Demonoid’s Return Uncertain After Law Enforcement Action in Ukraine and Mexico
By Lucian Constantin
The return of popular BitTorrent website Demonoid, which has been offline since the end of July, is shrouded in uncertainty after the website lost its Web hosting in Ukraine, while its operators are believed to be under investigation for copyright infringement in Mexico.
Demonoid is one of the Internet’s oldest BitTorrent websites and has many fans in the file sharing community. In December 2010, the website changed its address from demonoid.com to demonoid.me in order to avoid a possible domain name seizure by U.S. authorities.
Demonoid experienced several prolonged downtime periods over the years and even switched hosting providers from Canada to Ukraine in order to avoid a forced shutdown. However, it has always managed to return until now.
On July 26, Demonoid started displaying a “server busy” page to its users as a result of a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. In the days that followed, the website started redirecting users to advertisements and eventually stopped responding completely.
After more than a week of downtime, the site’s administrator in charge of technical issues said that it will take a while to properly fix the site, but that he plans to bring it back up, TorrentFreak reported.
However, on Monday, Ukrainian newspaper Kommersant reported that the anti-cybercrime division of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted an inspection at ColoCall, Demonoid’s hosting provider in Ukraine, in the middle of last week and seized all data from servers used by the website.
Kommersant cited an anonymous source within ColoCall who allegedly said that the servers used by Demonoid had been sealed by the authorities and are no longer operational.
ColoCall dismissed these claims via email on Tuesday. There was no police raid, the company said. The business relationship with Demonoid was ended for reasons unrelated to the authorities, it said.
The company denied that any data had been seized or that any of its servers had been sealed. Demonoid’s owners can still access their data hosted on ColoCall’s servers, the company said. However, it didn’t know if the website’s administrators had already transferred the data to another location.
It seems that while no police raid happened, ColoCall’s decision to terminate its contract with Demonoid was partially the result of an inquiry from law enforcement authorities.
According to the deputy of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ public relations office, Sergey Burlakov, the department for combating economic crimes received an official inquiry from Interpol about Demonoid’s activities in Ukraine because the website’s owners face prosecution for copyright infringement in Mexico, Kommersant reported on Tuesday.
As a result, the department sent a request to ColoCall, which then took the decision to sever its ties with Demonoid, Burlakov reportedly said.
The public relations office of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs did not respond to a request for comment sent Tuesday.
ColoCall warned Demonoid’s owners repeatedly that if law enforcement agencies and rights holders associations continue to show interest in the site’s activities the company will terminate the contract, ColoCall’s commercial director Petro Vlasenko said, according to Kommersant.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) included Demonoid on its November 2011 notorious markets list. “Recent action by the Mexican Attorney General led to the arrest of the site’s administrator,” the USTR said in its report at the time.
It’s not clear if the copyright infringement case in Mexico that allegedly led to the Interpol inquiry to Ukrainian authorities is connected to the 2011 arrest mentioned in the USTR report.
According to Alexa, an Amazon-owned Web analytics company, Demonoid.me is the 950th most visited website in the world and the 387th in the United States, based on traffic statistics for the past three months.