When the United States Trade Representative (USTR) compiles the annual ‘Notorious Pirate Markets’ list there are always a core of BitTorrent sites included.
The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents and isoHunt make their usual appearances but among them are always Zamunda and ArenaBG, two Bulgarian torrent trackers that are not only their country’s biggest, but also some of the most significant in the entire region.
Numerous actions have taken against both sites up to and including criminal investigations but none have succeeded in causing any real damage to either the trackers or their popularity. Today, however, Zamunda is sailing through unchartered waters and facing a catastrophic setback engineered not by local or U.S. authorities, but by a trusted member of staff.
Late Saturday night / Sunday morning, secret changes were taking place at Zamunda. A former site admin, coder and web designer who still helped out on the site decided that he would seize control. In what insiders told TorrentFreak was a carefully planned and executed operation, the site’s domain (zamunda.net) was taken over and redirected to a previously prepared set of servers.
As soon as the redirect had taken place the real Zamunda database was deleted along with several historical backups with the intention that the site could never return under its original owners.
With the majority of users oblivious to the switch the ‘new’ Zamunda – operating on the old domain of course – continued as if nothing had happened. However, things didn’t go to plan. The hijacker failed to anticipate how much server power would be required to run the site resulting in an announcement that unexpected loading issues were being experienced. There were also announcements relating to a possible hack attack, none of which made any real sense.
With all the upheaval it’s no surprise what came next. Former admins and moderators were all banned from the hijacked site along with anyone who tried to discuss the problems in the site’s forums. Mail between site members was deleted and any opposition was quashed.
However, while the hijacker had succeeded in taking over the site and deleting some backups, he hadn’t managed to delete them all. A “90% working” copy of Zamunda had been missed and within a day it had been put back online under two previously prepared backup domains – Zamunda.se and Zelka.org. But even after the setup of the new site there were further problems.
“I can confirm that the [former admin] managed a limited hack on zamunda.se deleting 10,000 torrents which will be restored from backup data,” a source close to the site told TorrentFreak.
So with two sites online it’s now a question of which will survive. Zamunda.net has the advantage of operating under the traditional URL with a full database. What it doesn’t have is the support of the site’s former staff and according to our sources it is also missing a torrent site’s most valuable commodity. Content uploaders are vital if a site is to remain popular and reports suggest they are fleeing the ship.
“The upload rate has decreased by at least 90% by rough calculations. For two days 40 torrents have been uploaded compared to roughly 10 to 15 times more the week before,” we were informed.
“However, there are still a lot of peers, seeders and leechers,” a second source added. “But that site is a lost cause now, no one supports it, and only the users are losing from this battle. The new tracker [Zamunda.se] is growing fast but it needs to grow from the beginning.”
The big question now is why the former admin took the decision to take over the site. After an initial period of smoke and mirrors he now claims he did it for the users, to protect them from admins that had become too greedy and powerful through their totalitarian regime.
“After an internal coup, these wicked people were removed from the management of the site and the whole system no longer belongs to them. We can not allow the freedom of the P2P community to be used for populist political purposes,” the hijacker said in a statement.
One of our sources agreed that rule on the site was indeed tight but added that to control so many users it was probably a necessary evil. Nevertheless, the motivation for the takeover and whether it was sincere or not has now become a side issue.
“In my opinion the takeover was a big mistake,” a source told TorrentFreak. “Since there’s no support it’ll be hard for this ‘fake’ site to survive, and it’ll take years for the new tracker [and old community] to get back on their feet and once again become one of the most popular Bulgarian sites with one of the biggest communities.”
Only time will tell if that will come to pass but it’s interesting to consider that one man has been able to achieve what the combined resources of Hollywood, the record industry and two governments could not. Although nothing has worked up to now, maybe that thought will prompt the site’s return to its rightful owners.