When you join a swarm of people happily downloading the latest blockbuster or best selling album, it’s kind of easy to feel pretty safe. After all you’re hiding behind a piece of software built for anonymous torrenting, right? Well no that’s wrong and for the clue you only have to take a little look in the menu of most torrenting software – here’s a useful screenshot to illustrate the point.
See those details? Those are the IP addresses of your fellow down-loaders, their location and which client they’re using. So if you’re downloading a pirated version of some movie – you can see everyone else who is downloading that movie too. Is it a big deal? After all you’re not likely to use that information as you’re doing the same thing. Well imagine that information is available to any legal or copyright holder simply by attaching themselves to the download.
What they can produce in seconds without any skill or knowledge is a huge list of IP addresses who are infringing the copyright on a particular download. Worse, those addresses can easily be turned into real names, addresses and phone numbers with a letter or legal notice to your ISP. It’s worth thinking about that sitting in your ISP is a log with full details of everything you’ve downloaded via torrents for anyone to see, the logs are usually kept for up to two years although that varies on local laws. The name that will be associated with the download will be whoever pays the bill for the ISP – makes you think doesn’t it.
So what’s the risk, well there is a financial cost if you get caught often set at a low cost per infringement – but $20 per download can get expensive if you get caught for 20 songs or movies. What’s worse it can rise to thousands if they decide to make an example by taking legal action. It can also be kind of embarrassing to being prosecuted if your downloads are of the adult entertainment variety, especially worrying if your parents or wife pays the bill!
The risks are so extensive and the likelihood of getting caught so significant that maintaining your anonymity whilst downloading torrents is not just advisable but arguably essential.
Methods of Anonymous Torrenting
There are a few options, some much more technical than others. The free methods using online anonymous proxies or things like Tor are covered online but involve some technical skill and lots of patience as your download speeds will plummet. They’re covered extensively online but make sure you check you have implemented them correctly, it’s very simply to think you’re using an anonymous proxy but you’re really not!
Safety and speed really relies on using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider to both encrypt your download and shield your IP address from any prying eyes. Most of these are pretty easy to use, simply click a button to connect then start your torrent client and everything should be protected.
There are some important caveats though:
- The IP address of the VPN provider will appear associated with the torrent so any DCMA notice could be forwarded to them (with a request for your identity) – make sure that your VPN provider doesn’t comply with these or better still doesn’t log any data which means they can’t identify you. There are a few providers who do this.
- Use only a professional service. A badly set up VPN connection simply won’t hide your identity and worse will make you look more guilty, choose an established provider who knows what they’re doing.
- Torrents devour bandwidth – make sure your VPN provider allows this, many don’t.
It’s not complicated to keep your torrenting anonymous but it doesn’t happen without action. Sitting and downloading torrents in the clear has a real chance of getting you into real legal problems. Even if it’s just a $150 DCMA infraction notice, is it worth the hassle. If you do want to take the risk use an random, anonymous internet connection from a cafe or hotel. Also it’s well worth avoiding downloading the latest blockbuster as these high profile films are often monitored and people downloading aggressively prosecuted.
Try IPVanish for an anonymous torrenting VPN, they don’t log, allow torrent services and you can even pay in bitcoins if you’re really cautious.
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