which has no access to the operations data. We offer the ability for the customer to permanently delete their payment information from our servers at any point and all customer data is automatically removed from our records shortly after the customer ceases being a paying member.

    9. We recommend using OpenVPN if at all possible (available for Windows, Apple, Linux, iOS, Android) and we use the AES-256-CBC algorithm for encryption.

    10. Our leak protection (commonly called a ‘kill-switch’) keeps your IPv4 and IPv6 traffic from leaking to any other network and protects against DNS leaks. Your network will be disabled if you lose the connection to our servers and the only way to restore the network is manual intervention by the user. We don’t offer IPv6 connections at this time.

    11. We physically control some of our server locations where we have a heavier load. Other locations are hosted with third parties unless there is enough demand in that location to justify racking our own server setup. To ensure redundancy, we host with multiple providers in each location. We have server locations in over forty countries.

    In all cases, our network nodes load over our encrypted network stack and run from RAMDisk. Anyone taking control of the server would have no usable data on the disk. We periodically remount our ramdisks to remove any lingering data. Each of our access servers acts as the DNS server for customers connected to that node.

    12. SlickVPN offers VPN service in 40 countries around the world. We do not do offer virtual locations.

    SlickVPN website

    HeadVPN
    1. We do not keep any logs on our network servers that can match an IP address and time stamp with a user.

    2. Our service is incorporated under a company in Seychelles for our users’ security and anonymity. The company name is Global Stealth, Inc.

    3. There are no such limits on our network.

    4. Yes, we are using Google Analytics for our website traffic analysis. We also use Zendesk for chat platform.

    5. We don’t receive DMCA notices as we have a special server network in DMCA-free zones.

    6. It will be basically ignored.

    7. BitTorrent and P2P are allowed on our special networks designed for this purpose. These networks have all ports open.

    8. We support credit card and PayPal. Payments can be linked to accounts.

    9. We support AES256 SSL encryption supported protocols over multiple ports.

    10. Yes, we do support Kill Switch for our users.

    11. All our servers are hosted on globally known data centers with high security. We have our global DNS and SmartDNS network.

    12. We have servers in more than 80 countries globally.

    HeadVPN website

    VPNhub
    1. We do not keep any logs of data transmitted through our service and we have no way of knowing what our users are doing while connected to our servers. However, we will note that all payment processors store IP data for the purpose of fraud mitigation. Our payment processor is no different.

    2. We operate under AppAtomic, physically headquartered with personnel in Cyprus. We also have offices in Montreal where sales, development, and support take place.

    3. We have proprietary systems being used to mitigate abuse, but don’t enforce limitations on concurrent connections at the current time.

    4. We use Google’s Firebase and Analytics for basic statistical reporting, however, those services do not have access to data transferred by our users. ZenDesk is currently employed to provide support, however, we plan on migrating everything in-house in the near future.

    5. Since we keep no logs, there is virtually nothing we can do to respond to DMCA or equivalent inquiries.

    6. Since we do not log activity, we have no way of identifying users. In the event that we are somehow forced to log activity for a user going forward, it would be reflected in the Warrant Canary within our Privacy Policy.

    7. We do not restrict torrents, file-sharing or P2P.

    8. We use ProBiller as a payment provider on our web site, as well as Apple and Google within our iOS and Android apps respectively. Since we have no logs, there is never anything that can be linked to usage of our service nor IP assignment.

    9. It depends on the platform. Open VPN and IKEv2 are both considered to be the best in the industry.

    10. We have a kill-switch feature within our desktop apps, as well as our Android app. For iOS, incorporating a kill-switch is not possible due to operating system restrictions, but we do have an Auto-Reconnect upon Disconnect feature there.

    11. We’ve contracted StackPath for the purpose of network infrastructure. Our agreement forbids the snooping of any traffic, and we use DNS servers they host.

    12. Here’s a full list.

    VPNhub website

    CyberGhost
    1. We have a strict No-Logs policy, so none of our traffic or DNS servers log or store any user info.

    2. We’re part of Kape.

    3. Our dedicated team monitors the whole service and infrastructure for any abuse of service. We have several tools in place, from CDN protection to firewalls and our own server monitoring system. Concurrent connections limits are monitored & also enforced via our systems to avoid such types of abuses.

    4. We use Google Analytics, Zendesk, and Active Campaign.

    5. Back in 2011, we were the first in the VPN industry to publish a Transparency Report. It’s something we still do today when we launch our reports quarterly. When we receive a lot of DMCA takedown notices our reply is always the same: we keep no logs and cannot comply with the request.

    6. Since we store no logs, such requests do not affect us. Under Romanian law, data retention is not mandatory. This allows us to give our ‘Ghosties’ complete digital privacy.

    7. In some countries, local legislation prevents us from offering adequate service for torrenting. Other locations have performance constraints. We currently do not support port forwarding services. What’s more, specific ports related to email services are also blocked as an anti-spam security measure.

    8. We do not any store payment details. These are handled by our payment providers, which are entirely Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliant.

    9. We generally favor the AES-256 encryption platform & protocol wide for its good balance of performance and security.

    10. Yes, we have a kill switch in place, but we do not support dual stack.

    11. We use disk encryption to make sure no third party can access the contents of our VPN servers. Furthermore, we have additional server authenticity tests in place to eliminate the risk of Man-in-the-middle attacks. We use self-managed DNS servers to ensure the E2E protection of online activity.

    12. We have over 6,500 VPN servers in 90 countries. Most of them are physically located within the borders of the specified country. All details are available here.

    CyberGhost website

    OVPN
    1. Our entire infrastructure and VPN service is built to ensure that no logs can be stored – anywhere. Our servers are locked in cabinets and operate without any hard drives. We use a tailored version of Alpine, which doesn’t support SATA controllers, USB ports etc.

    2. OVPN Integritet AB (Org no. 556999-4469). We operate under Swedish jurisdiction.

    3. We don’t monitor abuse. In order to limit concurrent connections, our VPN servers validate account credentials by making a request to our website. Our web server keeps track of the number of connected devices. This is stored as a value of 0-4, where it is increased by one when a user connects and decreased by one when a user disconnects.

    4. For website insights, we use Matomo/Piwik, an Open Source solution that we host ourselves. The last two bytes of visitors’ IP addresses are anonymized; hence no individual users can be identified. Automatic emails from the website are sent using Postmark. Intercom is used for support.

    5. Since we don’t store any information, such requests aren’t applicable to us.

    6. We can’t provide any information to the court. A court wouldn’t be able to require logging in our jurisdiction – but in case it did happen we would move the company abroad. OVPN has insurance that covers legal fees as an additional layer of safety, which grants us the financial muscles to refute any requests for information.

    7. We don’t do any traffic discrimination. As such, BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic are allowed on all servers. We do provide port forwarding services as incoming ports are blocked by default. The allowed port range is 49152 to 65535. For other ports, we recommend users to purchase our Public IPv4 add-on.

    8. PayPal, credit cards (via Braintree), Bitcoin (via Bitpay), Bitcoin Cash (via Bitpay), cash in envelopes as well as a Swedish payment system called Swish. We never log IP addresses of users, so we can’t correlate an IP address to a payment.

    9. OVPN’s default settings, which uses AES-256-GCM for OpenVPN. In terms of connection, we recommend using our Multihop add-on.

    10. Our desktop client provides a kill switch as well as DNS leak protection. All our servers support dual-stack IPv4 & IPv6. Our browser extension blocks WebRTC leaks.

    11. We own all the servers used to operate our service. All VPN servers run without any hard drives – instead we use tmpfs storage in RAM. Writing permissions for the OpenVPN processes have been removed, as well as syslogs. Our VPN servers do not support physical console access, keyboard access nor USB access. The servers are colocated in various data centers that meet our requirements. OVPN does not rent any physical or virtual servers. We operate our own DNS servers.

    12. We do not offer any virtual locations. All our regions are listed here. We have photos of our servers at all locations, which are viewable by clicking on the region names

    OVPN website

    Surfshark
    1. We do not keep any logs, data, timestamps or any other kind of information that would enable anyone to identify current or former users of our service.

    2. Surfshark is a registered trademark of Surfshark Ltd., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Surfshark Ltd. is not a subsidiary of any other company.

    3. We do not limit the number of simultaneous connections. We have safeguards against abuse of our service: our Terms of Service has a clause on Fair Usage Policy; if this policy is intentionally violated, we have an automated network maintenance system that indicates the abnormalities on server load, and can limit an immoderate number of devices simultaneously connected to one session to make sure that none of our customers are affected by potentially deteriorated quality of our services.

    4. We do not use any Alphabet Inc. products except for Google Analytics, which is used to improve our website performance for potential customers. For a live 24/7 customer support and ticketing service, we use industry-standard Zendesk. For our communication, we use a secure email system Hushmail. For transactional communication, we use SendGrid and Iterable for user communication.

    These third-party services have no access to any other kind of user information outside the scope of the one specified in our Privacy Policy. Also, we have legally binding agreements with all third-party service providers to not disclose any of the information they have to anyone outside the scope of the services they provide to us

    5. DMCA takedown notices do not apply to our service as we operate outside the jurisdiction of the United States. In case we received a non-US equivalent, we would not be able to provide any information because we have none (strict no logs policy).

    6. We have never received a court order from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) authorities. If we ever received a court order from the BVI authorities, we would truthfully respond that we are unable to identify any user as we keep no logs whatsoever. If data retention laws would be enacted in the BVI, we would look for another country to register our business in. For any information regarding received legal inquiries and orders we have a live warrant canary.

    7. Surfshark is a torrent-friendly service. We allow all file-sharing activities and P2P traffic, including BitTorrent. For that, we have hundreds of specialized servers in various countries, and the user will always be connected to the fastest specialized server in case of P2P activities. We do not provide port forwarding services, and we block port 25.

    8. Surfshark subscriptions can be purchased using various payment methods, including cryptocurrency, PayPal, Alipay, major credit cards, and many country-specific options. None of these payments can be linked to a specific user as we do not collect any timestamps, IP addresses, session information, or other data.

    9. We recommend using advanced IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN (UDP and TCP) security protocols with strong and fast AES-256-GCM encryption and SHA512 signatures. Also, on our Windows and Android apps we support Shadowsocks protocol as an option. The AES-256-GCM is different from AES-256-CBC as it has an inbuilt authentication which makes the encryption process faster.

    10. We provide ‘kill switches’ in all our apps and have an inbuilt DNS leak protection. Also, Surfshark provides IP masking, IPV6 leak protection, WebRTC protection, ad, malware and tracker blocking on DNS level, MultiHop (double VPN), Whitelister (works bots as direct and reverse split tunneling), etc. Currently, we do not support Dual Stack IPv4/IPv6 functionality.

    11. We use our own DNS servers which do not keep any logs as per our Privacy Policy. All our servers are physically located in trusted third-party data centers. 80% of our servers are already RAM-only, and we’ll have a 100% RAM-only server network by the end of June 2020.

    Before choosing a third-party service provider, we have a strict due diligence process to make sure they meet our security and trust requirements. To prevent unauthorized snooping, we use the 2FA method to reach our servers and have developed a special authorization procedure so that only authorized system administrators can access them for configurations.

    12. As of May 2020, we have over 1700 servers physically located in 109 locations, in 64 countries. As per user requests, we have only a few virtual locations that are clearly indicated within our apps’ user interfaces.

    Surfshark website

    VPN.ac
    vpn.ac logo1. We keep minimal connection session logs to help us in troubleshooting customers’ connection problems but also to identify attacks.

    This information contains IP address, connection start and end time, protocol used (including port) and amount of data transferred for OpenVPN connections. This info isn’t stored on any server disk and is wiped out on session-end time or daily. For WireGuard connections, the endpoint IP(public user’s IP) is erased within a few minutes after closing the connection (no handshakes within a specific time).

    2. Cryptolayer SRL, registered in Romania.

    3. There are automated firewall rules that can kick-in in the event of some specific abusive activities. Manual intervention can take place when absolutely necessary, in order to maintain the infrastructure stable and reliable for everyone. Concurrent connections are limited by the authentication back-ends.

    4. No, we don’t.

    5. We are handling DMCA complaints internally without involving the users (i.e. we are not forwarding anything). We use shared IP addresses so it’s not possible to identify the users.

    6. This has never happened. In such an event, we would rely on legal advice. It’s worth noting that we use shared public IPs on all servers so it’s not possible to identify a user based on past activity using a specific VPN gateway IP.

    7. It is allowed on all servers. Port forwarding is not supported due to security and privacy weaknesses that come with it, ports aren’t blocked except for SMTP/25.

    8. All popular cryptocurrencies, PayPal, credit cards, several country-specific payment methods, some gift cards. Crypto payments can be anonymous.

    9. OpenVPN using Elliptic Curve Cryptography for Key Exchange (ECDHE, curve secp256k1) is used by default in most cases. We also support RSA-4096, SHA256 and SHA512 for digest/HMAC. For data encryption we use AES-256-GCM and AES-128-GCM. We are also supporting the WireGuard VPN protocol with its parameters (Curve25519, Blake2s, ChaCha20, Poly1305)

    10. Yes, these features are embedded in our client software. We also provide guides and support on how to set effective “kill switches” for specific applications like torrent clients.

    11. We have physical control over our servers in Romania. In other countries, we rent or collocate our hardware. We use our own DNS resolvers and all DNS traffic between VPN gateways and DNS resolvers is encrypted, not logged.

    12. We don’t use “virtual locations”. All servers are physically located in several countries, a full list is available here.

    VPN.ac website

    —–

    *Note: Private Internet access, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are TorrentFreak sponsors. We reserve the first three spots for them as a courtesy. This article also includes a few affiliate links which help us pay the bills. We never sell positions in our review article or charge providers for a listing.



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     Torrentfreak.com

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    Hellboy’s $270,000 Piracy Damages Calculation Fails to Convince Judge

    The makers of the film Hellboy have suffered another setback in court after their second attempt to convince a judge that a $270,000 judgment against torrent site and uploader MKVCage failed. The filmmakers calculated the damages amount by multiplying the alleged infringements by the Blu-ray retail price, but this is not sufficient.

    dollarsUntil last summer, uploads from MKVCage frequently appeared on popular torrent sites. In addition, the ‘group’ also operated its own website.

    This changed when the makers of the film ‘Hellboy’ took the alleged mastermind behind MKVCage to court last year.

    In a lawsuit filed at a Hawaii federal court, HB Productions identified a Pakistani man named Muhammad Faizan as the operator. Soon after, the website went offline and the uploads stopped.

    Hellboy’s makers weren’t pleased, however. When Faizan failed to show up in court, the movie company asked the court clerk to issue a default judgment, totaling more than $270,000 in infringement damages.

    According to the movie company’s attorney, this amount was warranted. It represented the price of a Blu-ray copy of the film, multiplied by 16,942 US people who shared MKVCage’s Hellboy torrents.

    When reviewing the request, Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield wasn’t convinced. He advised the court to deny the damages request, as the “sum” is not as “certain” as Hellboy’s attorney makes it out to be.

    At this point, it’s good to mention that “sum certain” mentions refer to a legal concept where the damages amount is obvious or easily calculated. For example, when a tenant fails to pay rent. However, in this case the damages number is not that straightforward.

    After Judge Mansfield recommended denying the request for a default judgment, Hellboy’s attorney filed a supplement. He clarified that $15.95 per infringement is fair, as it represents the price of a Blu-ray disc at Walmarts across the US.

    While that may be true, it wasn’t good enough for Judge Mansfield. Last week he issued a new recommendation where he again stated that Hellboy’s arguments are not sufficient.

    The problem doesn’t appear to be the valuation of the Blu-ray. Instead, Judge Mansfield is not convinced that using the retail price multiplied by the number of infringements qualifies as a ‘sum certain.’

    “The Complaint does not allege that $15.95 is a fair representation of the nationwide price for the Hellboy Blu-ray,” Judge Mansfield writes.

    “Even if it did, however, the Motion and the Supplement fail to explain why an alleged ‘fair representation’ of the price for a Blu-ray of a motion picture is sufficient to render a copyright infringement claim ‘sum certain’ for purposes of Rule 55(b)(1).”

    As there is no case law to support this type of damages for a clerk-issued default judgment, the Judge recommended that the court should deny the motion. This means that Hellboy must go back to the drawing board, again.

    Late last week, a few days after the recommendation, the movie company did indeed reply. In a written objection, Hellboy’s attorney argued that their calculation of the damages “sum” is as “certain” as it gets.

    “Plaintiff’s allegation that the retail price of a Blu-ray copy of the motion picture is $15.95 is deemed true. Accordingly, the calculation of 15.95 x 16,942 = $270,902.58 is as certain and straight forward calculation that can be done.”

    It’s now up to the court to make a final decision.

     Torrentfreak.com

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    Chrome and Firefox Block Torrent Site YTS over “Phishing”

    Chrome and Firefox are blocking direct access to the movie download pages of popular torrent site YTS. According to Google's safe browsing report, YTS.mx is a "deceptive site" that may trick visitors into doing dangerous things. The warning is likely the result of malicious advertisements.

    Google regularly checks websites for harmful and malicious content to help people avoid running into dangerous situations.

    This Safe Browsing service is used by popular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. When a site is flagged, they throw up a warning before people attempt to visit risky sites.

    This is also what’s happening to YTS.mx at the moment, which is one of the most popular torrent sites around. While the site’s homepage can be visited just fine, navigating to a torrent detail page throws up the following warning in Chrome.

    “Deceptive site ahead. Attackers on yts.mx may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers, or credit cards).”

    YTS phishing warning
    Firefox shows a similar alert and also prevents people from going directly to the download pages. In both browsers, people can, however, accept the risk and visit the page they were looking for.

    It’s not clear what the exact problem is but the Chrome warning mentions that YTS was caught phishing. This is also reflected in Google’s Safe Browsing report, which states the torrent site recently tried to trick visitors into sharing personal info or downloading software.

    Whether any of this is intentional remains a question. It seems more likely that the warning was triggered by some type of malicious advertisement.

    google says unsafe
    While we don’t encounter these kinds of warnings on pirate sites often, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen them. Similar issues have affected other sites, including The Pirate Bay. These warnings generally disappear when the site operator takes appropriate action.

    We have checked several other popular pirate sites for similar warnings but this particular issue seems to be limited to YTS. The other sites we looked into were all reported as clean.

    However, Google has a caveat when it comes to The Pirate Bay. Instead of reporting the torrent site as safe or unsafe, Google asks users to check a more specific URL than the homepage.

    “It’s hard to provide a simple safety status for sites like thepiratebay.org, which have a lot of content. Sites that are generally safe sometimes contain some unsafe content. For more detailed safety info, check a specific directory or webpage,” Google notes.

    While we expect YTS to resolve the matter in due course, being flagged by Google is not without risk. A few years ago the Safe Browsing team announced that “repeat offenders” will remain flagged for 30 days at least, which will seriously harm traffic.

     Torrentfreak.com

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