Earlier this week Homeland Security’s ICE unit announced a new round of domain seizures. Unlike previous operations that centered purely on United States-held domains, this one was broader in scope.
Dubbed Project TransAtlantic, the seizures took place with help from European law enforcement agencies and Europol.
“Recognizing the global nature of Internet crime, this year the IPR Center partnered with Europol, who, through its member countries, executed coordinated seizures of foreign-based top-level domains such as .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic and resulted in 31 domain name seizures,” ICE announced.
Prompted by this new development, TorrentFreak spoke with the owners of several BitTorrent sites to get their opinion on what this might mean for their sites. The general feeling was that ICE might be sending a message that no TLD is safe, even those in Europe.
But despite the concern, what we didn’t expect was any immediate action to seize domains. However, although not concrete, activity involving several top BitTorrent and other file-sharing related .EU domains in the past 24 hours has given cause for concern.
Yesterday afternoon the statuses of Torrentz.eu, Fenopy.eu and BTscene.eu were all forcibly changed by EURid, the European Registry of Internet Domain Names. Rather than being simply marked as “registered”, the domains were flagged as “on hold”.
“This domain name has been registered and is on hold. It is active but may not be traded or transferred pending the outcome of legal activity,” EURid’s notes explain. The domains are not seized or taken offline, but the owners are unable to make any changes while they are on hold.
Similar status changes we also applied to several other related domains including DDL linking sites Sceper.eu and Downextra.eu, torrent site RealTorrentz.eu, and streaming links sites WatchSeries.eu and ChannelCut.eu.
The changes all took place within the space of a few minutes, starting at 16:31 and ending at 16:35 Friday afternoon. Other domains may have been affected but so far those listed above are the only ones we were able to find.
No other information has been provided by EURid so at the present moment it is not possible to state the exact reasons for the status changes. We do not know for certain if the action is file-sharing related or connected to some other issue.
However, all of the sites listed above appear in the first few pages of Google’s Transparency Report, meaning that they are connected to a relatively high number of takedown requests. Only three .EU domains in the early pages of Google’s report have not had their statuses changed by EURiD.