FBI / IFPI Teach How To Bust Private Torrent Sites

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A diplomatic cable recently published by Wikileaks reveals how the U.S. Government has spent $125,000 to educate Ukraine's police officers on Internet piracy. Among other things, experts from the FBI and IFPI taught 30 of Ukraine's top cyber-crime officers how to bust private torrent sites. Whether the investment will pay off is doubtful though, as some police officers said that they have no Internet connection at their workplace.

fbiThe U.S. Government is determined to do all it can to reduce online piracy, and a cable written by U.S. Ambassador William Taylor from Ukraine shows that this effort is not limited to the homeland.

The cable, dated 17 December 2008, was published by Wikileaks this week and reveals details on a piracy workshop the U.S. Government organized in the country.

In the cable Ambassador Taylor writes that the workshop was paid for by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which allocated $125,000 to educating Ukrainian authorities on piracy. About 30 local police officers with experience in computer/internet cases were participating .

A topic high on the agenda during the meeting was the fact that many large torrent sites are hosted in Ukraine. Matthew Lamberti of the Department of Justice named the example of Demonoid, a large semi-private BitTorrent tracker that started renting servers in the country early 2008.

“Lamberti noted that earlier this year one of the world’s biggest pirate websites had moved to Ukraine, and that the founder of the site had stated that he was looking for a ‘suitable’ home after being pressured to leave several other countries, including the Netherlands, Canada, and Malaysia. Lamberti cautioned that Ukraine might become a haven for pirate sites if it did not step up enforcement efforts,” the ambassador writes.

However, stopping these sites from renting server space is easier said than done, as Ukrainian authorities don’t have the legal means to do so.

“Representatives have argued that Ukrainian law does not give law enforcement officials clear authority to shut down such websites, although sometimes ISPs can be persuaded to do so,” the ambassador notes.

Aside from these warnings the workshop also explained how private BitTorrent trackers in the U.S. and U.K. were effectively shut down. Kiffa Shirley from the FBI’s Cybercrime Fraud Unit used the example of EliteTorrents, one of the largest BitTorrent communities that was raided during the summer of 2005.

EliteTorrents Shutdown Notice


“Shirley gave a detailed briefing on the different kinds of websites that engage in internet piracy and the technology they employ. He also described the investigative steps he and other FBI agents took to investigate elitetorrents.org, a pirate website based in the United States that was known for its extremely fast illegal downloads,” we read in the cable.

Mumith Ali from the music industry funded anti-piracy group IFPI explained how they busted the music oriented BitTorrent tracker OiNK in 2007.

“Ali provided participants with strategies and best practices based on his experiences investigating some of the biggest pirate websites in Europe, including a UK-based private pirate website with 180,000 members notorious for offering illegal downloads of pre-release music albums. Prosecution of the owner of the site is currently pending in English Crown Court,” the ambassador summarizes.

Interestingly enough, it later turned out that one of the main reasons why no torrent admin has been found guilty in the UK is because of IFPI’s involvement. Since the police relied heavily on information provided by industry-funded groups like IFPI, the courts doubted the objectivity of the investigations against both FileSoup and OiNK.

Among other things, the IFPI employee introduced the Ukrainian cyberpolice to several investigative tools they use to spy on BitTorrent communities, including the packer sniffer application Wireshark.

“Moreover, Ali gave a live demonstration of how people download illegal works from pirate websites. Ukrainian participants were particularly interested in Ali’s description of a free computer program called ‘Wireshark’ used by IFPI to investigate pirate sites; we are following up with the Ministry of Interior to provide more information on this program.”

There is no doubt that the 30 computer experts of the Ukrainian police force have learned a lot during the workshop. However, it is doubtful whether the tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. tax payer money will have much of an effect. Apparently, there are bigger problems in the local police force that have to be dealt with first, as the ambassador notes at the end of the cable.

“Unfortunately resource issues will continue to hamper enforcement efforts. For example, several police officers from the regions complained privately that they did not have access to the internet in their workplace,” he writes.



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