The VPN industry dropped the ball yet again, as some providers actually encouraged users to configure their BitTorrent clients to use unencrypted network proxies. Users proceeded to Torrent all sorts of copyrighted material, leaving their VPNs in hot water.
Why? Because unlike normal VPN usage, there’s no court defense for the network owners against this stuff! Especially when they went out of their way to provide instructions on how to set everything up, and advertised that their services are perfect for piracy.
The result? Two VPNs have been successfully sued and forced to block all of that sweet BitTorrent traffic. Oh, these knuckleheads then got slapped with an injunction that compromises the privacy, security, and financial integrity of their customers.
The First BitTorrent VPN Ban – VPN.ht
In mid October of 2021, stuff got real. The lawsuit that had been raging between VPN.ht / Wicked Technology Limited and Millennium Funding Inc (aka the movie industry – Millennium Media / Voltage Pictures / Others) finally came to a head.
Wicked tried a bunch of stall tactics to try and stop the legal beatings that they were being subjected to. But nothing was working. They claimed that they didn’t have to follow U.S. law because the owner was Algerian. But they screwed that up by advertising to every U.S. state and hosting a bunch of U.S. servers.
They were just lucky that the FBI hadn’t stepped in at that point, because their defense was screwed from the start. Given how much evidence was against them, the court had frozen their PayPal accounts. So Wicked stepped into the ring and did their best to bob, weave, and stay alive.
Their best ended up sucking. It didn’t help that their ads included pro-piracy messages that encouraged people to download whatever they wanted without getting caught. They also left complete instructions for how BitTorrent users could set up their clients to use SOCKS5 proxies for fast Torrenting.
They might not have known that those SOCKS5 servers aren’t encrypted! Never had been.
So of course the movie industry caught on and monitors Wicked’s users pirating apps, music, movies, and all kinds of other documents and software. They had no privacy and no hope of defending themselves if the plaintiffs decided to go after individuals after they had mopped up the floor with the VPN provider.
Wicked was completely washed.
In Q3 of 2021, they told the court that they were done. They would enter negotiations for a full settlement. That settlement happened in early October, and was accompanied by a court injunction that would unfreeze the VPN’s assets as long as they stopped all BitTorrent traffic flowing through their site and ratted out their users as much as possible:
Logs for US Servers: Within 30 days of entry of this order, the Wicked Entities are hereby ORDERED to store log records of the Internet Protocol (“IP”) addresses tied to servers in the United States under their control that subscribers of Wicked’s VPN use and to retain said log records for at least 12 months on a rolling basis. Said log records shall include the identification information of the subscriber as stored in the records for the Wicked Entities.
Of course, Wicked said there were no logs to hand over. But they told users that ‘even if there were logs’, they wouldn’t hand them over. So which is it? I guess the world will find out if a wave of movie piracy cases start popping up in the U.S.
In addition to their other embarrassments, Wicked took down all of their US SOCKS5 servers, which is a big old white flag fluttering in the wind. They told their U.S. customers to use gateways in Canada and Mexico instead. Nice.
The Second BitTorrent VPN Ban – TorGuard
As it turned out, Millennium Funding Inc wasn’t satisfied with just one drubbing. They singled out their next victim and charged ahead at full speed.
This time they had their claws sunk into TorGuard. And guess who told their customers to use their unencrypted SOCKS5 servers to pirate stuff? If you said ‘TorGuard’, you guessed right.
The mountain of data that got included in the settlement documents was impressive to say the least. This is why you don’t use unencrypted services to do illegal stuff: On just one of the SOCKS5 servers, the legal team recorded over 98,500 instances of video piracy. Just video piracy, mind you. That doesn’t include the goldmine of data that the music, book, and art sectors could leverage in their future lawsuits. It was an absolute clown fiesta.
And get this: Their Internet Service Provider, Quadranet, failed to process and pass on the resulting copyright claims!
So to sum up – the VPN messed up with their advertising. They did not properly warn their clients about the lack of encryption on SOCKS. Quadranet failed to send over 100,000 DMCA claims to the right user agent at TorGuard. That means the VPN didn’t null route the users that they did catch. And the ISP didn’t provide the information that the VPN would need to adjust their firewall and prevent future piracy.
Dumb mistakes all around of course. But only one person was in court to take the fall. TorGuard would need to pay the price for everyone involved. They settled and accepted the judgment. As a result, they blocked all BitTorrent traffic as part of the injunction.
The first bit is simple: If you’re dumb enough to trust the VPN industry after all of the ‘no log’ scandals, the government backdoors, and the hacks, at least don’t use unencrypted proxies to do your dirty work!
But let’s face it, at this point you shouldn’ttrust VPN claims and advertisements at all. All that the industry seems to do is exaggerate, lie, and provide some of the worst advice on the planet. Their version of ‘privacy’ does absolutely nothing to stop the greatest privacy threat of the decade: Browser and device fingerprinting.
So if you want privacy, use a real privacy app like Hoody. VPNs just don’t cut the mustard.