Apple Helped FBI Identify Torrent Site's Alleged Owner

| by Katie Landoll
A line of police tape.A line of police tape.

Officials arrested a man suspected of running one of the largest file-sharing websites in the world.

Artem Vaulin, a Ukranian national living in Poland at the time, was arrested on July 20, according to a Justice Department press release. Vaulin, 30, is accused of running the file-sharing site Kickass Torrents since 2008.

KAT allows users to distribute illegal copies of virtually all kinds of digital media, including movies, video games, televisions shows and music. The site hosts millions of unique visitors daily, according to the Mirror. The site recently surpassed Pirate Bay in daily uses, and many consider it the most popular torrent website in the world. The U.S. government estimates the site’s net worth at more than $54 million.

In an effort to evade national and international copyright protections, the site’s domain name and server location have been changed multiple times over the decade it has been operational.

U.S. officials are seeking Vaulin’s extradition to Chicago, where he is being charged with criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.

Peter T. Edge, the executive associate director of Homeland Security Investigations, says KAT “stole more than $1 billion in profits from the U.S. entertainment industry.” In the DOJ statement, he said, “we will continue to aggressively bring to justice those who enrich themselves by stealing the creative work of U.S. artists.”

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said Vaulin’s arrest abroad proves that “cybercriminals can run, but that cannot hide from justice.”

Multiple sources are reporting that Apple, Inc. may have played a crucial role in the arrest. According to Apple Insider, law enforcement had been investigating KAT for several years. Officials placed advertisements on the site in an attempt to gain access to the owner’s banking information. Eventually, investigators were able to trace the origin of purchases made through iTunes, and, with Apple’s cooperation, located Vaulin’s personal information.

The U.S. government now owns all web domains associated with KAT and has found bank and bitcoin accounts belonging to Vaulin.

Sources: Apple Insider, Mirror, U.S. Department of Justice, Independent / Photo credit: Flickr

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