You've got to hand it to the IT wizards at The Pirate Bay--they certainly know how to have fun with their infrastructure set-up. Echoing a prank from 2007, the Pirate Bay on Monday claimed the site was now being hosted in North Korea at that government's invitation. News outlets soon reported the announcement, although many did so with a healthy dose of skepticism.
That doubt was well founded, as the proclamation turned out to be a massive prank. The scallywags at the world's most infamous BitTorrent site admitted to their shenanigans on Tuesday morning. "We hope that yesterday's little hack proved that we know the internet better than our enemies," The Pirate Bay said on its Facebook page, along with a few more paragraphs of colorful bravado. The site also posted a photograph of what appears to be several North Korean military figures glad hanging out with the country's leader Kim Jong-un along with two of The Pirate Bay's co-founders Peter Sunde and Per Gottfrid Svartholm Warg.
When The Pirate Bay announced it had moved to North Korea at the behest of that country's leader to "fight our battles from their network," it certainly seemed plausible. Performing a traceroute on the site confirmed that The Pirate Bay was indeed accessing the Internet via North Korea. In fact, at the time of this writing, the prank was still in action and you could observe it for yourself. Just open up a command prompt in Windows and type in "tracert piratebay.se." Then watch as your computer traces a route through servers around the world to land at The Pirate Bay's virtual dock in North Korea at the IP address 18.104.22.168.
But what The Pirate Bay was actually doing was using some IT trickery to make it appear that the site was residing inside the notoriously Net-unfriendly nation. If you want the technical details, check out the blog of a German blogger, going by the name Will, who first reported on the pirate prank. It's not clear where The Pirate Bay's sever access is currently coming from, but the best guess appears to be Western Europe, probably somewhere in Germany.
The Pirate Bay laid the groundwork for Monday's prank last week when the site said it was being hosted by national chapters of the Pirate Party in Norway and Spain, after legal troubles chased the site's access out of Sweden. The Pirate Bay claimed this arrangement was only temporary and that major infrastructure changes were coming the following week. Six days later the site made its North Korean announcement.
"The Pirate Bay is very good at two things," Anna Troberg, the leader of Sweden's Pirate Party wrote in Swedish on her personal site late Monday. "To keep their site up and to lulz the establishment."
There was also an element of satire to The Pirate Bay's apparent North Korean move. "We have been fighting for a free world," the site said on its blog Monday. "And our opponents are mostly huge corporations from the United States of America, a place where freedom and freedom of speech is said to be held high...And to our help comes a government famous in our part of the world for locking people up for their thoughts and forbidding access to information."
Even though The Pirate Bay's North Korean asylum was a hoax, the site is having trouble finding a permanent home. The site lost its main link to the Internet via the Swedish Pirate Party last week, and the apparent safe haven in Norway quickly turned sour. But it's a big, open Internet out there, and The Pirate Bay seems determined to keep sailing from port to port as it tries to outsmart those who want to shut the site down for good.