While in a perfect world, online piracy wouldn’t exist, the true is that due to the restrictions and high fees of legitimate streaming services, many people still prefer torrenting and they simply look for ways to be able to download content, without putting their identity and privacy at risk. This is why anonymity and privacy tools like VPNs and proxies are very popular among torrent fans. Choosing between a VPN or a proxy can be difficult as many people wonder which one is the safest choice. Although they offer similar functionality, there are significant differences between them. Your real IP address is masked in both cases, as your traffic is routed through a third party server. However, it is not the same to use a VPN or a proxy. The good news is that you can use both and since there are VPN providers like PIA and NordVPN that include a proxy service, you can enjoy these two technologies without having to pay more. In this article, we will take a look at VPNs, proxies and also IP blockers such as PeerBlock and iBlocklist. We’ll take a closer look at each of them, but before we start, here is a summary of the benefits and downsides they have.
Proxy / Socks5 Torrent proxy
With a proxy connection it is possible to route your traffic from a specific app/program (your torrent client) through a third party server. The proxy server can connect to all the torrent peers available, on your behalf. Your real IP address won’t be visible and instead, peers will only be able to see the proxy server’s IP address. Socks5 is the best proxy solution for torrenting, since HTTP proxies are not able to bring anonymity torrent traffic (they only work for web traffic). When you use a proxy, your Torrent IP address is different than the IP of other internet traffic. However, with a proxy, your torrent activities will still be visible to your ISP and other parties. The good thing about proxies is that they are faster than VPNs and will hide your IP address. The bad thing is that your ISP will be able to see what content you are downloading, by using Deep Packet Inspection.
The main purpose of torrent IP blocklists like PeerBlock is to prevent connections from specific, unwanted IP addresses or IP ranges. The idea is that they can identify IP addresses related to certain organizations that are likely to monitor your torrents downloads. Once they identify these IP addresses, they can block them. The problem is that it is pretty much impossible to identify and block every IP address that could put your privacy at risk, or that could be malicious. In the end, an organization that is focused on monitoring torrent activity, will be able to get new IP addresses very easily, so torrent IP blocklists are unlikely to be effective all the time. In addition, blocklists are likely to affect peers that are not dangerous, which will result in slower speeds and less downloading options. This is why Blocklists are not considered as a true privacy tool. They don’t work in every case and they won’t secure your torrent downloads.
A proxy can be configured only inside your torrent client. Most desktop clients support SOCKS5 proxy connections. A proxy can change the IP address of your torrent client, but not of your entire traffic. Keep in mind that HTTP proxy doesn’t work for this purpose, you will need to use Socks5 proxy for torrents. While a VPN keeps your real IP address hidden, it doesn’t protect your data with encryption. Plus, it is important to keep in mind that some torrent clients route proxy connections without security. That beings said, when a torrent is configured correctly, your torrent client will route all peer and tracker communications via SOCKS5 proxy server. Torrent peers and trackers won’t see your real IP address, only the IP address assigned by the proxy. The downside is that since there is no encryption, your ISP and other parties will still be able to see what you are doing. Furthermore, they could block or throttle your torrent traffic. This is why a VPN is a better choice.
The reason why SOCKS5 proxy should be chosen over HTTP for torrenting, is that SOCKS5 is a versatile solution that is capable of managing tracker and peer connections. HTTP proxies are often free, but they can only manage HTTP traffic, so they would work for tracker connections, but won’t be effective for peer connections since they use TCP. If you use HTTP, your real IP address will be exposed to peers. This is why it is crucial that you use SOCKS5 only. There are VPN services that include SOCKS5 proxy as part of the subscription. This is a convenient solution that allows you to use both technologies without having to pay more. Some of the VPN services that also offer SOCKS5 proxy are IPVanish, NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
A VPN routes your entire traffic through a secure server and all the traffic between your device and the VPN server, is protected with encryption. With a VPN, you can enjoy high protection and privacy for your torrents and your IP address remains hidden, so torrent peers won’t be able to see it. All your activities are encrypted, meaning that your ISP or other parties won’t be able to see what you are doing. There are leading VPNs that include SOCKS5 proxy with their service. It is possible to use them at the same time, so you will have a different IP address for your browsing activities and for torrenting.
Torrent IP Blocklists
There are different options available in this category, including Peerguard and iBlocklist. A torrent IP blocklist is nothing more than an extensive database of IP addresses that your torrent client is prevented from connecting to. The criteria for including IP addresses varies, but the list may include IP addresses from educational institutions, non-residential IP addresses and IPs from known monitoring companies. The main purpose of a Blocklist, is to set up a list of IP addresses that are potentially risky or bad, and preventing connection to them, leaving only “safe” peers available. It won’t be possible to establish a connection from a blocked peer and they won’t be able to connect to you in order to download/seed torrents.
The problem is that while in theory, the idea sounds simple and effective, there is a wide range of security issues that meant that blocklists don’t really work. Blocklsist are not a good way to protect your torrent traffic and in fact, they can have a negative impact on your torrenting experience. They can block too many good peers, generally safe IP addresses. As previously mentioned, if a company is dedicated to monitoring torrent activities, they can certainly get new IP addresses that are not in the list of blocked options. If too many IP addresses are blocked, you are less likely to find the torrent files that you want. Torrent blocklists contain a huge amount of IP addresses and it is likely that not all of them are dangerous. At the same time, they are probably missing many others that should be avoided.
Blocklists can be easily bypasses since all that is needed is an IP address that is not blocked. Those who want to monitor torrent downloads will certainly have the way to get more and more IP addresses. In addition, blocked peers are still able to see the IP addresses of those who download content. To connect to torrent peers, all that is needed is to know their IP address. Others can access the IP addresses collected and shared via torrent trackers and trackerless peer lists, even if their IP is blocked. When you use torrent blacklists, your IP address will still be visible to others and they will be able to see what you are downloading via torrent trackers. Blocklists are not a solution to keep your anonymity protected.
Virtual Private Network/VPN
A VPN is hands down, the best option to protect your privacy while torrenting, plus, it is a versatile technology that comes handy for different purposes. Although there are many VPN services available, it is important to select a high quality solution that really brings security and privacy. With a VPN, you can increase the security of your torrent downloads. A VPN service can protect you from online monitoring as it hides your IP address and it encrypts your internet traffic. Instead of seeing your real IP address in the torrent swarm, others see the IP addresses of the VPN server you are connected to.
A VPN can encrypt your entire online traffic, meaning that not even your ISP will be able to monitor it to see what content is being accessed or downloaded. VPN services are easy to use and they also offer powerful and effective performance. However, to get all the benefits of a VPN, you need to choose a good quality service. In general, VPNs route your internet traffic through a third-party server and they give you a new IP address. To make sure that you get a VPN that is really effective and secure for torrenting, there are a few aspects that you need to consider. First of all, you need to check the provider’s logging policy. Many VPNs keep logs of your IP address, server location and other connection details. There are some that even keep logs of your activities. Logs can be used to identify you and to establish an association between you and specific activity. In order to keep your privacy protected, you need to go for a VPN that doesn’t keep logs. We recommend services like NordVPN, TorGuard and IPVanish.
Speed is another important aspect of a VPN, particularly if you are a torrent user. VPNs can affect the speed of your connection, which is normal considering the encryption that they use. However, it is possible to find VPNs that are fast and that allow you to download torrents without major hiccups. There are VPNs that also offer advanced security features such as kill switch and protection against IP/DNS leaks. There are services that deserve to be considered above others since these features will add security to your torrenting activities. Last, but not least, make sure that you go for a VPN that allows P2P.
Using a VPN for torrenting
VPNs are very easy to use and once you choose a service and sign up for it, you just need to download and install the software. Then you can run it on your device, select the server you want to connect to (the best options are torrent-friendly locations like Netherlands, Switzerland or Sweden), and then click Connect. You will get an IP address from the country of the server you are connecting to. Your real IP address will be hidden, which adds anonymity to your torrenting. Make sure that you also enable the kill switch feature as this will ensure that your real IP address is not exposed, even if your VPN connection drops at some stage.
Downsides of using a VPN
Using a VPN is the best solution, but it doesn’t mean that this technology is perfect. As we mentioned before, a VPN can slow down your connection due to the encryption used. This is even more noticeable when you connect to a distant server. In addition, you will have the same torrent IP and web browse IP. This means that if you connect to a VPN server in Netherlands, not only your torrenting traffic will get an IP from that location. If you Google something, you will get most results in Dutch, but this is not a big deal since you can adjust Google’s settings to get results from the location you prefer. It is also possible to have a separate IP address for browsing and one for torrents. You just need to add a proxy inside the torrent client and stay connected to a VPN server in your location.
The right choice will depend on your preferences and needs, but if you want security and a comprehensive set of features to protect your torrenting VPNs are the right choice. If speed is your priority, a proxy service would be the most suitable technology. Blocklists are also an option, but we don’t recommended them since they don’t really offer any benefit in terms of privacy and security. They don’t increase your anonymity and are often inaccurate. By using this option, you are taking a lot of risks, which is why, we suggest that you only go for a VPN or a proxy, depending on the level of speed and security that you want. While proxy services don’t encrypt your traffic, they allow yo to chance your IP address and offer fast performance. VPNs are secure and provide a high level of protection for your privacy, while hiding your real IP. You can use both at the same time to add even more protection to your torrenting.