The High Tech Society

What Happened to Kickass Torrents?

What Happened to KickassTorrents?

If you’re one of the fifty million monthly visitors to Kickass Torrents (or KAT) at kat.cr or one of its mirror sites, you’ve had issues connecting. You’re probably wondering if KAT has had to switch servers again or if there’s something larger at play. We’ve all seen KAT move from domain to domain as part of Artem Vaulin’s plans to stay a step ahead of law enforcement. And it’s not like KAT’s popularity is in doubt. According to the Alexa ranking system, kat.cr was the 69th most frequently visited website on the Internet as a whole. With this popularity, KAT and its affiliated properties had an estimated annual advertising income of approximately US $16,967,865 with a total net worth of over US $54 million.

Unfortunately, Vaulin’s method of staying one step ahead didn’t quite work as expected. On 20 July 2016, the United States Department of Justice, with the cooperation of local police in Poland, arrested Vaulin and seized a slew of assets related to the operation of Kickass Torrents. One bank account and seven domain names were seized and shuttered in the move which was announced in a US DOJ press release. According to the press release, “Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials.” Vaulin is also being investigated for money laundering using Cryptoneat, a Ukrainian company, as a front.

Be Wary of Pretenders

The shutdown of KAT leaves a huge vacuum in the vast torrent sharing network of the internet. Many imposters claiming to be affiliated with the KAT team have popped up offering near-perfect duplicates of the old kat.cr site, but are missing the forums or other important aspects of the old site. Most of the sites are only replicas and contain tracking data from the old shuttered site with no new trackers or torrents being added. Additionally, many of the sites are riddled with malware, designed to take advantage of a torrent seeker’s desperation. Whether or not an official return happens will have to wait until the dust settles.

Could KAT Return?

This isn’t the first time that governments have gone after popular torrent sharing sites. On 9 December 2014, The Pirate Bay was seized by Swedish Police, causing a shutdown of many affiliated sites such as EZTV and Torrage. While The Pirate Bay has managed to make a comeback, it seems unlikely that KAT will be able to pull such a phoenix-like enterprise.

While it is possible, because the US DOJ was able to obtain full copies of KAT’s hard drives (including the email server), they have information on everyone on the original KAT team. They obtained this through cooperation by the Canadian government via an MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) request on 12 April 2016.

What do you think of this? Should torrent sites be illegal? Or are governments overstepping their boundaries in dealing with them? Let us know in the comments below.

The original criminal complaint can be found here.