The untold story of illegal peer-to-peer network activity on campus

A student has written an article about an otherwise unpublicised case of a band of students that kept a peer-to-peer file sharing network running on campus.

A student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US has written an article about an otherwise unpublicised case of a band of students that kept a peer-to-peer file sharing network running on campus so that users of the network could illegally obtain copyrighted material. The story needs to be told, so I'm running it here.

The student is my son, Dan, and his story is hardly a finger-pointing exercise. He identified himself as one of the many students who used the network to illegally obtain extensive libraries of music, movies and software. It clearly wasn't an easy story for him to write.

"Truth is what, in the end, really sealed it for me," he told me. "I do not want to hide the truth." He knew that if he didn't write the story, it would remain untold.

Dan wrote the story as a contributor to and former editor in chief of WPI's newspaper, The Towers. However, for reasons that are unclear to me, the editorial staff at the newspaper has yet to post the story on its Web site (the last print edition of the term has already been circulated). So Dan has released the story to me. It follows in its entirety.

*** Open Sesame

In the Lair of the 40 Thieves

You already know who they are.

You've known since the earliest weeks of your freshman year, when you first logged in to WPI's campus-wide file sharing network. You probably didn't recognize their pseudonyms, and you most likely didn't know them by their real names. Perhaps, when you first got on, they hadn't even banded together yet. But they were still there.

They were the ones who kept the wheels of the internal peer-to-peer network turning. They were the ones who ran the DC++ hubs, who wrote the code that kept those hubs a step ahead of the IT security personnel at WPI's Network Operations Center. They were the ones who shared their files and took requests for new content; the ones who met in secret and conversed only through encrypted channels.

When they decided to band together early last year, they called themselves the 40 Thieves. And even if you've never downloaded an illegal file in your life, if you're a student at WPI you've most likely heard about them anyway. You probably even know that last month, the 40 Thieves were shut down and DC++ was disabled.

But what you may not know is why-or, more appropriately, why now, over a year after they were first formed-NetOps cracked down; why a select four students have been summoned before WPI's Campus Hearing Board on charges of violating the Code of Conduct, and why the rest of the group was not. The short answer is that a few of the 40 Thieves allegedly got greedy. The long answer, of course, will take a bit more explanation.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Don Tennant

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?