In the early hours of Saturday morning, panic set in on two large European BitTorrent trackers. ArenaBG and Zamunda, a pair of sites with a history of being targeted by the Bulgarian authorities, were reported down. According to several mainstream media reports, they had been taken offline by the country’s anti-mafia unit and/or hacked by a secret government department. Big news or crazy rumor?
The Computer Crime Department of Bulgaria’s organized crime unit made quite a lot of noise last year in taking down several sites connected to online file-sharing and warez piracy.
However, despite their sabre-rattling the country’s biggest BitTorrent sites, ArenaBG and Zamunda, have remained up. Threats by pirate-hunter-in-chief Yavor Kolev, who in July 2010 vowed to take them down, came to nothing.
Then in the early hours of Saturday morning, all hell broke loose. At 1am Zamunda went down, quickly followed by ArenaBG. A posting on the latter’s separate forum spelled doom.
“Once again the virtual society of free sharing of information is under threat,” began the announcement on ArenaBG on the back of the chaotic situation at both sites.
“The initiator of this work is a secret group called ‘Council for the Protection of Intellectual Property’. Formally, this organization seems like an inter-ministerial body, but its meetings are invited and attended mostly by representatives of the so-called ‘Rightholders’,” noted the lengthy posting. It concluded by confirming the site’s defiant intentions of bouncing back against any further attacks on its domain name or servers.
Little wonder then that this dramatic version of events was quickly reported by several news outlets in Bulgaria, some with the apparent confirmation that the government had hacked or DDoS’d the sites in question and taken them offline.
However, TorrentFreak has discovered that there may be a more simple explanation for the downtime at both sites.
According to a source close to Zamunda, late Friday night the site suffered what is being described as “a technical malfunction of a crucial piece of equipment”. The extended downtime that followed was due to the failure happening during the night.
“The problem has been taken care of and measures have been taken in order to improve [future] response to emergency situations of any sort that can lead to temporary server unavailability,” our source added.
So while this clears up the situation at Zamunda, how does one explain the problems at ArenaBG? As boring and simple as it sounds, it seems that when Zamunda went down Bulgarians needed an immediate replacement site so thousands of them flooded to the next logical choice – ArenaBG. The site simply couldn’t cope and went down under the load.
While there are reports today that Yavor Kolev of the Computer Crime Department has denied any involvement in the downtime, he also took the opportunity to warn the sites that since they continue to “break the law” they can expect attention in the future.
The panic in Bulgaria this weekend certainly shows that the country’s BitTorrent community exists on a knife edge. Only time will tell if their position becomes more or less secure in 2011 but if Kolev is to be believed, it might be the latter. The signs are, however, that neither site intends to go quietly.