Friday

Downloading Torrents Anonymously

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When you want the latest movie or music file, many users turn instantly to BitTorrents with good reason. If a new movie is released on DVD you can be assured that within hours someone somewhere will be starting to share it, and that's all it takes with torrents - one helpful upload and pretty soon there's thousands of people able to help distribute. Peer to Peer downloading like this also provides incredible download speeds, especially as the technology as developed. In it's infancy you were likely to get stuck for days or weeks on a file as uploaders logged off, nowadays that rarely happens especially with popular titles.

There are problems though and the major one is pretty serious - anonymity or the complete lack of it. You see when you connect to a torrent, using any BitTorrent client then you're all actively sharing the file you are downloading which means anyone can see your IP address and the client you are using. It's all readily available as you can see from this screen shot.

Everyone's IP address visible to anybody else who is in that swarm and downloading the file which makes privacy kind of a non-starter.

Now to your fellow down loader,  this is of little interest and there's no real issue. Unfortunately there are others joining these download swarms who are actively searching for your identity. They can be logged into two main sections -

  •  Anti-piracy organisations.
  •  Law firms acting for copyright holders
Both of these will go one step further as soon as they have the name of the file you're downloading and your IP address - they will look up your real identity.   It's not hard to do your ISP for example can supply the full name and address associated with each IP address very easily.  After that happens you'll either receive a DCMA notice or arguably worse a threat of legal action from one of these dodgy law firms like ACS Law which we wrote about here many years ago.

It's a very lucrative occupation, instead of simply selling copies of a movie you just track down all the people who are illegally downloading it and threaten them with huge fines or legal action. It works especially well with porn movies as the victims are usually less likely to go to court to defend their position on downloading 'sexy teen nympho nurses' - for obvious reasons. 

So although BitTorrent clients are incredibly easy to use and give you access to just about any digital content you like - it's not smart to use them without taking some precautions.  Anonymous torrenting is possible but you need to hide your IP address from both your ISP and the rest of the swarm plus hide the file you are downloading from your ISP.   The logical answer which solves all this is to use a VPN but beware not all these services allow the use of BitTorrent simply because of the huge bandwidth they tend to use.


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