Microsoft censors Pirate Bay links from IM
Malware blamed – but other torrent links still allowed
Microsoft has confirmed that users of its instant messaging app will not be able to send each other links to popular torrent site The Pirate Bay, citing malware fears.
"We block instant messages if they contain malicious or spam URLs based on intelligence algorithms, third-party sources, and/or user complaints. Pirate Bay URLs were flagged by one or more of these and were consequently blocked," Redmond told The Register in an emailed statement.
One can understand banning links to malware, even if that's something that IM providers have been less than successful at managing in the past. But Redmond's ban does rather raise the question as to why Pirate Bay has been singled out for blocking, when there are plenty of other sites to choose from, many with a much worse record for malware content than the Swedish site.
When asked about this, Microsoft declined to give any more details for their censorship choice. Certainly Pirate Bay is still the most popular torrent indexing site – even if, strictly speaking, it's not indexing torrents any more. But no security vendors with whom El Reg has spoken says it's any worse than others, and having such a large and comment-happy user base it actually provides more protection, since malware torrents are flagged-up earlier than on less-popular sites.
Torrent sites are certainly a security problem. Security vendors at the recent RSA 2012 conference repeatedly lambasted the technology for allowing users to bypass security perimeter controls and download malware directly, while grudgingly acknowledging that the technology has legitimate uses. The same arguments were being made five years ago about peer-to-peer technology.
There's plenty of legitimate material for download using Pirate Bay's feeds, and that too is being censored by Microsoft's move to block all links, not just those that it knows contain malware. It would be difficult, expensive, and largely a waste of time to identify each link that contained malware and just ban those, since new ones can be created faster than they can be banned.
But in singling out this target, Redmond is opening itself up to claims that it is joining the global jihad against Pirate Bay – certainly its lack of explanation for targeting just that the site and not others indicates this. The owners of the Pirate Bay are still enmeshed in legal problems, and the group appears to be willing to consider highly unorthodox measures to keep the service up and running – and this latest move will not help the site's operators. ®
Re: Good for MS
TPB is doing nothing illegal in their country. I -being in Spain- pay a tax that buys me the right to legally download films and music for personal use.
It's not just about piracy and TPB's content is not all forbidden stuff. There's an element of 'free speech' in there too.
That's solved then
Wonder why they didn't apply this same foolproof solution to blocking spam email for the last 20years?
This is MS trying to be Apple and trying to arrange media deals. They have no market share so they are looking for a USP to present to the media companies.
This is PR and it is a bad idea. "Censorship is possible and is trivial to implement" is both factually inaccurate and a dangerous idea to float. This will have very little impact except to lighten the load on MS' IM servers. I doubt Google will mind and it doesn't help actually prevent piracy. You know what they say about the internet and censorship. As soon as people see <URL REMOVED> they will start jumping from MS' servers. Perhaps MS have a scaling issue and they actually want this.
After all the sharp and downright illegal business practice MS have indulged in over the years, they hardly have the moral high-ground. I wouldn't be too surprised if this is an aggressive move against Google. "Hey look, we are filtering traffic, you should get Google to do that too!" conveniently ignoring the fact that some things are more difficult and expensive at a large scale.