Millions of users around the world rely in BitTorrent to get access to content. However, if you decide to take advantage of this technology, it is important to take the necessary measures to ensure that your connection is safe while doing so. There are different security issues that should be considered when using BitTorrent to share or download a file. We will go through the main aspects that you need to keep in mind to torrent safely.
Legal aspects of torrents
The torrent P2P protocol itself is completely legal and it is a file sharing technology that can be used to share large work files, for example. In spite of being largely associated with piracy, BitTorrent is legal and it can be used for legitimate purposes. If you use it to download content that is subject to copyright, it is likely that you are acting against the law, but this depends on the country where you are.
The legislation regarding file sharing and copyright varies from one country to another, but in general, downloading copyrighted content can land you into trouble. It is possible to find torrent files that are completely legal. They can be movies that are now available in the public domain because their copyright has expired. In other cases, you may come across files that have a license that allows free and open distribution. Some of the websites that offer legal torrents include http://publicdomainflix.com and http://panda.cd.
Protect yourself from torrent monitoring, IP logging and blocking
One of the main threats to privacy that torrent users face is monitoring. The truth is that the majority of torrent swarms are under surveillance as internet service providers, third-party monitoring companies and other organizations are using software to keep an eye on them. When you join a torrent swarm, every computer connected (known as peer), will be able to see the IP address of all the other computers. The public IP address can be traced back to a particular computer, which means that your identity could be revealed.
In order to protect your privacy while using a torrent client, it is important to use technology to hide your IP address and secure your connection. The best solution is to use a VPN service. This will allow you to prevent monitoring from your ISP, companies, research organizations and other parties that may try to see what you are downloading. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is encrypted which means that the data is scrambled and it can’t be read by others. If you want to access torrents anonymously and avoid becoming a target for monitoring companies, using a privacy tool such as a VPN service is crucial.
Download torrents anonymously
With a VPN you will be able to keep your torrent activity private and ensure that your identity is not exposed. Torrent users have become increasingly aware of the importance of taking the necessary measures to anonymize their activities. By using a VPN, you will be able to keep your real IP address hidden from all peers and from anyone who is monitoring the torrent swarm. You can also encrypt your data and web browsing history, making sure that it can be accessed by your ISP and other parties.
Although proxy servers are also a popular solution among torrent users, VPNs are a more complete solution since they apply encryption to keep your torrenting private. If you are looking for high security and privacy, a VPN is the right choice. This tool can enhance your anonymity and there is an extensive list of providers available. In order to get the best experience, it is important that you look for a service that doesn’t keep logs of your online activities, that offers strong encryption and that has a user-friendly VPN client. The below providers are excellent options for torrenting since they offer the features needed to secure your connection. All of them accept Bitcoin so you can even pay anonymously.
Private Internet Access
Affordable, efficient and very secure, PIA is one of the leading names in the VPN industry. PIA offers great value for money and it is ideal for new users since its software is easy to use and it comes with all the basic features required, and more. If you choose a yearly plan, the monthly price of the VPN service is just $3.33. There are over 3000 servers in the PIA network and they cover 25 countries. The VPN kill switch and SOCKS5 service included are other reasons to choose PIA. In addition, they don’t keep logs of your online activities.
Torguard is another solution to download and share content safely and anonymously. This provider is focused on helping torrent users to protect their privacy and it offers strong encryption and a solid no logs policy. If they receive a DMCA takedown, they would simply close down the protocol identified, without putting their customers’ privacy at risk. TorGuard has plans designed to suit specific needs and they also sell routers pre-configured with the VPN service. They have servers in over 50 countries.
ExpressVPN is very popular and it is known for the fantastic speeds of the service and the high quality of its software. It doesn’t keep logs of your online activities and it handles legal takedown notices internally, without compromising your privacy. They have servers in over 90 countries and their customer support is available 24/7. ExpressVPN has a smartDNS option and its mobile apps are great.
Making your torrenting anonymous is only the first step. In order to achieve true safety, there are other aspects that need to be covered. Many torrent sites spam you with ads and there are many links to content that could harm your computer. There are even ads with executable scripts that can exploit browser vulnerabilities, even if you don’t click the banner. Since the majority of mainstream advertisers don’t want to see their ads on torrent sites, torrent trackers usually have no option but to go for advertisers that are not exactly reliable, in order to get a source of revenue. Some of the banner ads on torrent sites could lead to pages that will automatically try to install software on your computer, or get your data. The below measures will help you to protect yourself from malicious ads.
- Avoid clicking ad banners. Although it sounds obvious, the truth is that many people fall for the colorful banners that promise a prize.
- Disable Flash. Disabling Flash is another step that will help you to enjoy safer torrenting. The majority of the scripts that are executed automatically in malicious ads, take advantage of Flash security weaknesses. If you need to use Flash for other tasks, the most practical option is to use a different browser for accessing torrent sites and disable Flash for that browser only. You can also require manual approval for Flash content.
- Use and ad-blocker. This will save you the hassle of even seeing the ads in the first place. One of the best options available is Adblock, which is a free extension that gets rid of all the ads from the websites you visit.
- Get a good antivirus. A reliable antivirus goes a long way in protecting yourself from security threats. There are options that even notify you about known malicious websites and help you to avoid accessing them.
- If you clicked a banner ad, make sure that you never install a software or plugin, no matter what it offers or how innocent it looks.
Backdoors/trojans/rootkits in executable files
Unfortunately, there are many malicious users lurking BitTorrent and they look for ways to exploit the security vulnerabilities of the platform. In many cases, they embed malicious scripts and viruses in software that many people look for and then they share the program via BitTorrent. If you install the software, a malicious script will run and install keylogger, ransomware, rootkit and other dangerous applications. Follow the below tips to protect yourself from potentially dnagerous torrent files.
- Don’t download .exe or .bat files. These can install software on your computer and increase the risk of infection. Most malicious scripts are embedded on executable/downloadable files , but it is important to also be ware of other types of files, including PDFs and .FLV.
- Avoid running your computer in Admin mode. Most users usually run in Admin mode, but it is advisable to set up a separate account on your computer without admin privileges. You should only use administrator mode when you are installing software from a reliable source or changing the settings on your system. This is because trojans, rootkist and other threats require Admin rights to make changes to your system settings. If you are running in Admin mode, you make things easier for them.
- Make sure that you always use an antivirus and firewall software that can detect and stop threats before they affect your system. Automatic scans should be run every week and the settings should be adjusted so that executable files are always scanned before they are run for the first time. If you have to download an application from an unknown source, it is advisable to run it in Sandbox. This virtual environment stops any embedded viruses from infecting your system.
- Before downloading a torrent, it is a good idea to read the comments from other users to confirm that the file is safe. If other users experienced any issues with the file, they are likely to mention it in their comments. If a file is deemed as malicious, don’t download it.
Additional torrent safety tips
In order to prevent your ISP and large corporations from tracking you, there are other measures that you can take. In order to browse the internet anonymously, it is advisable to use the Tor browser, which is a free solution that lets you access websites without exposing your identity. It is also advisable to use an anonymous search engine such as DuckDuckGo, instead of Google. This way, Google will not be able to keep track of all your searches.