• File Sharing in the Post MegaUpload Era

    On January 18, 2012 global file sharing traffic collapsed. In a series of coordinate raids, US and New Zealand authorities seized thousands of MegaUpload servers and arrested its founder (at his own birthday party, no less).

    As the largest file sharing service on the Internet, MegaUpload downloads represented 30-40% of all file sharing. In the space of an hour, Internet traffic globally plummeted by an astounding 2-3%. Press releases heralded a major blow to the theft of intellectual property.
    So what happened to Internet file sharing traffic after the MegaUpload arrests?

    Today we’re publishing the results of three month research effort that provides some of the clues. More details are available in our NANOG presentation and earlier academic paper.

    First, some definitions. As the New York Times observed, “file sharing sites” (particularly those focused on distribution of copyright infringing content) can be difficult to distinguish from the dozens of legitimate sites helping enterprises and consumers share internal documents, homework, and the like.
    The web sites for copyright protected and legal file sharing look nearly identical with similar graphics, sales messaging, and perhaps ironically (or cynically), DMCA policies and warnings against illegal file sharing. The only exception was MegaUpload which made little effort to disguise its true business focus (in retrospect, possibly a mistake).

    But if you spend a few minutes searching to download the latest Hollywood movie release (or movies not even released yet), patterns quickly emerge. File sharing search sites like FilesTube, RapidManiac, and Filesbay link to many dozens of file sharing providers, but generally not, say, DropBox nor Box.net. (In the above example, I searched for “Man on a Ledge” — which you should not download from FilesTube if for no other reason than it’s a terrible movie).
    In our study, we were particularly interested in the infrastructure behind file sharing, i.e. the hosting / colo facilities, payment partners, etc. The conventional wisdom is that file sharing is distributed across huge swaths of the Internet — basically everywhere.


    In fact, though there are hundreds of file sharing sites, an extremely small number of colo-location providers (six of them) provide infrastructure to these sites that generate more than 80% of all Internet file sharing traffic. Like other niche industries, file sharing has evolved with a specialized ecosystem / cyber supply chain.

    The below graph shows the Internet’s file sharing topology in the early hours of January 18, 2012. The links represent North America Internet file sharing traffic where the width of each link is proportional to the traffic volume. Green indicates traffic to the file sharing sites and red is traffic to the hosting or colo-location provider. Note that the different file sharing sites share much of the same Internet infrastructure and hosting companies (namely LeaseWeb, NForce, Carpathia, Choopa, and Softlayer).

    On January 18, MegaVideo was clearly the king with 34% of all file sharing traffic. In turn, most MegaVideo servers leveraged US based servers in Carpathia Hosting with some traffic going toLeaseweb servers in the Netherlands and other European providers / facilities. According to the indictment, the gigantic MegaUpload sprawled over more than 1000 servers and 25 petabytes of data in Carpathia facilities (with another 700 MegaUpload servers in Leaseweb hosting centers).
    The next graphic shows Internet file sharing traffic topology several hours later on January 19, 2012. Overall, a significant re-allocation of Internet file sharing traffic. MegaVideo is gone. Sites like PutLockerhave gained significant marketshare.

    The main impact of the MegaUpload takedown?

    Well, file sharing has not gone away. It did not even decrease much in North America.
    Mainly, file sharing became staggeringly less efficient. Instead of terabytes of North America MegaUpload traffic going to US servers, most file sharing traffic now comes from Europe over far more expensive transatlantic links.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. renhoek93's Avatar
      renhoek93 -
      This is interesting.