For Artem Vaulin; a 30-year-old Ukrainian who ran KickassTorrents, things might have just fallen apart. This is after the FBI nabbed him for multiple criminal charges. However, something that is sure to remain perplexing is his use of iTunes to buy legal media that led to his arrest.
Basically, Artem’s arrest came by as a result of FBI following up on his iTunes purchases. Artem, through his multimillion internet project helped people steal copyrighted material. He however, did buy movies and music legally on Apple’s app store. The criminal complaint lodged against him in federal court confirmed that the purchases are what helped to track him.
iTunes purchase details shared by Apple
The complaint alleges that Artem’s purchases on iTunes, specifically the ones made in July and December 2015, did more than enough for the investigators. The purchase details helped the FBI link Vaulin to KickassTorrent’s Facebook page. Apparently this information was shared to them by Apple and Facebook respectively. The FBI also found emails about the illegal filing-sharing site’s operations in the inbox of the account used to make the iTunes purchases.
The email address itself also acted as a tip-off. [email protected] was enough to ring bells because “Tirm” was once a pseudonym used on KickassTorrents as the site administrator. However, the fact that Apple willingly shared purchase details is perplexing given recent heated legal fight with the FBI over encryption. However, it’s known that the company regularly assists law enforcement in criminal investigations when served with subpoenas or warrants.
In Apple’s earlier court battle with FBI, the company refused to share details with FBI because it would have broken its own security measures built into one of San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone. This move would have affected all iPhones.
KickassTorrents is down following Vaulin’s arrest. The site didn’t pirate music and movies itself. However, just like the famous Pirate Bay it contained links that users could use to download tones of them. The FBI says the site was vastly famous and had over 50 million visitors each month. The site also ranked as the 69th most popular site on the entire internet. That traffic translated into massive profits. The investigators claim that the site earned between $12.5 million and $22.3 million from online advertising.
Vaulin was arrested on 20th and could face decades in prison if found guilty of multiple criminal charges. The charges range from copyright infringement to money laundering among others. iTunes purchases seem to be only part of the massive trove of evidence against Vaulin. Nevertheless, the irony lies in legal media purchases leading to the arrest of the mastermind behind a sprawling online piracy empire.