KickAssTorrents

Coinbase Helps FBI Shut Down KickAssTorrents

On July 20, U.S. government officials seized the website KickAssTorrents (KAT) and arrested the alleged founder of the site, Artem Vaulin. The site facilitated pirated seeding and downloading of copyrighted material through various BitTorrent platforms.

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KickAssTorrents Seized, Probably Won’t Come Back

untraceable-seed-torrents-anonymously-using-i2psnark.w1456The KAT website was created in 2009 and was one of the most popular torrenting domains similar to the infamous PirateBay. U.S. authorities had help from Homeland Security, Facebook, Linkedin, and the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase with taking down the torrent website.

The founder of KAT appears to be a Ukrainian native who ran most of the operations with a few other people mentioned. The founder was arrested in Poland, as law enforcement and copyright advocacy groups have been on his trail for many years. The WHOIS online domain records pointed to Vaulin as the owner officials state in the criminal complaint which says:

A review of historical Whois information for KAT […] identified that it was registered on or about January 19, 2009, to Artem Vaulin with an address located in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Facebook and Apple helped with the investigation as well showing Vaulin and others logged onto social media to promote the site regularly. Facebook handed over IP-address logs which was the same IP address used in iTunes transactions.

“Records provided by Apple showed that tirm@me.com conducted an iTunes transaction using IP Address 109.86.226.203 on or about July 31, 2015. The same IP Address was used on the same day to login into the KAT Facebook Account,” the affidavit reveals.

Interestingly enough the agent reporting the information on KAT’s transactions is also a person who testified in the Ross Ulbricht case.

Bitcoin Exchange Helps Feds

coinbase-caa4bf266118f3a09b627961650cf50647ae7b8d590a90ab86ba2fa013193bb8An interesting part of the story, which may concern Bitcoin supporters, is the fact that the San Francisco-based exchange Coinbase helped federal agents. In 2012, KAT started accepting Bitcoin donations, and U.S. officials say records received from Coinbase revealed the Bitcoin donation address was maintained by the exchanges services. The Coinbase account was registered to Artem Vaulin located in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The affidavit reports that $72,767 USD in bitcoin had entered the owner’s donation wallet.

Brian Armstrong, Coinbase CEO
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase CEO

KAT was one of the most popular torrent sites held on the internet receiving millions of users per day. Copyright advocates and law enforcement imposed ISP blockades numerous times over the years but weren’t able to take the site down until this week. It seems the substantial evidence against Vaulin will be enough to prosecute him and keep the site from coming back. While it’s unlikely that common users will be targeted, it is still possible that the surmounting evidence collected could be used against some of them.

Copyright holders who sought to shut down the site and arrest Vaulin include the MPAA, RIAA, and the ESA. Complaints say that many music album links were held on the site and torrents for movies such as Deadpool, Captain America, the Hangover, and more. Crackdowns like this have become more prevalent over the years as KAT joins the likes of the PirateBay, which has been shut down many times. Nevertheless, the PirateBay is fully functional at the moment, which is a testament to the decentralized technology’s “BitTorrent effect” or resistance to shut down.

What do you think about KickAssTorrents being taken down and Coinbase helping investigators? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of KickAssTorrents, Pixabay