Researchers find most BitTorrent users being monitored

Sep 05, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Image from the research paper.

(Phys.org)—Researchers from Birmingham University in the UK have found that users who frequent BitTorrent file sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, risk having their IP address logged by monitors as quickly as within three hours of getting on. The team, led by Tom Chothia, discovered the extent to which monitors are tracking users on such sharing sites by monitoring activity themselves over a two year period. They found as they note in their paper presented this week at the SecureComm conference, that virtually all users of such sites wind up having their IP address noted and recorded at some point.

file work by means of a Peer to Peer sharing scheme. log in and download chunks of a file they want from several different other users at the same time who share the load as a swarm. At the same time, files that they've already downloaded are shared with others. The protocol and hosting sites, known as trackers don't differentiate between files that are traded legally, or illegally, hence the presence of , which are "users" or clients that log in for the express purpose of finding out who is downloading . The very nature of the makes it very easy for such monitors to note which users are downloading which files as it's all tracked via IP addresses.

One way to get around having an cataloged by a monitor is to block their IP address; disallowing them from joining the swarm that is sending pieces of files. Users who frequent BitTorrent sites generally become aware of what are known as blocklists (lists of the IP addresses of known monitors); unfortunately, the researchers found such lists to include many false positives and negatives, making them generally useless in preventing monitoring.

To figure out which clients were real users and which were monitors, the researchers noted several characteristics of the monitors that make them stand out. One was the fact that monitors tend to hold a large number of the subnets that access sharing sites. Other ways were that they tend to stay connected a lot longer than regular clients and to connect to a lot more swarms and also generally fail to report actually ever completing downloads. In short, they are simply much busier and active, though with little to show for it, than users who generally tend to only log on when they want a certain file and then go away for a period of time after they get it.

After compiling lists of IP addresses they suspected of belonging to monitors, the team compared them against other known information about such IP holders and were able to verify that many of them were indeed known BitTorrent monitoring entities. They conclude by making it clear that virtually everyone that uses such sites to download files will have their IP address cataloged at some point, but add that the information gathered by such monitors likely wouldn't withstand legal scrutiny.

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User comments : 19

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Arcbird
4.6 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2012
Disgusting...
Mayday
1.6 / 5 (20) Sep 05, 2012
Arc, disgusting? Really? I take it that you don't believe in intellectual property copyrights. Perhaps you should back away from the Internet and try making a living by creating something of value. You may feel differently.
kochevnik
4.4 / 5 (20) Sep 05, 2012
I take it that you don't believe in intellectual property copyrights.
Get a new business model, middleman. Digital isn't going away. Parasitism on the artists is so last century. And Hollywood is remaking movies with the same script three of four times now. Apparently paying writers is considered a baseless investment.
AceLepage
4.9 / 5 (8) Sep 05, 2012
BitTorrent, or peer-to-peer is, unfortunately, becoming synonymous with piracy. Although this protocol may be used for that purpose, it is not inherently so. It is useful for file sharing without the need for central infrastructure. I know of some programs, offered through a freeware license, that are only available through this method of file transfer.
Mayday
1.8 / 5 (17) Sep 05, 2012
Koch, copyright protection isn't a business model. It's an internationally recognized right granting the owner control of their property's value potential. Check the laws of the land where you live. You'll find that it is still on the books as a crime far more serious than theft or shoplifting. And you'll find there's good reason for that if you give it some thought. You may distribute freely online, but you don't just walk into a store and steal the speakers, do you? Your values concerning property rights are out of whack, to say the least. Your costs involved in obtaining copyrighted material legally are actually quite low and the gain in distributing illegally is small. Why commit a crime against individual rights? Fun? Anarchy? It might be time to mature into a legitimate member of society. Think about it.
fmfbrestel
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
I live in a bad spot for TV reception, and have been torrenting broadcast television for years. I stay away from cable shows or movies since you actually have to pay for those. Even then, I know I am technically pirating those shows and am in violation of the law. So anyway, veteran TV pirate here.

All I have to say about this is: DUH!

First of all, this study is absolutely nothing new. It has been studied before with the same conclusions many times.

Secondly, If your going to do something illegal, protect yourself a little. For what I do, regularly updating peerblocker is probably enough. If you want to get movies or HBO shows, then you probably want to keep all of that on a TOR connection and use the paranoid peer blocker list.
chromosome2
4.6 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2012
You may distribute freely online, but you don't just walk into a store and steal the speakers, do you? Your values concerning property rights are out of whack, to say the least.


If I could walk into a store with a portable transporter and replicator, and beam a copy of the speakers to my house, I'd totally do it. Theft and copyright infringement are different. You might group them together as something else to which you apply your moral judgement, which is fine, but they're different.

Personally, I think the best way about things is to ensure the failure of the intellectual property lobby without gratifying them with the use of their products at all. Thinking about pirating an album? Find a Creative Commons alternative instead. Got a Photoshop torrent running? Come on, man-- gimp is a native Mac app now. Use that instead. Can't find what you want for free? Help make it, and release it under a Free license.
Mayday
2 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2012
There seems to be some misuderstanding here. Downloading anything online is legal (at least in the US). It's the uploading of copyrighted content that is illegal. When connected to a torrent site, your machine "shares" its content with other users. This is the illegal infringement. The deal is: they'll "give" you content if you play along and share it with others. Please respect copyright. Someday you may create something of potential value and want your rights protected. I truly hope that you do.
Voleure
4.4 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2012
Copyright law and patents are out of control. What they were in their inception are not what they are now. The principle at the outset was a very time-limited license for a short term gain by the *original* creator followed by subsequent release to the public good.
Companies with powerful lawyers/lobbyists have mangled the laws to what is now virtually unrecognizable. Companies are now routinely bought then dismantled (ie closed) just to plunder their IP resources similar to diamond mining in the Congo.
Right now it's a greed-fest with lawyers happily diving in the churning waters.
The original creator is usually left out in the cold under the current system . I find it hard to swallow the hardship by mega-corporations who bought the rights for millions from another corporation and whose profits continue to climb. If the original creator puts up their work, no middlemen, on the internet and asks a respectful amount they tend to exceed their expectations in return.
Cave_Man
4.8 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2012
Arc, disgusting? Really? I take it that you don't believe in intellectual property copyrights. Perhaps you should back away from the Internet and try making a living by creating something of value. You may feel differently.


So i am being logged and tracked because i want to download a copy of a game I ALREADY OWN because my disc is too scratched to install said game......

As long as i dont get sued i think they have a right to know and control the download of their property.

But I can go buy a used game or movie at my local thrift store for less than a dollar and own something that people have paid thousands in lawsuits for...sad to say the least
Mayday
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2012
Vole, given enough money and lawyers, most any law (or right) can be abused. You might enjoy looking into the history of how the Wright Brothers kept America's aircraft industry grounded. But your logic asks to eliminate many laws (and rights).

Cave, you can download almost anything you want. Downloading is legal. It's uploading copyrighted content without permission that's illegal (in the US). And once you buy the license, it is generally granted or understood that you can give that copy away or sell it at your discretion. No royalty required.
kochevnik
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2012
@Mayday Koch, copyright protection isn't a business model. It's an internationally recognized right granting the owner control of their property's value potential.
The record companies and movie distributors are not the creators of the content. They claim ownership only because they steal the rights from the creators through use of monopoly power. Now sharing threatens their scarcity foothold over the artist and consumer. They are useless parasites whose only purpose is obstruction and obfuscation.

BTW it is impossible to steal content. Information is not a physical good. Like knowledge it incurs no loss on the creator and perhaps benefits him as well. New music groups appeal directly to their fans and make a living with live performances. They are doing fine with the middleman parasites cut out.
despinos
4 / 5 (4) Sep 06, 2012
Koch, copyright protection isn't a business model. It's an internationally recognized right granting the owner control of their property's value potential. Check the laws of the land where you live. [...] And you'll find there's good reason for that if you give it some thought. It might be time to mature into a legitimate member of society. Think about it.


Have you reead George's Orwell "1984" novel?
Big Brother is watching you... and your wife, and your neighbours... and your parents, and your friends..., and your children... What would you say if your chidren were downloading a Mickey Mouse Club House chapter "with the help of" the pirate Bay, and as a result your IP address were included in a "Copyright criminals" list to be used lord knows how, and which is not even public?
Did you know that in some countries (Spain) there are also laws against keeping secret (not public) data bases with personal information? Who is then breaking the law here.
As you say, think about it.
racchole
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2012
Make movies and music AFFORDABLE, and piracy WILL GO DOWN. This is not rocket science. Based on my understanding of economies and finance, people will pay for something if they feel it is worth the money. Therefore, what piracy has shown us, is that entertainment products are extremely overpriced. Cost of going to the movies is the single reason I stopped going. If I had the Lowe's down the street illegally streaming onto my laptop, I would be watching every release. $5 movie tickets and I would be out the door. Not rocket science.
n0ns3ns0r
not rated yet Sep 06, 2012
A million monkeys typing on a million typewriters for a million years will eventually write Shakespeare. Those damned pirate monkeys!
Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2012
copyright protection isn't a business model.


It is.

The actual value in intellectual property is in the creation of it, because once created, any virtual good becomes essentially free - it takes no effort to invent the second wheel once you've figured out the first, or write a poem that is already written.

Copyright is a business paradigm that argues that the value is not in the creation, but in the distribution of content. It takes creative work, denies access or use of it, and argues that this is necessary to protect the creator's rights. In reality it is necessary only to ensure the distributor's profit.

The purpose of copyright is to define intellectual property in such a way that it shifts the actual business out of creating products, into controlling the creations through artifical scarcity. This business model is completely obsolete in a time when you don't need distributors to get the virtual goods from the creator to the market.

Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2012
You can also argue that copyrights allow the distributors to take advantage of the ignorance of consumers to create a market failure in their favor. Here's why:

No single consumer is aware of how many other consumers have purchased the same thing and how much they've paid, so they don't know how much in aggregate has been paid to the company that distributes the product, so they cannot determine whether or not the distributor has been adequately compensated for the quality of product that they've put out. They have no way of gauging what the real price of the product is and the society as a whole pays too much for products that nobody appreciates that much.

This automatically leads to sub-par products, because you can get away with it. You think Justin Bieber is actually worth a million for singing one song? Probably not, but if you only see a single dollar of that cost, you may think that it's small enough a price to pay.

Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2012
And more importantly, under the current copyright business paradigm, there's no way to challenge the Bieber by coming up and making a better product at half the price, because nobody knows it's half the price. It's still one dollar per song that you pay to the distributor, who now makes twice the profit.

So it's essentially the distributor that controls the market, not the artist, not the consumer, not even the art itself - it's the distributor that decides whether you make it or break it.

Put simply, information is always free by its very nature, but access to information can be made to cost money by legislation. Ironically then, a free market demands that access to information should be free, or you'll undermine the entire foundation of the free market system.
Zoness
5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2012
This is neat and all but it doesn't stop tech-savvy users from flocking to private sites which have had top quality content with insane speeds (because people must preserve ratio). As for the morality of it, I hardly care. The fact is digital media is changing and if a TV show cannot be offered the world around because someone company wants me to wait FOUR MONTHS and then PAY for it after the fact, well then of course capitalism steps in and I am going to find the cheapest solution to finding a product.

This is a free market world. Since big business doesn't play by the rules I don't understand why they expect consumers to.