As BitTorrent filesharing sites such as The Pirate Bay are closed down or go legit, software and music pirates are quickly moving their 'warez' to file-hosting websites.
Sites such as RapidShare, Megaupload and Hotfile let anonymous users upload large files such as cracked software for free.
Hyperlinks to the software can then be distributed by pirates via websites, instant messages or social media sites such as Twitter, said Vic DeMarines, CEO of anti-piracy software vendor VI Labs.
"It's incredibly easy to use. And what you get is essentially your own private FTP server," DeMarines said.
While sites such as RapidShare allow free downloads, they make their money by charging heavy downloaders for premium memberships. These memberships, such as the 30-day premium access for $6.99 at Rapidshare, let users download files immediately and without any caps on bandwidth.
Trade in pirated digital goods , whether it is movies, music or e-books or software, is what drives the popularity and business model of firms like RapidShare. The site told The New York Times earlier this year that it hosted 10 petabytes of data and up to 3 million downloaders at a time.
The Association of American Publishers estimates that half of the pirated books found by its members were linked to Rapidshare.
"There's a lot of money being made," said DeMarines. "Without hosting pirated goods, I'm not sure what their revenue model would be."
According to a recent investigation by VI Labs into the availability of pirated software from a sample of 43 vendors, 100 percent were on RapidShare.
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