Tor is a popular and trusted anonymity solution, and many people wonder if it is possible to use it to download torrents. Although Tor is free and it offers the level of anonymity that torrent users need, the truth is that it not the best option for this purpose. Technically, it is possible to use Tor for torrents, but it is not advisable to do so. Here we will discuss why it is better to avoid using Tor as a way to anonymize your torrents and will look at the best alternatives.
What is Tor?
Tor focuses on helping people from across the world to evade censorship and to enjoy access to the internet safely, even in countries under restrictive regimes. It is free and it uses multiple layers of encrypted proxies that are randomly routed. When you tunnel your internet traffic through three encrypted proxies or more, the first layer will be able to find out your identity, while the last one will know your destination. However, it is not possible to connect these layers. The tor network relies on volunteers who run the proxy nodes. Although it is possible that some of the Tor node operators are not reliable, the network is overall very secure and anonymous. The majority of users access Tor via the Tor browser bundle, which is based on Firefox, although it has a special configuration. The browser can route all traffic through the Tor network without hassle so you can visit websites without exposing your identity.
Is it possible to use Tor for downloading torrents?
Since the Tor network works with layers of Socks proxies, in theory it can be used for any application that can connect to a socks proxy, including the majority of torrent clients. However, there are a few reasons why in practice, Tor is not the best solution when it comes to downloading torrents anonymously. First of all, it is important to keep in mind that Tor’s main purpose is to support free speech and to help internet users to bypass censorship. The volunteers who run the nodes are contributing to save online freedom, and their time and bandwidth should not be misused by downloading torrents.
In addition, Tor has severe limitations in terms of bandwidth and what is available should be used wisely. Many activists, journalists and bloggers from countries where internet is highly censored, rely on Tor to share their opinions, reveal the truth about oppressive governments and more, without exposing their identity and compromising their safety. While Tor is not infallible, it offers a platform that is more secure and that can help people from around the world to make their voices heard. It wouldn’t be fair to use it for torrent traffic, which requires a lot of bandwidth.
Another reason why Tor is not the right choice for torrent users who want to download content anonymously, is that when you use Tor, your torrent client may still expose your real IP address. Research has showed that it is very easy to find the true IP address of torrent users who rely on Tor. This is because if the torrent client is not properly configured, it is likely that only the connection to the tracker is anonymized, while the peer connections are routed outside Tor. Furthermore, there are some torrent clients that don’t offer the possibility of proxying peer connections.
It should also be noted that Tor doesn’t support UDP connections such as DHT (which is key for Bittorrent technology), so there is a risk of your real IP address being leaked. Last but not least, Tor can be very slow, which would be really frustrating if you try to use it for streaming or downloading content. In summary, while Tor is a great tool for anonymity and it can help you to bypass restrictions, it is not the right choice for torrenting.
Best Alternatives to Tor
In order to protect your identity while downloading torrents, it is advisable to opt for a VPN or a Socks5 proxy. The first option provides high encryption to prevent others from seeing what you do on the internet. Proxies offer less security, but it can be faster than a VPN. Alternatively, you can use both and enjoy the best aspects of these technologies. In fact, some VPN providers also offer proxy services and Private Internet Access even includes a SOCKS5 proxy service for free when you buy a subscription to its VPN.
VPN vs Tor
One of the main advantages of a VPN is that it routes all your internet traffic through a secure server that allows you to change your public IP address. All the traffic is protected with high encryption that usually ranges between 128-bit to 256-bit, depending on your connection settings. Thanks to its functionality, a VPN can protect you from those who monitor torrent swarms because they won’t be able to see your real IP address. In addition, since your traffic is encrypted, third-parties such as your ISP or government agencies, won’t be able to find out what you are doing online.
In order to enjoy true peace of mind, it is crucial that you choose a VPN service that doesn’t keep logs of your online activities. Unlike Tor, which only protects certain applications, a VPN encrypts all your internet traffic. Another advantage of using a VPN is that you can decide the location you want to connect to. With Tor, you get a random exit location. This means that a VPN is better for bypassing geo-location restrictions that prevent you from accessing content from a particular country. In addition, a VPN is much faster than Tor and you generally can reach between 50 to 95% of your maximum internet connection. A VPN also offers more security for torrenting and many providers allow this activity and even provide features specifically designed for this purpose.
Socks5 Proxy vs.Tor
Another alternative to Tor that you can consider is Socks5 proxy. By choosing a zero-log solution, you can enhance your anonymity and use torrent without issues. When you use Socks5 proxy, your torrent IP address is changed, but you can still enjoy the speed that you get with your standard connection. One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to set up the proxy manually on the torrent client. This can be a bit of a hassle. Another downside is that some torrent clients route peer connections outside the proxy tunnel, so you won’t enjoy strong protection for your torrenting.
What is the difference between Tor and Socks5 proxies?
Tor is itself a network of layered Socks5 proxies. It uses three proxies to route your traffic and 128-bit encryption is applied on each layer. It offers better anonymity than using a single proxy but is considerably slower. Tor gets ahead of a Socks5 torrent proxy in terms of encryption since the majority of proxy services don’t offer encryption at all. The benefits of encryption include the fact that it can prevent your ISP from throttling your connection and it can also stop third-parties from monitoring your online activities.
Overall, the most complete solution to enjoy online security is to run a Socks5 proxy within a zero-log VPN tunnel. This will allow the torrent client and the web browser to use different IP addresses. The Torrent client will use the proxy’s IP address, while the rest of the applications will have the IP address of the VPN. With this dual layer setting, if a peer connection is routed outside the proxy tunnel, only your VPN’s IP address will be seen, meaning that your real IP address will still be concealed.