In the final days of 2023 as people were preparing to welcome in the new year, yet more pirate domains were being redirected or transferred into the hands of the MPA, presumably as part of a settlement agreement.
Among them were uhuseries.com, owlserieshd.com, and ahaseries.com, relatively popular streaming platforms targeting the Thai market. We gave the news a brief mention at the time but since MPA/ACE have certain procedures to follow, the official announcement was published yesterday.
It reveals that in addition to the above, several other domains were also rendered inoperable including Iamtheme.com, nunghub.com and aplayer.xyz, described by ACE as a back-end domain that hosted a “vast collection of U.S. and international TV shows and movies” estimated to contain around 78,000 titles.
ACE Partners With TrueVisions
According to ACE, the Uhuseries.com network of sites had been running since 2019, attracting an average of 1.3 million visitors per month, with most traffic originating in Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Another successful ACE and TrueVisions collaboration has resulted in the shutdown of two of Thailand’s most notorious illegal streaming services,” said ACE anti-piracy chief, Jan van Voorn.
Sompan Charumilinda, Executive Vice Chairman of TrueVisions, expressed gratitude for the invaluable support of Thai law enforcement.
“We would like to thank the Economic Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police for their steadfast commitment to protecting intellectual property rights. Thailand can produce and distribute world-class local content, but we must protect content rights if the benefits are to be realized by the creative economy and the country as a whole,” Charumilinda added.
Don’t Forget to Mention Malware
In the current environment, no anti-piracy press release can be considered complete without an obligatory malware warning and, thankfully, this one didn’t buck the trend.
“Piracy sites such as Uhuseries.com and Iamtheme.com put consumers at risk of malware, undermine investment in the Thai content industry, and reduce tax contributions to the local government,” van Voorn added, describing the closures as a “win-win for all.”
Despite being all-inclusive, it’s difficult to disagree with that statement.
Instant Pirate Site Service
ACE says that 27 pirate sites that relied on Iamtheme.com for content and infrastructure are now offline. Given there’s little to suggest that security of operators or users was considered a priority, that might be a good thing.
Through ads on various online discussion platforms, people with little relevant experience were encouraged to buy a website template for the equivalent of $225. Once installed, the script would make them a pirate site owner/operator almost instantly.
As the image shows, TrueVisions content was available via an API which according to the ads, could be purchased on a subscription basis. The headline price of $225 is therefor less of a bargain than it first appears. However, the most concerning aspect (copyright infringement aside) is the promotion of these scripts to people with little to no relevant experience.
A key website selling the scripts offers to install the software on a server for people who don’t know how, but insists that if any changes are made to the script whatsoever, all customer support ends there and then. For someone with no technical skills, that’s a pretty clear invitation to leave everything well alone, including any attempt to apply any security fixes, in the unlikely event any are issued at all.
Assuming new pirate site owners aren’t concerned that a third party probably has root access to their server even after installation, it’s time to get the site ready for visitors. The first couple of lines in ads promoting these scripts link two key features; 1) Online movie-watching website script. 2) Responsive Design with VIP membership system.
There’s also a section on how to set up advertising to generate more revenue: “Can manage and edit website page details like advertising contact information, member payment notifications, advertising space rates, website information through the web page. There is no need to have knowledge of programming.”
Indeed, attempting to change any code means the end of customer support, so having no knowledge is presumably a big plus. However, if all goes to plan with the installation, script buyers could end up with a website looking like the one on the left below.
With a more-is-always-better approach towards intrusive, suspect advertising, the finished product on the right shows what can be achieved if site owners are prepared to put in the time and effort.
While anything that limits exposure to insecure platforms run by novices should be considered a plus, Thai internet users still appear to have options if they want to launch an insecure template site of their own.
Meanwhile, site users in search of the latest movies and TV shows are probably oblivious or at least indifferent to the security situation, despite epilepsy-inducing gambling advertising on the front page telling them everything they need to know.