MessageToEagle.com - Research by computer scientists at the University of Birmingham has found that
the monitoring of online file sharing is more prevalent than previously thought.
They also conclude that in many cases, the evidence gathered through monitoring is not admissible in court.
To provide legal evidence of file sharing, a monitoring company must make a direct connection to a suspected
file sharer and log their activity.
This three-year study is the first to look at the behaviour of monitors
that make direct connections.
The researchers’ findings include:
Massive monitoring of all of the most popular illegal downloads from the PirateBay has been taking place over the last 3 years.
On average an illegal file sharer, using BitTorrent to download the most popular content, will be connected to
and have there IP address logged within 3 hours of starting a download.
Poor collection methods mean the evidence collected by monitors may not stand up in court.
The research was carried out by developing software that acted like a BitTorrent file sharing client, and
logged all the connections made to it. Careful analysis of the logs revealed the presence and behaviour of
Most large-scale monitors hide their identity by using third party hosting companies to run the searches for
them, but other monitors are identifiable as copyright enforcement organisations, security companies and even
government research labs.
The researchers also found that the use of third party hosting companies allowed the
monitors to avoid ‘block lists’,that attempted to stop known monitors from connecting to file sharers.
“This work reveals the full scale of the monitoring of illegal file sharers. Almost everyone that shares
popular films and music illegally will be connected to by a monitor and will have their IP address logged.
What is done with this information in the long term only time will tell," Dr Tom Chothia, researcher at the University
of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science, said.
With the number of prosecutions of file sharers increasing there is a legitimate concern of the standard
of evidence used in these cases.
‘All the monitors observed during the study would connect to file sharers believed to be sharing illegal content
and verify that they were running the BitTorrent software, however they would not actually collect any of the
files being shared.
Therefore, it is questionable whether the monitors observed would actually have evidence of file sharing that
would stand up in court,’ Dr Chothia added.
This research was presented on 4th September 2012 at the SecureComm Conference in Padua.
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