Cryptocurrency Miner Targeted by Anti-Virus and Adblock Tools

Earlier this month The Pirate Bay caused some uproar by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website.

The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra revenue source.

While Pirate Bay only tested the option briefly, it inspired many others to follow suit. Streaming related sites such as Alluc, Vidoza, and Rapidvideo jumped on board, and torrent site Demonoid also ran some tests.

During the weekend, Coinhive’s miner code even appeared on the official website of Showtime. The code was quickly removed and it’s still unclear how it got there, as the company refuses to comment. It’s clear, though, that miners are a hot topic thanks to The Pirate Bay.

The revenue potential is also real. TorrentFreak spoke to Vidoza who say that with 30,000 online users throughout the day (2M unique visitors), they can make between $500 and $600. That’s when the miner is throttled at 50%. Although ads can bring in more, it’s not insignificant.

That said, all the uproar about cryptocurrency miners and their possible abuse has also attracted the attention of ad-blockers. Some people have coded new browser add-ons to block miners specifically and the popular uBlock Origin added Coinhive to its default blocklist as well. And that’s just after a few days.

Needless to say, this limits the number of miners, and thus the money that comes in. And there’s another problem with a similar effect.

In addition to ad-blockers, anti-virus tools are also flagging Coinhive. Malwarebytes is one of the companies that lists it as a malicious activity, warning users about the threat.

The anti-virus angle is one of the issues that worries Demonoid’s operator. The site is used to ad-blockers, but getting flagged by anti-virus companies is of a different order.

“The problem I see there and the reason we will likely discontinue [use of the miner] is that some anti-virus programs block it, and that might get the site on their blacklists,” Deimos informs TorrentFreak.

Demonoid’s miner announcement

Vidoza operator Eugene sees all the blocking as an unwelcome development and hopes that Coinhive will tackle it. Coinhive may want to come out in public and start to discuss the issue with ad-blockers and anti-virus companies, he says.

“They should find out under what conditions all these guys will stop blocking the script,” he notes.

The other option would be to circumvent the blocking through proxies and circumvention tools, but that might not be the best choice in the long run.

Coinhive, meanwhile, has chimed in as well. The company says that it wasn’t properly prepared for the massive attention and understands why some ad-blockers have put them on the blacklist.

“Providing a real alternative to ads and users who block them turned out to be a much harder problem. Coinhive, too, is now blocked by many ad-block browser extensions, which – we have to admit – is reasonable at this point.”

Most complaints have been targeted at sites that implemented the miner without the user’s consent. Coinhive doesn’t like this either and will take steps to prevent it in future.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate Coinhive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the Coinhive team notes.

The crypto miner provider is working on a new implementation that requires explicit consent from website visitors in order to run. This should deal with most of the negative responses.

If users start mining voluntarily, then ad-blockers and anti-virus companies should no longer have a reason to block the script. Nor will it be easy for malware peddlers to abuse it.

To be continued.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Canadian ISP Bell Calls For Pirate Site Blacklist in NAFTA Hearing

Website blocking has become a common tool for copyright holders to target online piracy.

In most countries, these blockades are ordered by local courts, which compel Internet providers to restrict access to certain websites.

While most ISPs initially object to such restrictions, the largest Canadian telco Bell is actively calling for such measures. In a hearing before the Standing Committee on International Trade on NAFTA, the company is clear on how online piracy should be curbed.

Rob Malcolmson, Bell’s Senior Vice-President Regulatory Affairs, mentioned that the United States has repeatedly complained about Canada’s apparent lack of copyright enforcement. To make NAFTA “work better” for Canadian culture in the digital economy, stronger enforcement is crucial.

“US interests have long complained that widespread online copyright infringement here in Canada is limiting the growth of the digital economy. In fact, many of the most prominent global players in the piracy ecosystem operate out of Canada as a relative safe harbor,” Malcolmson said.

“We recommend that the Government commits to stronger intellectual property enforcement by having an administrative agency dedicated to such enforcement and by prioritizing enforcement against digital pirates.”

In Bell’s view, all Canadian Internet providers should be required to block access to the most egregious pirate sites, without intervention from the courts.

“We would like to see measures put in place whereby all Internet service providers are required to block consumer access to pirated websites. In our view, that is the only way to stop it,” Malcolmson said.

The telco, which is a copyright holder itself, has clearly thought the plan through. It notes that Internet providers shouldn’t be tasked with determining which sites should be blocked. This should be the job of an independent outfit. Alternatively, the Canadian telco regulator CTRC could oversee the blocking scheme.

“In our view, it would be an independent agency that would be charged with that task. You certainly would not want the ISPs acting as censors as to what content is pirate content,” Malcolmson said.

“But, surely, an independent third party agency could be formed, could create a blacklist of pirate sites, and then the ISPs would be required to block it. That is at a high level how we would see it unfolding, perhaps overseen by a regulator like the CRTC.”

In addition to website blocking, Bell also recommends criminalizing commercial copyright infringement, which would support stronger enforcement against online piracy.

Canadian law professor Micheal Geist, who picked up Bell’s controversial comments, is very critical of the recommendations. Geist says that the proposal goes above and beyond what US copyright holders have asked for.

“The Bell proposals […] suggest that the company’s position as a common carrier representing the concerns of ISPs and their subscribers is long over,” Geist writes.

“Instead, Bell’s copyright advocacy goes beyond what even some U.S. rights holders have called for, envisioning new methods of using copyright law to police the Internet with oversight from the CRTC and implementing such provisions through NAFTA.”

If the Canadian Government considers the suggestions, there is bound to be pushback from other ISPs on the blocking elements. Internet providers are generally not eager to block content without a court order.

It is also worth keeping in mind that while Bell’s plans are in part a response to criticism from US interests, American ISPs are still not required to block any pirate sites, voluntarily or not.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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LibreELEC (Krypton) v8.1.2 BETA

This is the third beta for our 8.2 release. It addresses minor findings related to the Samba bump: we now detect and avoid invalid Samba v3 configurations, old samba.conf.sample templates are overwritten with the new v4 template, and remote SMB shares are mounted using SMB2 or where possible SMB3. The release also adds support for the Raspberry Pi IQAudIO Digi+ board and a Xiaomi BT remote, and includes security fixes for the Blueborne Linux/BlueZ vulnerability. This is hopefully the final 8.1.x beta release; next will be 8.2.0. Changes since LibreELEC 8.1.1 include: Fix boot-time overwrite of samba.conf.sample to ensure v4...

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Belgium Wants to Blacklist Pirate Sites & Hijack Their Traffic

The thorny issue of how to deal with the online piracy phenomenon used to be focused on punishing site users. Over time, enforcement action progressed to the services themselves, until they became both too resilient and prevalent to tackle effectively.

In Europe in particular, there’s now a trend of isolating torrent, streaming, and hosting platforms from their users. This is mainly achieved by website blocking carried out by local ISPs following an appropriate court order.

While the UK is perhaps best known for this kind of action, Belgium was one of the early pioneers of the practice.

After filing a lawsuit in 2010, the Belgian Anti-Piracy Foundation (BAF) weathered an early defeat at the Antwerp Commercial Court to achieve success at the Court of Appeal. Since then, local ISPs have been forced to block The Pirate Bay.

Since then there have been several efforts (1,2) to block more sites but rightsholders have complained that the process is too costly, lengthy, and cumbersome. Now the government is stepping in to do something about it.

Local media reports that Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters has drafted new proposals to tackle online piracy. In his role as Minister of Economy and Employment, Peeters sees authorities urgently tackling pirate sites with a range of new measures.

For starters, he wants to create a new department, formed within the FPS Economy, to oversee the fight against online infringement. The department would be tasked with detecting pirate sites more quickly and rendering them inaccessible in Belgium, along with any associated mirror sites or proxies.

Peeters wants the new department to add all blocked sites to a national ‘pirate blacklist. Interestingly, when Internet users try to access any of these sites, he wants them to be automatically diverted to legal sites where a fee will have to be paid for content.

While it’s not unusual to try and direct users away from pirate sites, for the most part Internet service providers have been somewhat reluctant to divert subscribers to commercial sites. Their assistance would be needed in this respect, so it will be interesting to see how negotiations pan out.

The Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), which was formed nine years ago to represent the music, video, software and videogame industries, welcomed Peeters’ plans.

“It’s so important to close the doors to illegal download sites and to actively lead people to legal alternatives,” said chairman Olivier Maeterlinck.

“Surfers should not forget that the motives of illegal download sites are not always obvious. These sites also regularly try to exploit personal data.”

The current narrative that pirate sites are evil places is clearly gaining momentum among anti-piracy bodies, but there’s little sign that the public intends to boycott sites as a result. With that in mind, alternative legal action will still be required.

With that in mind, Peeters wants to streamline the system so that all piracy cases go through a single court, the Commercial Court of Brussels. This should reduce costs versus the existing model and there’s also the potential for more consistent rulings.

“It’s a good idea to have a clearer legal framework on this,” says Maeterlinck from BEA.

“There are plenty of legal platforms, streaming services like Spotify, for example, which are constantly developing and reaching an ever-increasing audience. Those businesses have a business model that ensure that the creators of certain media content are properly compensated. The rotten apples must be tackled, and those procedures should be less time-consuming.”

There’s little doubt that BEA could benefit from a little government assistance. Back in February, the group filed a lawsuit at the French commercial court in Brussels, asking ISPs to block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.

“Our action aims to block nine of the most popular streaming sites which offer copyright-protected content on a massive scale and without authorization,” Maeterlinck told TF at the time.

“In accordance with the principles established by the CJEU (UPC Telekabel and GS Media), BEA seeks a court order confirming the infringement and imposing site blocking measures on the ISPs, who are content providers as well.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Block The Pirate Bay Within 10 Days, Dutch Court Tells ISPs

Three years ago in 2014, The Court of The Hague handed down its decision in a long-running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ruling against local anti-piracy outfit BREIN, which brought the case, the Court decided that a blockade would be ineffective and also restrict the ISPs’ entrepreneurial freedoms.

The Pirate Bay was unblocked while BREIN took its case to the Supreme Court, which in turn referred the matter to the EU Court of Justice for clarification. This June, the ECJ ruled that as a platform effectively communicating copyright works to the public, The Pirate Bay can indeed be blocked.

The ruling meant there were no major obstacles preventing the Dutch Supreme Court from ordering a future ISP blockade. Clearly, however, BREIN wanted a blocking decision more quickly. A decision handed down today means the anti-piracy group will achieve that in just a few days’ time.

The Hague Court of Appeal today ruled (Dutch) that the 2014 decision, which lifted the blockade against The Pirate Bay, is now largely obsolete.

“According to the Court of Appeal, the Hague Court did not give sufficient weight to the interests of the beneficiaries represented by BREIN,” BREIN said in a statement.

“The Court also wrongly looked at whether torrent traffic had been reduced by the blockade. It should have also considered whether visits to the website of The Pirate Bay itself decreased with a blockade, which speaks for itself.”

As a result, an IP address and DNS blockade of The Pirate Bay, similar to those already in place in the UK and other EU countries, will soon be put in place. BREIN says that four IP addresses will be affected along with hundreds of domain names through which the torrent platform can be reached.

The ISPs have been given just 10 days to put the blocks in place and if they fail there are fines of 2,000 euros per day, up to a maximum of one million euros.

“It is nice that obviously harmful and illegal sites like The Pirate Bay will be blocked again in the Netherlands,” says BREIN chief Tim Kuik.

“A very bad time for our culture, which was free to access via these sites, is now happily behind us.”

Today’s interim decision by the Court of Appeal will stand until the Supreme Court hands down its decision in the main case between BREIN and Ziggo / XS4ALL.

Looking forward, it seems extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court will hand down a conflicting decision, so we’re probably already looking at the beginning of the end for direct accessibility of The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Russia’s Largest Torrent Site Celebrates 13 Years Online in a Chinese Restaurant

For most torrent fans around the world, The Pirate Bay is the big symbol of international defiance. Over the years the site has fought, avoided, and snubbed its nose at dozens of battles, yet still remains online today.

But there is another site, located somewhere in the east, that has been online for nearly as long, has millions more registered members, and has proven just as defiant.

RuTracker, for those who haven’t yet found it, is a Russian-focused treasure trove of both local and international content. For many years the site was frequented only by native speakers but with the wonders of tools like Google Translate, anyone can use the site at the flick of the switch. When people are struggling to find content, it’s likely that RuTracker has it.

This position has attracted the negative attention of a wide range of copyright holders and thanks to legislation introduced during 2013, the site is now subject to complete blocking in Russia. In fact, RuTracker has proven so stubborn to copyright holder demands, it is now permanently blocked in the region by all ISPs.

Surprisingly, especially given the enthusiasm for blockades among copyright holders, this doesn’t seem to have dampened demand for the site’s services. According to SimiliarWeb, against all the odds the site is still pulling in around 90 million visitors per month. But the impressive stats don’t stop there.

Impressive stats for a permanently blocked site

This week, RuTracker celebrates its 13th birthday, a relative lifetime for a site that has been front and center of Russia’s most significant copyright battles, trouble which doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Back in 2010, for example, RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar and web-hosting provider, pulled the plug on the site’s former domain. The Director of Public Relations at RU-Center said that the domain had been blocked on the orders of the Investigative Division of the regional prosecutor’s office in Moscow. The site never got its domain back but carried on regardless, despite the setbacks.

Back then the site had around 4,000,000 members but now, seven years on, its ranks have swelled to a reported 15,382,907. According to figures published by the site this week, 778,317 of those members signed up this year during a period the site was supposed to be completely inaccessible. Needless to say, its operators remain defiant.

“Today we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our tracker, which is the largest Russian (and not only) -language media library on this planet. A tracker strangely banished in the country where most of its audience is located – in Russia,” a site announcement reads.

“But, despite the prohibitions, with all these legislative obstacles, with all these technical difficulties, we see that our tracker still exists and is successfully developing. And we still believe that the library should be open and free for all, and not be subject to censorship or a victim of legislative and executive power lobbied by the monopolists of the media industry.”

It’s interesting to note the tone of the RuTracker announcement. On any other day it could’ve been written by the crew of The Pirate Bay who, in their prime, loved to stick a finger or two up to the copyright lobby and then rub their noses in it. For the team at RuTracker, that still appears to be one of the main goals.

Like The Pirate Bay but unlike many of the basic torrent indexers that have sprung up in recent years, RuTracker relies on users to upload its content. They certainly haven’t been sitting back. RuTracker reveals that during the past year and despite all the problems, users uploaded a total of 171,819 torrents – on average, 470 torrents per day.

Interestingly, the content most uploaded to the site also points to the growing internationalization of RuTracker. During the past year, the NBA / NCAA section proved most popular, closely followed by non-Russian rock music and NHL games. Non-Russian movies accounted for almost 2,000 fresh torrents in just 12 months.

“It is thanks to you this tracker lives!” the site’s operators informed the users.

“It is thanks to you that it was, is, and, for sure, will continue to offer the most comprehensive, diverse and, most importantly, quality content in the Russian Internet. You stayed with us when the tracker lost its original name: You stayed with us when access to a new name was blocked in Russia: You stayed with us when [the site’s trackers] were blocked. We will stay with you as long as you need us!”

So as RuTracker plans for another year online, all that remains is to celebrate its 13th birthday in style. That will be achieved tonight when every adult member of RuTracker is invited to enjoy Chinese meal at the Tian Jin Chinese Restaurant in St. Petersburg.

Turn up early, seating is limited.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Roku Is Building Its Own Anti-Piracy Team

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch unauthorized content through their regular TV.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and more.

The entertainment industry isn’t happy with this development and is trying to halt further growth wherever possible.

Just a few months ago, Roku was harshly confronted with this new reality when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it’s clear that Roku itself is now taking a more proactive role.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, the company is taking steps to better deal with the problem. The company has already begun warning users of copyright-infringing third-party channels, but that was only the beginning.

Two new job applications posted by Roku a few days ago reveal that the company is putting together an in-house anti-piracy team to keep the problem under control.

One of the new positions is that of Director Anti-Piracy and Content Security. Roku stresses that this is a brand new position, which involves shaping the company’s anti-piracy strategy.

“The Director, Anti-Piracy and Content Security is responsible for defining the technology roadmap and overseeing implementation of anti-piracy and content security initiatives at Roku,” the application reads.

“This role requires ability to benchmark Roku against best practices (i.e. MPAA, Studio & Customer) but also requires an emphasis on maintaining deep insight into the evolving threat landscape and technical challenges of combating piracy.”

The job posting

The second job listed by Roku is that of an anti-piracy software engineer. One of the main tasks of this position is to write software for the Roku to monitor and prevent piracy.

“In this role, you will be responsible for implementing anti-piracy and content protection technology as it pertains to Roku OS,” the application explains.

“This entails developing software features, conducting forensic investigations and mining Roku’s big data platform and other threat intelligence sources for copyright infringement activities on and off platform.”

While a two-person team is relatively small, it’s possible that this will grow in the future, if there aren’t people in a similar role already. What’s clear, however, is that Roku takes piracy very seriously.

With Hollywood closely eyeing the streaming box landscape, the company is doing its best to keep copyright holders onside.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Are Cryptocurrency Miners The Future for Pirate Sites?

Last weekend The Pirate Bay surprised friend and foe by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website.

The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra revenue source.

Initially, this caused the CPUs of visitors to max out due to a configuration error, but it was later adjusted to be less demanding. Still, there was plenty of discussion on the move, with greatly varying opinions.

Some criticized the site for “hijacking” their computer resources for personal profit, without prior warning. However, there are also people who are happy to give something back to TPB, especially if it can help the site to remain online.

Aside from the configuration error, there was another major mistake everyone agreed on. The Pirate Bay team should have alerted its visitors to this change beforehand, and not after the fact, as they did last weekend.

Despite the sensitivities, The Pirate Bay’s move has inspired others to follow suit. Steaming link site, often used by pirates, is one of the first. While they use the same mining service, their implementation is more elegant.

Alluc shows how many hashes are mined and the site allows users to increase or decrease the CPU load, or turn the miner off completely.

“It’s a fun way users can get rid of ads (which are disabled after the counter hits 600k) which we are happy to try since just like users we hate ads. In the current implementation, the user actually starts browsing ad-free permanently after a certain amount of hashes have been generated,” Alluc told us.

“When being transparent about it, providing an opt-out option and rewarding the user if he chooses to let the miner run it may have the potential of making a great widget for webmasters and users alike.” miner

Putting all the controversy aside for a minute, the idea to let visitors mine coins is a pretty ingenious idea. The Pirate Bay said it was testing the feature to see if it’s possible as a replacement for ads, which might be much needed in the future.

In recent years many pirate sites have struggled to make a decent income. Not only are more people using ad-blockers now, the ad-quality is also dropping as copyright holders actively go after this revenue source, trying to dry up the funds of pirate sites. And with Chrome planning to add a default ad-blocker to its browser, the outlook is grim.

A cryptocurrency miner might alleviate this problem. That is, as long as ad-blockers don’t start to interfere with this revenue source as well.

Interestingly, this would also counter one of the main anti-piracy talking points. Increasingly, industry groups are using the “public safety” argument as a reason to go after pirate sites. They point to malicious advertisements as a great danger, hoping that this will further their calls for tougher legislation and enforcement.

If The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites can ditch the ads, they would be less susceptible to these and other anti-piracy pushes. Of course, copyright holders could still go after the miner revenues, but this might not be easy.

TorrentFreak spoke to Coinhive, the company that provides the mining service to The Pirate Bay, and they don’t seem eager to take action without a court order.

“We don’t track where users come from. We are just providing servers and a script to submit hashes for the Monero blockchain. We don’t see it as our responsibility to determine if a website is ‘valid’ and we don’t have the technical capabilities to do so,” a Coinhive representative says.

We also contacted several site owners and thus far the response has been mixed. Some like the idea and would consider adding a miner, if it doesn’t affect visitors too much. Others are more skeptical and don’t believe that the extra revenue is worth the trouble.

The Pirate Bay itself, meanwhile, has completed its test run and has removed the miner from the site. They will now analyze the results before deciding whether or not it’s “the future” for them.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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Google Signs Agreement to Tackle YouTube Piracy

Once upon a time, people complaining about piracy would point to the hundreds of piracy sites around the Internet. These days, criticism is just as likely to be leveled at Google-owned services.

YouTube, in particular, has come in for intense criticism, with the music industry complaining of exploitation of the DMCA in order to obtain unfair streaming rates from record labels. Along with streaming-ripping, this so-called Value Gap is one of the industry’s hottest topics.

With rightsholders seemingly at war with Google to varying degrees, news from France suggests that progress can be made if people sit down and negotiate.

According to local reports, Google and local anti-piracy outfit ALPA (l’Association de Lutte Contre la Piraterie Audiovisuelle) under the auspices of the CNC have signed an agreement to grant rightsholders direct access to content takedown mechanisms on YouTube.

YouTube has granted access to its Content ID systems to companies elsewhere for years but the new deal will see the system utilized by French content owners for the first time. It’s hoped that the access will result in infringing content being taken down or monetized more quickly than before.

“We do not want fraudsters to use our platforms to the detriment of creators,” said Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Google’s President of Strategic Relationships in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The agreement, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, will see Google provide ALPA with financial support and rightsholders with essential training.

ALPA president Nicolas Seydoux welcomed the deal, noting that it symbolizes the “collapse of the wall of incomprehension” that previously existed between France’s rightsholders and the Internet search giant.

The deal forms part of the French government’s “Plan of Action Against Piracy”, in which it hopes to crack down on infringement in various ways, including tackling the threat of pirate sites, better promotion of services offering legitimate content, and educating children “from an early age” on the need to respect copyright.

“The fight against piracy is the great challenge of the new century in the cultural sphere,” said France’s Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen.

“I hope this is just the beginning of a process. It will require other agreements with rights holders and other platforms, as well as at the European level.”

According to NextInpact, the Google agreement will eventually encompass the downgrading of infringing content in search results as part of the Trusted Copyright Removal Program. A similar system is already in place in the UK.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

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