Anti-Pirates Caught Spying on Thousands of Torrents

Two prominent anti-piracy companies that are expected to participate in the U.S. six-strikes anti-piracy scheme are already monitoring thousands of torrent files. Statistics obtained by TorrentFreak show that BayTSP and Peer Media have been increasing their activities in recent months. The BitTorrent activity of these two companies is three times greater than that generated by all customers of a smaller ISP such as Sonic.net

It is no secret that a handful of anti-piracy agencies are actively monitoring the downloading habits of BitTorrent users.

For years companies such as BayTSP and Peer Media have been hired by movie studios and record labels to track the IP-addresses of file-sharers so these can be reported to their Internet providers.

In the U.S. this process is about to change as it will soon be formalized with the upcoming “six-strikes” anti-piracy scheme. Under this mechanism customers of five large ISPs will receive so-called copyright alerts.

Besides being warned, repeat infringers face a variety of punishments under the new regime including temporary Internet disconnections. Worse still, the MPAA and RIAA may eventually use the collected data to sue those file-sharers who refuse to kick their habit.

While the Center for Copyright Information has yet to announce the names of the companies that will do the “spying” for the six-strikes system, TorrentFreak recently learned that both BayTSP (recently acquired by Irdeto) and Peer Media will be involved. In this light, we thought it would be interesting to see what these companies have been up to recently.

With help from ScanEye we obtained the lists of torrent files that these companies were connecting to over the past month. In addition, we looked at changes in tracking patterns to see whether their activity increased or not.

As can be seen on the right, the monitoring activity (hits on torrents) of BayTSP spiked around July 12, the initial launch date of the six-strikes scheme. For Peer Media this spike wasn’t as pronounced, but monitoring activity clearly increased over time as well.

While there’s no hard proof that the increased activity is part of the six-strikes scheme, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

As for the number of torrents that are being watched, over a period of a month BayTSP connected to 3,657 torrent files and Peer Media to 3,752 torrents. Although ScanEye tracks hundreds of thousands of torrents, these lists are not extensive.

Another thing that catches the eye when going through the list of torrents is that it mostly consists of movies and TV-shows. In part this can be explained by the fact that most content on BitTorrent is video related. Alternatively, if this is part of the six-strikes scheme, the music labels might just be slow on submitting titles.


Being watched….

To put the spying activity in perspective, the BitTorrent activity of these two anti-piracy companies is three times greater than that generated by all customers of a smaller ISP such as Sonic.net. It is comparable to the BitTorrent activity of all Comcast Business clients combined.

However, the numbers pale in comparison to the larger Internet Providers. In the U.S. Comcast generates by far the most activity on BitTorrent, followed by Road Runner and AT&T.

Finally, the lists of torrent files that BayTSP and Peer Media connect to also include a lot of fake torrents. These could be purposefully shared by these companies, or they may be uploaded by scammers which is much more common according to recent research.

Whatever the case, BitTorrent users who are considering downloading the latest Hollywood blockbusters have a good chance of being watched.

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