The Pirate Bay ditches its servers, sets sail for the cloud

The Pirate Bay is getting rid of its physical servers and exchanging them for virtual machines spread across multiple cloud services. By hosting its infrastructure in multiple data centers and even multiple countries, the widely used torrent site says it will avoid being shut down by authorities targeting BitTorrent sites.

Numerous torrent sites went offline earlier this month after a Swedish police raid of the hosting company PRQ, which was launched by the founders of The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay itself wasn’t affected by that raid because it had already stopped relying on PRQ for hosting. But it has been the target of raids on previous occasions, and has suffered downtime because of the types of IT hassles that afflict most businesses. Moving to the cloud will help on both counts.

On its Facebook page, The Pirate Bay said “we’ve gotten rid of the servers,” and “We’re about to become even more untouchable.” In a bit of excited hyperbole, it also said “Our data flows around in thousands of clouds, in deeply encrypted forms, ready to be used when necessary. Earth bound nodes that transform the data are as deeply encrypted and reboot into a deadlock if not used for 8 hours. All attempts to attack The Pirate Bay from now on is an attack on everything and nothing.”

A few months ago, The Pirate Bay said it had plans to build aerial server drones using Raspberry Pi computers. In reality, The Pirate Bay switched from its own infrastructure to those of cloud providers yesterday, going through five minutes of downtime while the changeover was made. The new infrastructure is being hosted with “several cloud hosting providers” in two countries, torrent news site TorrentFreak reported today.

“If one cloud-provider cuts us off, goes offline or goes bankrupt, we can just buy new virtual servers from the next provider. Then we only have to upload the VM-images and reconfigure the load-balancer to get the site up and running again,” a Pirate Bay spokesperson told TorrentFreak.

The Pirate Bay still maintains its own load balancer and transit routers, to hide the location of its cloud providers and encrypt traffic to prevent user data from being exposed, the article states.

“The worst case scenario is that The Pirate Bay loses both its transit router and its load balancer,” TorrentFreak writes. “All the important data is backed up externally on VMs that can be reinstalled at cloud hosting providers anywhere in the world.

“If the police decide to raid us again there are no servers to take, just a transit router,” The Pirate Bay said. “If they follow the trail to the next country and find the load balancer, there is just a disk-less server there. In case they find out where the cloud provider is, all they can get are encrypted disk-images.”

A less optimistic viewpoint comes from ExtremeTech, which points out that there are still plausible ways for authorities to take The Pirate Bay offline. “The load balancer will be hosted with a major ISP—and it’s easy enough for the feds to compel an ISP to pull the plug,” ExtremeTech wrote, noting that installing a new load balancer isn’t cheap or easy.

Even before this week, The Pirate Bay maintained backups and attempted to hide the location of its servers. But the site is obviously taking its obfuscation strategy to a new level.

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