When you think of a Federal agency that should be enforcing criminal copyright violations, you might not think of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but once again, they are serious members of the cybercrime-fighting pack with their recently announced "Operation In Our Sites".
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton was backstage in Los Angeles for a meeting with movie studios, entertainment unions, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) where he announced the first arrests in this operation.
In their first action, nine web sites had their domains seized by agents operating from the Southern District of New York. In addition, ICE agents seized the criminals' assets from 15 bank, Paypal, investment, and advertising accounts and executed four residential search warrants.
The domain names targeted in the first round included:
Visitors to these websites will see this sign instead of their regular content:
Some of these sites were quite creatively hosted. For example, TVShack.net was hosted on the IP address 126.96.36.199, owned by "CyberBunker Customer Delegations," which claims to be located in Antartica (although they have a sales office in Berlin Germany). One of its close neighbors, "the-movie-downloads.com" is still on live at 188.8.131.52, which claims to have 3 million members and a catalog of 80 million titles available for "instant free download."
FilesPump.com was hosted prior to its seizure on the subnet 184.108.40.206/24, which currently hosts more than 500 hardcore pornography websites at "Advanced Hosters", but still has free movie sites mixed in, such as "freemoviesplace.com" owned by Hungarian "Alen Miscak" according to the WHOIS information. That site claims to have been offering streams of Twilight Saga: Eclipse since June 30th and Toy Story 3 since June 18th, but its possible that they are just making money on their related "allposters.com" affiliate advertising.
Some of the sites are quite confusing for the novice to use . . . for instance ABCFilm.org is a Russian language site, offering streams of all the most recent movies - Eclipse, Grown-Ups, A-Team, Killers, Karate Kid, Jonah Hex - but to watch them you have understand their special "Codex" and use their "DownloadMaster" program. The movies are clearly labeled as to what kind of stolen IPR you will receive, for example Grown-Ups (Russian is Одноклассники) is labeled as a "CamRip" (meaning someone videotaped it in the theater) of 1938 kb/s 688x384 resolution. Although this one is a Russian site, its hosted at "HostForWeb"
PlanetMoviez was hosted in Chicago Illinois by Cogswell Enterprises on IP address 220.127.116.11, while ThePirateCity was hosted on 18.104.22.168 = "Fast Internet Web & Server Hosting" in the Czech Republic (exmasters.com = "best low-cost adult web-hosting")
ZML.com was hosted on a long-time favorite host of cybercriminals everywhere, Noc4Hosts in Tampa, Florida. Noc4Hosts IP 22.214.171.124 was ZML's previous home, on a subnet that also contains all your offshore banking domain names, from places like "caymanfinancialreview.com", and which also hosted DVD and Movie piracy websites such as Basecinema.com, BuyDVDFilm2.com, CinemaINet.com, DVDOnlineService.com, FilmoKingdom.com, MovieShop77.com, MoviesforaPenny.com, and many others. Strangely, quite a few of these sites are currently not online. I'm sure this means Noc4Hosts has decided to purge themselves of criminals. Haha!
The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), which is operated by ICE in Virginia, also seized the domain names and all web site content for the sites:
The IPR Center has launched its own web presence to help identify and fight copyright and trademark violation on the Internet. Here's their new logo:
(click for full-sized image)
The IPR Center urges consumers to report additional websites where copyright violation is rampant by using the National IPR Coordination Center Complaint Referral Form or by contacting their IPR Hotline at 1-866-IPR-2060 (1.866.477.2060).
During Fiscal Year 2009, ICE launched 1,479 Intellectual Property Rights Investigations that resulted in 414 arrests, 164 indictments, 203 convictions, and the seizure of $62 Million in counterfeit merchandise, according to their IPR Fact Sheet.
If you think you'd be interested in a career with ICE as a Special Agent, read about The Hiring Process and use their "Contact Us>" page to call and discuss the recruitment process with one of their 26 offices around the country. In addition to Special Agent jobs, they also have positions as Auditor, Criminal Research Specialist, Investigative Assistant, Mission Support Specialist, and Technical Enforcement Officer.
Here are a couple screen shots from the ICE Press Release of sites that they took offline: