A new website that keeps track of everything you download from file-sharing sites could spell trouble for the scores of people who steal copyrighted music and movies.
The site, Youhavedownloaded.com, does exactly what its name implies: It keeps a huge database of millions of media files that have been downloaded to tens of millions of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from file-sharing websites and services such as BitTorrent. When you visit the site, it automatically scans your IP address and reveals what, if any, files you've downloaded.
To date, Youhavedownloaded has a database of more 52,286,000 users and 110,800 torrents made up of 1,918,000 individual files. A glance at the homepage shows a small sample of what people have downloaded, including the film "Spy Kids 4," the AMC show "The Walking Dead" and season four of FX's "Sons of Anarchy."
The site was built as a proof-of-concept, Suren Ter-Saakov, one of its founders, told noted cyber security researcher Brian Krebs. As such, it stops short of parsing through "dynamic" IP addresses, which change and can be used to conceal one's online activities. The site's servers don't store timestamps or gather personally identifiable details either.
Despite its limitations and innocent nature, Youhavedownloaded.com still has the capability to scare — or shame — people into thinking before they blindly download pirated material.
Ter-Saakov said he received an email from someone who asked to have his information taken down "because he was downloading porn and was afraid his parents would be able to see what kind of files he downloaded."
Beyond calling people out, Krebs said the site highlights something that's important but often overlooked among casual Internet users, which is that file-trading networks "are an extremely common and easy way to spread malicious software."
Skipping the ethical argument about downloading copyrighted material, if you're on a file-sharing site, be very cautious about what you download. There is no guarantee the song or TV show you think you're getting is what it claims to be. Make sure your computer is outfitted with anti-virus software, and to protect yourself even further, run all downloads through a malware-scanning program.
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