PROJECT MAELSTROM: FORENSIC ANALYSIS OF THE BITTORRENT-POWERED BROWSER
Refereed Original Article
Project Maelstrom was released as a private alpha in December 2014 [Klinker, 2014] and as a public beta in April 2015 [Klinker, 2015]. Its purpose is to provide a decentralised web ecosystem facilitating a new parallel to the existing world wide web. Through this decentralisation, users are free to create and share any content they desire without the need for web hosting providers or domain names, and can bypass any national or international censorship. The HTML documents, associated styling and scripting files, multimedia content, etc., are hosted by the website’s visitors, and subsequently served to other visitors accessing the site. The official BitTorrent blog celebrated its arrival as: Truly an Internet powered by people, one that lowers barriers and denies gatekeepers their grip on our future [Klinker, 2014]. While the topic of BitTorrent in the media seems to predominantly coincide with a discussion on online piracy [Choi and Perez, 2007], the protocol has proven itself as a robust, low-cost, distributed alternative to the traditional client-server content distribution model. From a forensic standpoint, the decentralised nature of BitTorrent based applications can result in extended windows for evidence acquisition [Scanlon et al., 2014]. Aside from facilitating copyright infringement, a number of additional online services have been developed using the protocol including: • File Synchronisation Service – BitTorrent Sync is a cloudless alternative to the cloud-based, multiple-device, file synchronisation services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, etc. [Scanlon et al., 2015]. With a standard BitTorrent Sync install, users are not limited in the amount of data they can share as there are no replicated server-side limitations. • Cost-Effective Commercial Content Distribution – BitTorrent Inc. use the protocol to distribute commercial multimedia content through their “BitTorrent Bundle” offering. Large video game creators and distribution companies, Blizzard Entertainment and Valve have used the BitTorrent protocol to distribute installation files and software patches to their users [Watters et al., 2011]. The advantage for these companies is that the protocol excels where the traditional clientserver model starts to fail; the more users, the faster the average download speed.
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
n Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law
National University of Ireland, Dublin (UCD)
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