AfterDawn: Tech news

Authorities seize major software piracy groups

Written by Petteri Pyyny @ 12 Dec 2001 1:08

In something that people have already called the biggest bust of the century, authorities in U.S., Finland, Norway, United Kingdom and Australia, have seized three major software piracy groups.
Groups that were busted were DrinkorDie (DoD), Razor1911 and RiSC. U.S. authorities executed 37 search warrants in 27 different cities across the U.S. and internationally two search warrants were executed in Finland, 2 in Norway, 10 in United Kingdom and some in Australia.

The main target was DoD which is one of the oldest PC groups, founded in Moscow in 1993. Group became famous for releasing a copy of Microsoft Windows 95 two weeks before Microsoft began selling it.

"They are a notorious elite Internet pirate organization," said Bob Kruger of the Business Software Alliance, an industry trade group. "I doubt there's much that's out there that people want that (DrinkOrDie) can't provide."

DrinkOrDie now has two leaders, one in the United States and another in Australia, officials said. Piracy scene has 1500 members in the U.S., officials estimate, and eight to 10 major groups.

Authorities claim that they've successfully seized 130 computers globally that were running FTP sites on them -- average amount of pirated software, movies and music in each computer were around one and two terabytes (TB = 1,024 gigabytes).

No arrests were made in the U.S. yet, but there were various arrests in UK and in Australia. According to FBI, this Operation Buccaneer, was started 14 months ago.

Warez scene as the organized software piracy is called among the members of it, has existed in organized form since early 1980's. Warez scene is estimated to produce and distribute 95% of the world's pirated software according to U.S. authorities.

How 'scene' works? Basically all of the major groups (or 'cells' as law enforcement authorities seem to call them) are well organized groups of individuals and their members include 'suppliers' who supply the original games/movies/tools/utilities to the group, 'crackers' who then remove the copy protection from the titles, 'couriers' who distribute the pirated material via Net, FTP sites that host the material and only allow access to certain very limited group of people and so on.

Update 14:16 GMT: U.S. Department of Justice has released a press release that describes the three simultaneous operations in more details. One of the operations was called Operation Bandwidth and under that operation, government set up a 'warez' FTP site and they collected information of site's users and other servers while maintaining the site. Read the press release from here.

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