Last week, news broke that the world's most popular torrent site, Kickass Torrents, was shut down as a result of the arrest of founder Artem Vaulin in Poland. Only days later, some media reports heralded the return of Kickass Torrents via various clones and mirror sites, but the question remains, are these sites safe to use?
The arrest of purported Kickass Torrents site founder Artem Vaulin led to the U.S. seizure of the site's domain. Former users of the site who visit it are now welcomed with a banner stating that it has been seized as part of a joint investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations and The Internal Revenue Service.
Users of the site seeking alternatives have been treated to a proliferation of mirror sites, which offer the same cached content as the original. Many of these sites have actually existed for a long time, popping up in search results and confusing file sharers looking for the real thing, while some are newly created as a result of the recent shutdown.
Now, desperate former users may be turning to them in order to access files they desire, but the safety of such clone sites remains questionable.
While some of the sites operate as legitimate leecher sites, merely mirroring original content, and are equally as safe as using the former Kickass Torrents domain, others may be specifically designed to offer files infected with malware and/or to steal passwords from users. (While Kickass Torrents didn't require membership, many users did register in order to access additional features, such as the user forum.)
Note, however, that the content on even the legitimate mirror sites only includes files which were uploaded to the original site before it was shut down. No new content is available at the mirror sites, because they don't offer upload functionality.
Whether Kickass Torrents will return as a fully functioning site remains to be seen, although its main rival, The Pirate Bay, has notoriously resurrected itself, despite various arrests and shutdowns throughout its history.
Ironically, it was the various government attempts to shut down The Pirate Bay in the past few years that actually led to the growth in popularity of Kickass Torrents.
Although The Pirate Bay was able to regain footing various times at numerous domain names following seizures, many users became frustrated with the downtime and lack of consistency when attempting to access the site, and instead turned to rival Kickass Torrents which at the time, although less popular, was in fact more stable and seemed to remain under the radar of authorities. It appears to be that recent success of Kickass Torrents that has, at least in part, led to its possible permanent demise.