KickassTorrent, the world’s most popular torrent website, has faced a major setback. U.S. Government has seized the different domains of KickassTorrents. The federal investigators also arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of the website.

Being the owner of the world’s largest torrent-sharing site, the last thing you’d expect to land you in trouble would be a totally legitimate (and legal) purchase via iTunes. But that’s what happened to Ukrainian Artem Vaulin a.k.a “tirm,” owner and operator of KickassTorrents (KAT), who was arrested and charged in Poland for criminal copyright infringement and money laundering. He’s been accused of illegally reproducing and distributing hundreds of millions of copies of movies, video games, TV shows and music albums totaling more than $1 billion. The US is now waiting to extradite him.

Here are the charges that he has been charged with:

  • Criminal copyright infringement
  • Conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement
  • Conspiracy to commit money laundering

How it happened?

An undercover IRS Special Agent spoke with a KAT representative about hosting an advertisement that would direct visitors to an undercover site. The agreement was made, and an advertisement about studying in the US was held on each torrent, for $300 per day.

The ad was live for five days starting from March 14th 2016. It was a short-term campaign, but it was enough to link KAT to a Latvian bank account, one that received $31 million in deposits (mainly from advertising payments) between August 2015 and March 2016.

By this, an important contact point was identified by the investigators – the email address ‘pr@kat.cr’. The email address was not only linked to website enquiries, but also the “official.KAT.fanclub”. This proved that the page was almost certainly associated with KAT.

Der-Yeghiayan was able to uncover (via a reverse DNS search) the hosts of seven apparent KAT website domains: kickasstorrents.com, kat.cr, kickass.to, kat.ph, kastatic.com, thekat.tv and kickass.cr. With that the investigators dug up two of their IP Addresses located in Chicago,which were used by KAT for over 4 years. Eventually, Agents charged Vaulin with his alleged crimes.

Homeland Security investigators had made a WHOIS lookup on a domain that redirected people to the main KAT site which provided them the name, address, email and phone number of a website registrant. The email was used to lookout for an Apple email address which was used to operate KAT.

Apple showed that the me.com account was used to purchase something on iTunes. The logs show that the same IP address was used on the same day to access the KAT Facebook page. Their Bitcoin wallet account was registered with the same me.com email address.

What Now?

Right now, KickassTorrents appears to still be up, at least via the numerous proxy services that support it. However, it’s probably only a matter of time until it becomes a lot harder to find.

The site seems to be up at the domain dxtorrent.com. The website looks just like the world’s largest torrent website KAT, featuring the same layout and popup ads. 

Homeland Security expects those different domains of KickassTorrents to be redirected to a server of its choosing.

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