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Major ISPs Help Fund BitTorrent User Tracking Research 190

An anonymous reader writes "I was scanning conference proceedings to come up with ideas for a reading group I run at my workplace, and I noticed an interesting paper from the new IEEE WIFS forensics conference. Researchers from the University of Colorado have published a technique for tracking BitTorrent users (PDF) by joining and actively probing torrent swarms using low-cost cloud computing services. They claim their methods allowed them to monitor the entire Pirate Bay torrent set for as little as $13/mo using EC2. But that's not even the interesting part. Their work appears to have been 'funded in part through gifts from PolyCipher' — a broadband ISP consortium. That's right; three major national ISPs funded this round of BitTorrent tracking research, not the MPAA/RIAA. Could this be evidence of ISP support for ACTA and a global three-strikes law?"
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Major ISPs Help Fund BitTorrent User Tracking Research

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  • by ravenscar ( 1662985 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:47PM (#31407726)
    Warrants are for the government. When you signed your contract with your ISP you likely authorized them to monitor your traffic to some extent (at least bandwidth usage and likely more). Does that violate your privacy? Maybe, but the issue is much more complicated than you make it seem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:50PM (#31407754)

    Read your contract dipshit. You've signed a contract with a provision to let the ISP do this. Secondly this wasn't a governmental agency so warrants don't apply.

  • Re:Not Necessarily (Score:4, Informative)

    by nobodylocalhost ( 1343981 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:51PM (#31407764)

    You are assuming that there is actually competition and not localized virtual monopolies. The reality however is that cable and teleco have divied out service area plots and hardly ever expand into each others' "turf". Even in one of the richest county in United States - Fairfax, VA. Depends on where you live, you either get Cox, Verizon, or Comcast. Areas where you may choose between the three service providers practically don't exist. So what happens when you want to drop your ISP? Well, the alternative is 56k dialup.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Monday March 08, 2010 @07:56PM (#31407822)

    It could also be a last-ditch effort for ISPs to show they can police themselves before they get shackled by Draconian regulations. ISPs also hate high bandwidth usage (expanding networks cost money, so to the bean counters who failed ITIL class in MBA school, it is better to charge fees, throttle, and kick off users than it does to expand networks to handle new growth and new applications.)

    ISPs are not going to like ACTA so they want to avoid it as much as they can. Having to record not just packet headers, but every single packet a user has sent/received and store it for 7 years is going to make them have to spend large amounts of cash for disk farms. They also don't want to be the focal point for customer outrage when Big Brother-eqsue stories happen: For example, a divorce happens, the ISP gets a motion of discovery, and has to go data mine in the archives to come up with the exact web pages a husband was viewing in the past on a certain day.

  • by BuhDuh ( 1102769 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:36PM (#31408220)
    DISCLAIMER: I am part of the support team of an ISP
    Yes, we do hate those users who suck bandwidth via bittorrent to the detriment of the majority who simply want to read their email, keep up-to-date via a social networking site and do other non-intensive tasks. However if we were being completely cynical, the over usage charges we can collect (and which our users agreed to in our AUP when they signed up) are a nice earner. PLUS I agree, we don't have to invest so heavily and so often to upgrade our infrastructure. I don't necessarily agree with such a position, but I'm stuck with it. However, I read TFPDF and it bleats about illegal copyrighted downloads which it seems to imply is the only use for bittorrent, nowhere do I see (except after the download is complete) how this violation can be proven. I have lost count over the years of how many iso's of various Linux distros I have downloaded, how many times the kids have updated WoW.... This sanctimonious BS posturing in the guise of protecting copyright leaves me cold.
  • Re:Not Necessarily (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @08:42PM (#31408282)

    500Kbps for surfing, email and gaming? Maybe if it's for one user who considers addictinggames.com "gaming." If I stopped all my torrenting I would still be using a lot of bandwidth for things like software downloads, online video, digital distribution of games, DLC for games, patches for games, updates for all my applications and operating systems, and the list goes on. Imagine if I had a family of 5 with a couple consoles and a PC for each member of the family.

    ISPs need to invest in their networks instead of their CEOs. If only we had some real competition in the cable market.

  • Re:Not Necessarily (Score:4, Informative)

    by Thundersnatch ( 671481 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @10:31PM (#31409156) Journal
    On the north side of Chicago (Lincoln park), you can choose between two cable, two 4g wireless, six 3g wireless, and about 10 xDSL providers. Oh, and that laggy sattelite service too. All this choice in the most corrupt political climate in the country. Maybe Fairfax needs to hire Todd Stroger.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:10PM (#31409404)

    Umm... why are you signing a contract that says they can shoot your dog, if you don't want them shooting your dog?

  • by JesseMcDonald ( 536341 ) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:45PM (#31409652) Homepage

    Here in the US, we all operate under the idea that several rights are unalienable, ie: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...

    As I said, the right to self-ownership, of which the Bill of Rights describes a subset. Also, not everything in the Bill of Rights is considered inalienable; for example, you can forfeit your right to freedom from warrantless searches.

    Life: Property right in one's own body, should be self-evident.

    Liberty: Derives from self-ownership and exercise of alienable property rights.

    "Pursuit of happiness": Watered-down nearly to the point of meaninglessness (was originally just "property"), but can be understood as the inalienable right to obtain and hold alienable rights in property, again deriving from self-ownership.

    As for contracts, almost all contracts have sections that clearly state that if a portion of the contract is found to be illegal or unconstitutional, it doesn't invalidate the rest of the provisions.

    And...? I'm sorry, but—putting aside the fact that constitutionality doesn't apply to private contracts in the first place—I'm not sure what you're responding to here.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @01:09AM (#31410100)

    A few years ago, only bittorrent users were using video on the Internet. But now, my 4 and 6 year old kids seem to spend more time watching kids' shows on the Internet than they do on TV, my wife and I use netflix on demand, and my 11 year old watches dozens of youtube videos to learn card tricks and yo-yo tricks.

    Video isn't exotic anymore. If the majority of your customers are just checking facebook and email, start the countdown because it won't last.

    If you're talking about a cable ISP, downloads are effectively "free". Kids and parents watching Hulu all day doesn't concern them too much.

    However, the thing Bittorrent does that does impact a cable ISP is *uploads*. Compared to downstream bandwidth, upstream bandwidth is very limited. You already know if you set your upload too fast your connection gets useless for surfing, gaming and interactive applications. Well a few people doing that takes down an entire node as all the upstream bandwidth is consumed. And that takes out service for many people - web pages take forever to load, gaming is impossible as your ping starts averaging 100ms spiking to 500+, and forget about ssh.

    Our ISP has a limit of 60GB (Canada, and quit your comcast 250GB bitching). However, people have routinely doubled that - they don't care if it's mostly downloads. After all, there's tons of downstream bandwidth, and a few users gobbling up data doesn't really impact other's performance. If you start uploading a significant fraction of that, they take notice and send warning notices out. Heavy uploaders are the first targeted in any bandwidth measure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @03:05AM (#31410734)

    I did not notice anyone commenting on the actual paper. Maybe I am wrong but all the are doing is probing a peers to establish whether they respond to protocol and actually have parts of the file. This means that to prevent this from working one only needs to run PeerBlock or similar software and block amazon cloud and similar services. If their idea catches on, I am certain that it will be rendered void by proper block list in no time. As various papers correctly stated - "if you are running bit torrent client and not running any filtering software you are an idiot".

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?