The crackdown on torrent tracking sites such as BitTorrent has encouraged software pirates to make greater use of file-hosting websites.
Sites such as RapidShare, MegaUpload or Hotfile allow anonymous users to upload large files without charge. The services are intended for personal video file and backup storage but also have less legitimate purposes. Software pirates have used the sites to create virtual FTP servers packed full of cracked software. Pirates then distribute links to warez hosted on these sites.
RapidShare in particular has become massively popular, with traffic demand pushing it into the top 20 list of most trafficked websites on the internet, Alexa reports. The site holds a reported 10 petabytes of files on its systems, which have the capability to handle up to three million users at any one time. Users with premium accounts enjoy unlimited download speeds while the downloads of freetards are throttled and restricted more generally.
DeMarines, vice president of products at anti-piracy software firm V.I. Labs, said that the move over to file hosting sites is at least partially driven by legal crackdowns against BitTorrent. File hosting might eventually overtake P2P as the main mechanism for distributing pirated software, music and games. "P2P is on its way down," DeMarines told Computerworld. "They're too visible, and so the copyright organizations are going to take these BitTorrent tracker sites out."
Other methods for distributing warez are becoming less popular over time. Warez on Usenet newsgroups, for example, are too often tainted by downloads that attempt to trick users into downloading malware posing as video codecs, leading to a decline in its popularity. IRC and web forums only play a small role in counterfeit content distribution.
V.I. Labs' theory on the changing face of counterfeit content distribution are at least partially supported by data from traffic management appliance firm iPoque, which reports that file hosting traffic has grown in popularity. Although the proportion of P2P traffic has decreased, BitTorrent is still the single most widely used protocol on the net with HTTP second, iPoque adds. ®