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Megaupload was an online file-hosting service that consisted of a one-click upload service with the same name, as well as other image hosting and video hosting services including Megavideo, Megaalive and Megapix. Based in Hong Kong and established in 2005, the popular file-sharing service was shut down on charges of copyright infringement by the U.S. Justice of Department on January 19th, 2012.
The Megaupload website was launched by German-Finnish Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom on March 21st, 2005. Despite its incorporation in Hong Kong, the company didn’t operate in the region--presumably in order to evade law enforcement investigations--and beginning in 2009, Hong Kong-based IP addresses were banned from accessing the site. In the following years, Megaupload quickly emerged as one of the most visited and profitable cyber-lockers of all time. In 2007, Google Adsense terminated its relationship with Megaupload on the grounds of illegally hosting copyright-protected content, to which Dotcom responded by launching his own in-house advertising agency to collect even higher amounts of revenue from display ads on the site. From 2010 onward, access to the site was blocked by the authorities of several Asian and Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India.
On January 19th, 2012, the founder of Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and three other Megaupload employees were arrested by U.S. officials in New Zealand and Megaupload was subsequently shut down by the U.S. government. They were accused of violating piracy laws, and some associations claimed that copyright holders collectively lost $500 million due to the site. The Motion Picture Association of America also claimed that a majority of content on the site was pirated. Before its shut down, the site released a statement saying these accusations were “grotesquely overblown.”
Angry at the shut down, the hacking collective Anonymous took revenge in the form of a massive DDoS attack dubbed Operation Megaupload. Within an hour of the indictment, the U.S. Justice Department homepage went offline. Members of Anonymous released a statement regarding the shutdown of Megaupload and launch of distributed denial-of-service attacks known as Operation Megaupload (#OpMegaupload) via Pastebin:
We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites. Lulz. The FBI didn’t think they would get away with this did they? They should have expected us.
Anonymous has also taken credit for the take down of the websites of the Motion Picture Association of America, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Universal Music Group, White House, Recording Industry Association of America, Warner Music Group, Broadcast Music Inc., the U.S. Copyright Office and the French copyright-enforcement agency HADOPI. This is the largest coordinated attack in Anonymous history, with “over 5,600 DDoS zealots blasting at once.”
At 6:48 AM in New Zealand on January 20th, 2013, exactly one year to the minute after the government raided his home and shut down Megaupload, Kim Dotcom launched Mega, a cloud file sharing service with a heavy emphasis on encryption. That evening, he threw a wild party celebrating the launch, during which he staged a faux FBI raid which turned into a choreographed dance number.
The launch, as well as its party, was covered on many sites including the Economist, Forbes and Mashable, among others. Two days prior to the launch, Gizmodo published a walkthrough of the site’s services, noting that it enables the most private data exchanges of any site at the moment due to its user-controlled encryption (shown below). Upon login, it generates a secure decryption key for the user as well as collects information from the user’s mouse movement and keystroke times to enforce security. Before something is uploaded, the files are encrypted so Mega would not have knowledge of what they files were while they are stored on their servers. Additionally, the files cannot be accessed without the generated decryption key given at signup. Also on the 18th, The Daily Dot analyzed Mega’s terms of service and pointed out that Mega is not responsible for any legal troubles or other liabilities if a user uploads pirated content.
During Mega’s first live thirty minutes, the site saw so many registrations, it was temporarily knocked offline and continued to move slowly throughout the next day. There were more than 500,000 signups in 14 hours and Mega officially broke one million registrations within 24 hours. On January 21st, anti-piracy group StopFileLockers launched a campaign to stop the money flow to Mega by trying to terminate the PayPal accounts for people paying for Mega’s service.
- Unique visitors: 81,000,000
- Page Views: 490,000,000
- Reach: 4%
TIME Techland – Feds Shut Down Megaupload.com File-Sharing Website
TIME Techland – Anonymous Claims Taking Down DOJ, MPAA and Other Sites
Ars Technica –