Torrenting is a great way for sharing files across the Internet, but it also comes with risks which can be covered by VPN and other solutions. This is why it is crucial to download torrents anonymously and safely by turning to various solutions that we will go through in the current article.
ThePirateBay is a favorite place of users interested in downloading torrents, but it has also been at the center of controversies due to the legal aspects of file sharing and copyright. If you have ever downloaded a torrent from ThePirateBay, this might not be possible anymore because the site has been banned in multiple countries across the world.
There are many aspects that you should understand to be able to download torrents anonymously and safely. But let’s get started by finding out what is torrenting and how it works, why is it better than other methods for file sharing, and if it is legal and safe.
Check out the list of topics below to see what we are talking about (click to jump).
- What is torrenting?
- How torrenting works
- Why is torrenting better for file sharing
- Is torrenting legal?
- Is torrenting safe?
- How to download torrents anonymously and safely
- How to use a VPN service for torrenting
- What are the best VPN features for torrenting?
- In conclusion
What is torrenting?
Torrenting is a way for people from all over the world to share files using peer-to-peer (P2P) technology and BitTorrent clients. When you download a file using its torrent, your computer does not fetch the whole data from a single remote server as it happens with standard file downloads.
Instead, a torrent retrieves parts of the file from many other users such as yourself, who also join torrent activities. Then, the original file is reconstructed by merging the parts in the correct order.
The biggest advantage of torrenting is speed since it is faster to download parts of a file from multiple computers instead of a whole file from a single server. What’s more, you can download multiple files at the same time, as well as pause and resume downloading tasks.
How torrenting works
To be able to download torrents anonymously and safely, you need to download and install a BitTorrent client. Popular clients include µTorrent, Vuze, BitTorrent, BitComet, Transmission, and qBittorrent.
To locate a particular torrent file, you can use special websites called indexers. They use search engines and a database of known torrents to help you locate what you are interested in. The most popular indexer is ThePirateBay, which is banned in multiple countries and has been involved in many piracy-related lawsuits.
Anyone who downloads a torrent file becomes a peer. And a torrent file remains active for as long as there is at least one peer left. All peers which take part in a file torrent are called swarms. Anyone part of the swarm can view personal information of the others, such as IP address and country of origin.
While downloading the file, your BitTorrent client automatically starts sharing it with other peers. When this happens, you become a seeder. The more seeders are involved in a torrent file, the faster it will be to download it.
If a peer does not want to become a seeder, he can disable uploading. This is called a leecher because the user does not want to help others download the same file (usually due to bandwidth restrictions).
Peers are able to communicate with each other through torrent trackers. These include a list of all peers joining a particular torrent swarm. When someone new sends a request about the type of torrent they would like to download anonymously, the tracker responds with the list of peers.
Why is torrenting better for file sharing
Compared to other file sharing solutions, torrenting comes with many benefits. Here are just some of them:
- Faster, especially when you are planning to download large files
- Pause and resume features are available, so you do not have to restart large file downloads on unexpected interruptions, particularly if you have a slow and unsteady Internet connection
- Better reliability than downloading a file hosted on a single computer, because you can always find peers who have the torrent you are looking for
- Download multiple files at once by creating a queue. Plus, you can exit the BitTorrent client and later launch it again to pick up where you left off
- Schedule the PC to auto-shutdown on download completion, which comes in handy when you must step away from the computer
- Limit the download and upload rate, which is helpful if you have an Internet connection with limited bandwidth and if you want to allocate the bandwidth to other Internet-enabled devices
- Find files on torrent sites quickly and conveniently
Is torrenting legal?
Many people confuse torrents with files. While a file represents the goal of downloading and uploading, a torrent is only the vehicle that connects you with the file since it contains all relevant information about how you can obtain it.
Therefore, the act of torrenting is perfectly legal, because downloading and uploading files anonymously is legal. However, distributing files may be illegal, depending on the file contents.
For instance, it is legal to share information that is open to the public, your own private photos, or your own personal homemade videos. But it is illegal to distribute movies, TV shows or games that must be purchased. Everything has to do with copyright infringement and the terms of service of the file contents.
Is torrenting safe?
Anyone can create a torrent that can be distributed to other people, and anyone can join a torrent swarm. As such, you never know what you can find in a torrent file.
For example, you can get infected with malware and compromise your entire computer. If you unintentionally install ransomware, it will encrypt your private data and ask for money in return for decryption.
Hackers are free to exploit various vulnerabilities in your system, and you will be unknowingly helping them by clicking a link or opening a file from the downloaded torrent.
Your IP address is exposed to the world when joining a torrent swarm. Therefore, anyone else who is part of the torrent swarm can take advantage of this information and use your IP address for nefarious deeds.
Furthermore, if you break any copyright laws by downloading a movie, you can attract the attention of your ISP, which could send you a warning letter or tip off the authorities. In some countries, you have to pay huge fines. In others, you can serve jail time.
How to download torrents anonymously and safely
On the bright side, there are several ways in which you can download torrents anonymously and safely. Here are our eight favorite ones.
1. Use private trackers
We previously mentioned the risk of getting infected with malware when downloading torrents. But you can reduce this risk by avoiding unknown sources. Instead, you can resort to private trackers, which are safer than public ones.
They are carefully maintained by individuals who want to ensure the safety of all users. But it can be quite challenging to join a private tracker. Most of them operate on an invitation-only basis, so you must know someone who is already part of the private tracker and who is willing to send you an invitation.
2. Check the file hash
A file hash is also known as the checksum, hashsum or signature. It is made of a unique alphanumerical sequence and used to verify the integrity of a file. All torrent trackers display the file hash on the website.
After downloading a file but before accessing it yet, you can find out its file hash with a specialized tool and compare it to the file hash displayed on the tracker site. Such tools can be downloaded and installed on your computer, but you can also find online services dedicated to calculating file hashes.
If the hashes are the same, it means that no one has tampered with the torrent trackers. This is good news because it indicates no sign of malware. But if the file hashes do not match, then you should get rid of the downloaded file and obtain it from somewhere else. It is likely that someone got hold of the original torrent file and infected it with some type of malware.
3. Use PeerBlock
PeerBlock is a software application made to preserve your anonymity while downloading torrents. It uses a privacy-focused firewall to block the IP addresses of groups known to track down users who have downloaded torrents illegally.
Such groups are governments, ISPs, and various anti-P2P organizations. Unlike VPN, PeerBlock does not encrypt your connection, so it delivers better speed. However, it can not actually guarantee your anonymity because new IP addresses are always emerging.
4. Use a VPN service
Most torrent trackers recommend that you use a VPN service to hide your IP address and location. We recommend the same thing. How a VPN works is that it sends your data packets through a secure tunnel that applies encryption.
By connecting to a VPN server, you assume its IP address and conceal your true online identity. And this new IP address will be visible to others when you join a torrent swarm. As a result, you will be able to download anonymously and safely.
5. Do not click ads on torrent trackers or BitTorrent clients
Most torrent trackers and BitTorrent clients display ads to make revenue. But they do not have control over the type of content that those ads lead to. So, there is no guarantee that you will keep your system safe after clicking those ads.
There is always the risk of stumbling upon some form of malware which will compromise your system’s entire security. Subsequently, you are better off not clicking those ads. By the way, it is possible to disable ads in some BitTorrent clients, so make sure to run a Google search on your favorite software application dedicated to torrenting.
6. Protect your computer with a reliable anti-malware tool
It is always better to be safe than sorry. For example, if you are a Windows 10 user, then you are protected by Windows Defender by default. But you can improve your system security by getting a premium anti-malware application that does the job better than Windows Defender.
This type of software solution should be able to shield you from the latest malware, known as zero-day threats. Simply put, the program should block any malware agents that surfaced less than 24 hours ago and which are not yet known to the public.
It is equally important to keep your security solution up to date by downloading and installing the latest program updates and virus definitions. This way, if you accidentally unleashed malware on your computer while downloading torrents, you can protect your PC with a trustworthy anti-malware application.
7. Disable flash in your web browser
Web browsers can trigger malware agents even if you do not click any strange links or ads. Sometimes there are flash-enabled scripts that automatically execute commands designed to exploit your browser vulnerabilities.
In this case, you need to keep your web browser up to date. It is also a good idea to disable flash or instruct your web browser to ask you what to do every time you access a webpage with flash. If you want to obtain true anonymity on the Internet, you should also find out how to make your browser fingerprint less unique.
8. Be mindful of torrent tracker comments
The torrent comments on tracker sites often hold valuable information. If there is anything suspicious going on with a particular torrent, you will often find warnings from other users. Therefore, you should always read comments before downloading a torrent to make sure there are no signs of malware.
How to use a VPN service for torrenting
Out of all points from this list, a virtual private network solution is your best shot at preserving your safety and anonymity while downloading torrents. Here is how you can use one:
- Find a trustworthy VPN service that supports torrenting
- Download and install the VPN client on your device
- Connect to a VPN server optimized for P2P traffic
- Make sure that you have successfully connected to a VPN server
- Launch your BitTorrent client and start downloading a torrent
What are the best VPN features for torrenting?
Finding a trustworthy VPN tool with torrent support is the first step. It can be quite challenging to do this because there are many features that make up the ideal VPN service for torrenting.
For example, you should always avoid free VPN services because they are notoriously unreliable. They have few servers, security vulnerabilities, and sometimes sell your data to third-party ad marketing agencies.
Here are some of the most important security features you can find in a VPN for torrenting.
Supports torrenting and other P2P traffic
Not all virtual private network providers support torrenting and other peer-to-peer traffic. In fact, some of them discourage it. Therefore, you should make sure that the premium VPN you are interested in buying has servers optimized for torrenting.
For instance, NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN have a separate category of VPN servers dedicated to P2P. So, whenever you need to use your VPN to hide your IP address while downloading or uploading torrents, you just need to connect to a VPN server from the P2P group.
Strong VPN protocols
The protocol of a virtual private network service determines the rules and conditions it must follow when establishing secure links across the Internet. The stronger the protocol, the safer you will be when downloading and uploading torrents.
OpenVPN is a modern protocol considered the best in the business because it brings the perfect balance between speed and security. As such, you should switch to OpenVPN when you are planning your torrenting activities.
IP leak protection
When you are trying to protect your anonymity while downloading and uploading torrents, you must rely on your VPN to keep your identity a secret. You do not afford a VPN that reveals your genuine IP address to other peers in the torrent swarm.
It is a good idea to check your VPN application for IP leaks using an online service like IPLeak. You should also explore the settings panel of your VPN client to find and activate an IPv6 leak protection module. Another good idea is to use IP magnet services like TorGuard’s Check My Torrent IP to see which IP address is being broadcasted by your BitTorrent client.
The kill switch of a virtual private network tool represents an extra layer of security. In case your VPN connection drops unexpectedly, the kill switch cuts off all Internet connections to make sure that your IP address is not accidentally leaked.
Make sure to open the preferences window of your VPN program to find and enable the kill switch if it exists. If you use the Vuze BitTorrent client, it is possible to bind your VPN to Vuze to ensure there are absolutely no IP leaks.
Whether or not your VPN application has a kill switch that works, it would be wise to find out how to protect your anonymity on VPN connection drops.
Company location and logging policy
The whereabouts and logging policy of the VPN company are essential for shielding your online privacy. All companies must follow the laws of their countries, and some countries have data retention laws, like the ones part of the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes mass surveillance alliances.
In the worst-case scenario, you can employ a VPN service that monitors and collects your data (like free VPN). And, if it is required by law to hand over your information, authorities can use it against you.
Therefore, you should get a VPN service located in a safe country and with a zero-logging policy. Your online identity will remain hidden during your torrenting activities, no matter what happens.
Shared IP addresses
A shared IP address represents an IP address used by multiple users of the same VPN service. Some virtual private network tools support this feature to add an extra layer of security to their customers.
If you connected to a VPN server with a shared IP address, the parties monitoring your torrenting activity would have a harder time identifying you across the Internet. NordVPN is one of the VPN services that support shared IP addresses.
Port forwarding is another useful feature that can help you download torrents safely and anonymously. For example, if the NAT firewall of your VPN client is affecting your seeding, then it will keep other peers from obtaining torrent files from you.
But you can overcome this problem by enabling port forwarding mode in your VPN service if such a feature exists. Examples of VPN services that support port forwarding are Mullvad VPN, Private Internet Access, and Ivacy.
Maintaining your online anonymity is crucial while downloading and uploading torrents. There is always the risk of unintentionally downloading copyright content, so it is better to remain on the safe side by spoofing your true IP address and location.
A VPN service is your best chance for making this happen, so you should do your research well to find a trustworthy VPN for torrenting.
How do you manage to keep yourself safe when downloading torrents anonymously? We would love to hear your suggestions, so please do not hesitate to drop us a comment in the section below.