Internet BitTorrent Spies

Internet BitTorrent Spies

Summary: Think no one knows what you've downloaded off the Internet with BitTorrent? Think again.

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People have privacy delusions about the Internet. They seem to think that just because they don't sign their real name to a site that no one can see what they've been doing on it. Oh dear. So dumb, so wrong.

The latest example of what you do on the Internet is no where near as “private” as you think it is comes from a new Russian site, YouHaveDownloaded. This site claims to track 20 percent of all public BitTorrent downloads... and tell the world who they've found downloading what. So, that final episode of Dexter? The DVD rip of Cowboys & Aliens? That copy of Call of Duty Modern Warfare? And, that illicit video of Smoking Hot Grannies that you really, really don't want to talk about? Yeah, your permanent record of what you've been downloading off BitTorrent sites may all be available for the amusement of your friends, neighbors, and, oh yes, the copyright owners.

Happy downloading!

To be exact, YouHaveDownloaded collects your Internet address and the titles of what you've been downloading. Some of you might immediately now think that that's not enough to track someone down since many ISPs now use dynamic Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Think again.

According to a Facebook posting by Suren Ter, one of the site's founders, "We don't bother ourselves to separate dynamic IPs. The site is just for show. However we have time-stamps. 3.3.3.3 might be a dynamic IP - however it belonged to a certain person at 12:12am 12/12/2011. Besides DHT (distributed hash table) allows us to get a user's machine fingerprint."

DHTs, for those of you don't work on peer-to-peer (P2) networking for a living, is a distributed, look-up system that's to constantly update who's doing what on a P2P at any given moment. It is, as you may have guessed by now, an essential part of BitTorrent. So, yes, armed with the data the site provides to the public a savvy network administrator could figure out that it was you—or someone with access to your PC—who downloaded a copy of Debbie Does Dallas last night at the office. Good luck explaining to the boss about how your “study” of historical porn was essential for the business.

Why are they as, one commenter put it being “Pretty f**king irresponsible, no consideration for what harm you may cause to people checking their familys torrents?” Ter explained to TorrentFreak, a publication that tracks the on-going collision of file sharing news and copyright, that “We just want to remind people that the Internet is not a place to expect privacy). Nowadays many people use it without understanding what information they leave behind. Also, even those who understand choose to ignore it quite often.”

Ter is right. While YouHaveDownloaded it has “only” 52-million users in its database, so your records may not be on their site, they're certainly are showing how trivial it is for someone to see what you've been doing on the Internet with only a bit of effort.

Of course, it's not just YouHaveDownloaded it that's trying to track users. I recently received a note from NBC, via my ISP, that I'd been illegally downloading a copy of the TV show Community. As it happens, I hadn't been—I use BitTorrent for Linux distros and old BBC shows--but there's nothing like the threat of a lawsuit for downloading copyrighted material to get your attention.

After all, while one U.S. court has ruled that IP addresses, alone, can't be used to identify people in download copyright violation lawsuits, that doesn't mean that another court will see it the same way. Or, as YouHaveDownloaded has just shown, that a company can't put together IP addresses, date/time stamps, and DHT data to really narrow down who's really downloading a movie, video game, or song.

For better or for worse, if you're downloading videos, games, whatever, from BitTorrent sites keep in mind that you're doing it in public.

Related Stories:

Skype monitoring, Gmail hacks, and fake iTunes updates: How governments can track you

New Wikileaks files expose widespread mobile phone, email hacking capability

Facebook tells India it won’t help censor the Web

Court rules Internet IP addresses are not people

Topics: Telcos, Browser, Networking

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123 comments
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  • Garbage in / Garbage Out

    Let's see... according to YouHaveDownloaded, someone here downloaded "Healing Meditation Accelerate Healing and Recovery (Brain Wave Therapy)-Mantesh" sometime in November. The only problem is, they're absolutely wrong. Our office has both hardware and software firewalls which block BitTorrent traffic, and the desktops are locked down. The users couldn't install a BitTorrent client if they wanted too, and the network is small enough that I can easily scan for the supposed pirated file, and there is no sign of it on any system. I don't know how they're collecting their data, but it's pretty useless if they're just posting garbage. If it's from Russia, I'm more inclined to think that it's a fishing site and the media is blindly helping them out.
    Tank252ca
    • Portable apps?

      @Tank252ca Can a user run portable applications from a flash drive on their PC?
      brad@...
    • Its just fluff and flame from the DRM copyright cretins and morons

      @Tank252ca ... they won't be happy until everyone works in a salt mine giving all their wages to the riaa.... just more of the same parasites that constantly steal without end.
      Reality Bites
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @Reality Bites LMFAO :D
        MrElectrifyer
    • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

      @Tank252ca <br><br>I checked my IP addresses at 2 different sites and only one file came up...and it was the same on both machines. So...putting 2 and 2 together...I think this Russian site is a front to troll for Facebook accounts. Have you tried their captcha? It's insanely long and it doesn't work. I tried twice. It's designed to frustrate you into giving over your FB information and it offers a login link. So, unfortunately, Steve may have caused more harm than good with this article. Stay away from this website.
      HappyXWindowsUser
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @HappyXWindowsUser

        I agree! I tried the captcha 3 times with the same result. I wasn't DUMB enough to log in with my facebook!

        Better stay away from this!!!!!!!
        r1r1p1@...
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @HappyXWindowsUser
        Yup, same here. CAPTCHA doesn't work, and there's no way I'm giving them access to my Facebook data.

        Just don't do it.
        Brad Morrison
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @HappyXWindowsUser : "So, unfortunately, Steve may have caused more harm than good with this article. "
        Don't blame him! He's just about to learn the basics of computing and the internet. You know, that thing with many tubes in it....
        ff2
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @HappyXWindowsUser:

        Excellent point, thank you. Mr. Vaughan-Nichols has a well-established history of not researching his purported sources.

        And this article is quite a mess of horrible English.
        cardhun@...
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @ff2 Don't blame Steve, he's just reciting the same "news" that others are.
        MindWarpMedia
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        Let all the music people track & find me...
        They really can't do much of anything with me... HOW?
        Back in the early 1990's i owed a hospital over $20,000 and some local lawyer called me up to start BANKRUPCY proceedings...
        That is until they found out what my INCOME was...
        Then they told me what the laws concerning a LAWSUIT are in NY STATE...
        If a person's income is...
        WELFARE, SSD, SSI, WORKERS COMP, SS [below $15,000 per yr]
        THEN you have no worries... [They can sue you BUT because your income is from federal, state, county, city, etc low income funds AND those funds can't be used in a lawsuit & the person can't be sent to jail for lack of funds to pay in a lawsuit case]
        MEANING.... Let them come after me all they want... AND then they'll see how much a ROCK has to give...
        gkiefferjfk2@...
    • Useless information if you ask me.

      @Tank252ca
      Has somebody track of the billions of downloads made eveyday. Of course you leave a trail but its like a hunter followin an invisible dear, you can see the tracks, hear it and even smell it, but it will a lucky shot if you get it. If you are a really good downlader almost a hacker you know you can use an array of tools to use to even misguide those so called trackers. Only agencies like CIA and FBI have that technology fully developed.
      realvarezm
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @realvarezm

        +2
        macmilan
    • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

      @Tank252ca
      +1
      ITOdeed
    • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

      @Tank252ca I'm a high school senior, and my school has WPA2 secured WiFi, hardware and software content filiters and firewalls, along with the most locked down windows interface I have seen to date. The start button logs you off, because the start menu has been disabled, and even my computer and portable USB devices are blocked. One day when no one was looking, we booted live in Linux, found the Windows 7 SAM file, and cracked the admin password in less then 10 minutes. We went back into Windows, logged on as Admin, went to control panel, found the wireless network, and using the wireless network property dialog I found out the WiFi password. We use a VPN, and we all get free unprotected WiFi over a secure connection.<br><br>Long story short, if they boot live with a Linux flash drive or CD, let's say Linux Mint or Ubuntu, and then install a free VPN such as Tor, they can be downloading torrents at your office in less then 5 minutes. The connection will be fully encrypted, and you won't know what they're downloading. It will be a live environment that will completely bypass Windows, and leave no traces on the computer afterwards. Windows is a decent OS, and has many advantages over the *nixes, but don't think you are secure if your using Windows.
      aminy23
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @aminy23 Sure, but you can block live booting simply by locking the BIOS with a password. Ok, one can also recover this as well, but hey, no system can claim total security, whether it's a Windows or a *nix one. The point for any admin is to make the whole process so difficult and time-consuming that most hacker wannabes won't bother to try and if they do, they will eventually give up. Plus, if they use Tor for downloading files, it's very unlikely that anyone will manage to track them down using the recorded IP address, like this website claims to do.
        GiorgosP
      • Unless the hard drive has encryption on it

        @aminy23

        In addition to the firewalls & blocking of installing new software, they use a hard drive encryption program that boots *before* the OS does.

        I suppose they could pull the hard drive from the case...but someone might wonder why you're huddled under your desk with a screwdriver & a new Western Digital drive, or why when a co-worker comes by to ask you to look at a network file you no longer have access on your machine...
        spdragoo@...
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @aminy23

        Any school admin that has their desktops so locked down as you claim is not stupid enough to allow booting to a live cd or usb device which is so easily turned of in the password protected bios I'm sure they also have. I call you a liar!
        IgnorantBugger
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @aminy23 Please don't use Tor to download with BitTorrent! You mess it up for everyone else that uses Tor for web surfing, etc.
        justthisguyyouknow
      • RE: Internet BitTorrent Spies

        @aminy23 Bravo! I'm semi retired and short of using VPNs download Linux live OSs and hack my own passwords time to time. Just how secure do people think their computers are when they're networked? Have yet to try VPNs but will in the future. Plenty to learn. Gave up torrents 3 years ago. Want to stay legal.
        nuzerxe