Major BitTorrent Uploader Used No Anonymity – Bring Out The Straightjacket?

Opinion

Now accused of uploading more than 1,000 movies, a major uploader at one of the world's oldest BitTorrent sites was arrested at his home last month. Worryingly, the prosecutor in the case has just revealed that tracking the man was simple since he made no effort to hide his IP address, which was both residential and static. Is it now a sign of madness to even go online without some kind of protection?

Just a little over 3 years ago we published an article titled “How a BitTorrent Tracker Owner Hides from the MPAA/RIAA” where we published the techniques one site admin used to keep himself secure and sleeping well at night. While some appreciated the information provided, others saw the precautions as completely over the top and totally unnecessary.

“You are worse than the MAFIAA’s scare tactics,” one annoyed reader wrote to me in response. “Why all the paranoia, nothing is this bad? You make people terrified.”

Three years on and not only are the points in the article even more relevant than they were in 2008, but in hindsight should have been taken on board by more than just admins.

Earlier this month the Swedish authorities and local anti-piracy outfit Antipiratbyran revealed that a major uploader to the now-defunct Swebits tracker – one the oldest BitTorrent sites – had been arrested by the police. The 25-year-old now stands accused of uploading more than 1,000 movies and, if prosecutor Henrik Rassmusson is to be believed, catching him was a breeze.

“He had been using his personal Internet account, and he had a static IP address associated with an ISP, so it was not hard to get hold of him,” Rassmusson told Swedish Radio yesterday.

While trying to be sympathetic to this guy (who is undoubtedly in pretty serious trouble) isn’t conducting this kind of activity unencrypted or without some level of anonymity simply crazy these days? Isn’t using a VPN or proxy in a foreign land a standard requirement now? Isn’t presuming and preparing for the worst a required skill in 2011? Perhaps it should be.

In the 2008 article our friendly admin said he would never pick up his emails without hiding his IP address and again, some people said that was going too far. The recently arrested admin of ChannelSurfing.net might disagree. Google coughed up his records to the feds last month in the blink of an eye.

Going even further, the admin said he took precautions to hide his IP address not just on his own site, but when on those operated by others too. Some people laughed – the admin was clearly a paranoid fool, they argued.

But roll on to 2011 and many completely innocent fans of PS3 hacker Geohotz are about to have their IP addresses handed over to Sony by Google, YouTube and Twitter. Suddenly it’s not so amusing anymore.

When Internet users aren’t even free to watch videos on YouTube and read comments on Twitter without being exposed to the prying eyes of big corporations like Sony and their aggressive lawsuits, isn’t it time to consider some level of anonymity as a prerequisite to even going online?

No? We’ll report back in another 3 years. You will have changed your mind – guaranteed.

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