The High Tech Society

Isohunt

Access to Torrents or a Scam?

IsoHunt was once one of the most popular torrent indexers on the Internet. Initially, the site was operated and established by Canadian Gary Fung.

The MPAA initiated several actions against both torrent indexer and tracking sites simultaneously in 2006. After an extended battle with the MPAA, IsoHunt agreed to settle the lawsuit for $110 million; and Fung posted a farewell message in lieu of an operating website. By October of 2013, the website was completely gone.

However, less than two weeks a later, a nearly identical clone of the site appeared on the Internet. Members of the former team insist that this incarnation has nothing to do with their efforts.

The Torrent Search Software

Long before the MPAA and other copyright agencies had begun taking down one domain after the other, BitTorrent enthusiasts had been searching for new ways to find and download torrents. One of those ways had its roots well in the past.

Peer to Peer (P2P) clients like Napster, Limewire, and Frostwire were once an incredibly popular alternative to torrent search engines like The Pirate Bay. Like BitTorrent search engines, these programs gave access to millions of files. On the other hand, they became obsolete with the advent of BitTorrent. Nonetheless, pirates from all over the world have floated the idea of using some kind of Peer to Peer mechanism as a means to prevent the seizure and takedown of websites and domains used to index and track torrents.

IsoHunt Torrents

When I saw IsoHunt had what they were calling a binary client, I was enthused. I have always found P2P clients preferable to downloading torrents. Naturally, however, downloading software such as this comes with certain risks. I felt, however, that I was prepared, so I attempted to download the software.

The Game

Interestingly, clicking to download the software led to a different P2P file sharing network that was even older than clients like Frostwire, Usenet. You may or may not have heard of Usenet, but it was originally intended as a bulletin board system that its users eventually began using as a way to share content.

I scratched my chin. Why would they direct me to a Usenet provider?

IsoHunt Game

Firstly, there is literally no connection between Usenet and torrents. It is, in fact, its own separate repository of files and operates under its own unique protocols. While I myself am an enthusiast of Usenet, it didn’t take a concerted act of genius to deduce that this had literally nothing to do with what I originally thought it did.

The Scam

In spite of these bad omens, I clicked on, nonetheless. IsoHunt sent me to a site called Usenet.nl and asked if I wanted to “Test for Free”. It is true that most Usenet services cost money. It is also true that they don’t expect you to link a Paypal or a credit card for the honor of testing their services. Naturally, I was skeptical, so I ran a little search on Usenet.nl.

Unsurprisingly, I was treated to thousands of angry people who were decrying the site as an outright scam. Based on the stories that individuals have reported, Usenet.nl is a phishing scam. There are reports that users, based on limited information given to the company, have phantom debits to their Paypal and credit card accounts. This despite the fact that they do not subscribe to the service.

While signing up is easy, canceling is hard. Usenet.nl tells you that you will get 14 days for free, but you end up having to link some kind of payment to the site. This is not true of any other Usenet service that I have ever subscribed to.

Usenet.nl

For more information on IsoHunt’s “binary client” and Usenet.nl click here.

Suffice it to say, Usenet.nl direct debits money from a bank account that is linked through your Paypal. All they need to do this is your Paypal email address and an account that allows Paypal permission to debit directly from your account or a credit card.

One poor fellow describes what Usenet.nl did to him after they couldn’t tap his bank account via Paypal. They sent him a collections notice via snail mail and charged him all manner of additional fees.

The Real IsoHunt

Generally speaking, when I test a torrent site, I simply want to know whether or not I can find a torrent. Of course, there are other things to know, such as the navigability of the database and the accessibility of new content.

Bollywood movies appear to be extremely popular on IsoHunt. Unfortunately, every time I tried to find something or search for a specific title, it directed me back to their binary client scam.

I thought that maybe if I signed up it would let me search for torrents. Nope. Literally, everything I clicked redirected to the site’s download client scam.

No further deliberations were needed. IsoHunt is, in fact, not a torrent site at all anymore. Its indexer is inaccessible. It’s hard to tell if any database actually exists. The site’s only function is to funnel users to buy their scam Usenet site.

Given the history of fraud associated with Usenet.nl, one can only assume that they are behind this website rather than a reseller, as I am sure they would claim.

In the end, only one thing is for sure. IsoHunt is no more.