For years, Kickass Torrents (KAT) was the world’s favorite file sharing website, but its story came to an abrupt end in July 2016, when its owner Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland. Vaulin was charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering and criminal copyright infringement. Vaulin was arrested on behalf of the US Department of Justice, which also obtained banking details from the Ukrainian citizen. The authorities charged Vaulin with running the largest illegal file-sharing website and stated that in spite of his attempts to evade the authorities, his eventual arrest showed that justice would eventually catch those involved in cyber crime.
What lead to the arrest of Vaulin?
While Kickass Torrents provided access to content subject to copyright via .torrents and magnet links, the website didn’t host the content itself. It also claimed that if a DMCA notice was received asking to remove links to specific content, action was taken accordingly. However, the Criminal Complaint filed against Artem Vaulin mentions that DMCA notices were not properly addressed and that the website only issued a generic response, requesting additional details.
Furthermore, federal investigator Jared Der-Yeghiayan stated that when he contacted KAT pretending to be an advertiser, he was charged between $1000 and $3200 per day for a second ad, while the first one cost $300 per day. He was also asked to pay to a Latvian and an Estonian bank account and to avoid mentioning KAT in the transactions. The Criminal Complaint also mentions Vaulin’s alleged attempt to launder money from KAT using a company established in Ukraine.
One interesting detail of the story is that Apple played a crucial role in Vaulin’s arrest. According to the complaint document, the company helped federal authorities to catch KAT’s owner by providing details of the IP addresses used by him while accessing his email account to complete transactions on iTunes. The information provided by Apple, allowed investigators to check the IP addresses used for iTunes transactions and to confirm that they matched with the ones that were used to access KAT’s Facebook account. In addition, the complaint reveals that the federal investigator in charge of the case, had access to Artem Vaulin’s iCloud account.
While Vaulin is currently still detained in Poland, there is a high chance that he will be extradited to the United States. The legal battle between the US government who seeks to get Vaulin to face trial in Chicago and his legal team continues. Vaulin and his legal team are fighting extradition on the grounds that running a torrents website is not illegal in Poland or Ukraine, where he resides. Ira Rothken, who is also representing Kim Dotcom on his ongoing legal process, is leading Vaulin’s defense. An appeal was submitted, but it is likely that it will be rejected. The Polish court previously refused to allow bail, claiming that the evidence presented by US authorities was enough to keep him in prison. If Artem Vaulin is convicted in the US, he could face up to 20 years in jail.
The original KAT website was shut down along with its main mirrors, and another popular torrent search engine, Torrentz decided to end operations shortly after Vaulin’s arrest. However, a group of admins and moderators of KAT got together to bring back the website and in December 2016, katcr.co was launched. According to the admins, the website is not a successor of KAT, but KAT itself and on March 30th, they are planning to celebrate Torrents Day, which encourages users to share as many torrents as possible. Although Katcr looks different from the original website, it has the same team of uploaders, staffers and users. There are also some good alternatives that Torrent fans can try, but before we go through the list of options currently available, we’ll discuss the importance of protecting your connection when you are torrenting.
Why do you need a VPN for KAT alternatives?
Downloading content that is subject to copyright could result in fines and even jail sentences, so it is crucial that you consider the risks before accessing torrent websites. When you are using the BitTorrent protocol all the users that are downloading the same file as you, will be able to see your IP address. This poses a significant threat to your privacy and allows copyright enforcers and surveillance agencies to identify you easily.
With a VPN, all the data that goes through your computer and the VPN server is protected with encryption, meaning that not even your ISP will see what you do online. Other parties that may try to monitor your online activities (such as government agencies or copyright holders) won’t see the content that you access and won’t even find out that you are torrenting. Anyone who tries to monitor you, will only be able to see the IP address of the VPN server, keeping your real IP address concealed and protecting your identity. Using a VPN is also an effective way to bypass restrictions that prevent you from accessing torrent sites. There are many VPN services available, but the below options allow P2P and offer a high level of security and privacy.
NordVPN is another good option for torrenting since it has a zero logs policy and the fact that it is based in Panama, means that it is not subject to mandatory data retention. NordVPN has a high standard of security and you can connect to fast servers that allow P2P. Their network of servers currently covers 58 countries.
VPNArea has servers in 60 countries and it delivers top security features and fast performance. Apart from offering protection against DNS leaks and IPv6 leaks, VPNArea has a feature that protects your connection from the WebRTC issue that may expose your real IP. They don’t keep logs and provide great speeds for P2P and streaming.
AirVPN was created by a group of online freedom activists, hacktivists and legal experts committed to offer internet users, an effective tool to bypass censorship and protect their privacy. They have highly secure servers in over 15 countries and while this may seem limited, it gives them greater control over the network.
Top Alternatives to Kickass
The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay is another well-known name in the world of torrents and it has managed to survive several shut down attempts. You can find a vast collection of torrents, as well as comments from the community of users. The current version of the site is easier to use and doesn’t feature all the annoying ads that used to clutter TPB in the past.
ExtraTorrent is one of the best options for anyone who misses the original KAT site and its popularity has increased since Kickass was shut down. You will find an extensive selection of torrent links, as well as a community that provides feedback and comments that will help you to find the best and most secure torrents.
RARBG has been operating for almost a decade. The site is originally from Bulgaria but currently it is based in Netherlands. It offers an easy to access database of torrents, organized in different categories. You can also find news, comments from the community and more.
Another good alternative to Kickass is 1337x. The website has an appealing design and offers links to a fantastic selection of torrents that are constantly updated. It doesn’t have ads and it has been around since 2007, making it a well-established solution to find great torrents. You can easily download files to your client thanks to the magnet links available.
YTS.ag is an easy to use platform that gives you access to an incredible selection of movies and the best part is that you can choose the quality. They support 720p, 1080p and 3D movies as well. You will be able to select the option that better suits your bandwidth.
Popcorn Time is not similar to Kickass but it will allow you to watch great content with the help of BitTorrent protocol. The platforms is focused on streaming instead of downloading and it offers a user-friendly interface. Although the original version of Popcorn Time faced legal issues and was eventually shut down, you can find clones that offer the same functionality.
There is a good variety of alternatives to Kickass available and the KAT team is also working to get the website back on track, in spite of the charges faced by the website’s owner. However, it is very important that you protect yourself when torrenting to prevent fines, notices and legal issues. Make sure that before you access torrent sites, you connect to a VPN that protects your online traffic and that doesn’t keep logs of what you do on the internet.