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How to Safely Download Torrents and Protect Your Identity

Torrents are a method of peer to peer download, meaning that you download files from tens or even hundreds of other users like you instead of having a central file hoster. This means that users share the burden of uploading files, so there is no expensive file hosting required for the uploader. Torrenting became popular with the rise of broadband internet that made it possible for people to upload and download at faster speeds than before, allowing people to share entire large files across the world.

However, torrents quickly became associated with illegal downloading. Copyright holders or ISP were easily able to track which IP addresses were using torrents and to prosecute them for file sharing. Over the last five years, far fewer people have used torrents due to worries about copyright infringement. But there are still people who want to use torrents, because they remain the most efficient way to manage large downloads. If you’ve been wanting to use torrents but are concerned about whether it is safe to do so, then today’s article is for you. We’re going to discuss how to safely download torrents.

Is Torrenting Legal?

The first thing to know about torrents is that, despite what many people believe and say, using torrents is not illegal. Torrenting is merely a method of file sharing, like attaching a file to an email. One common legal use of torrents that you will see is the sharing of Linux distributions or open source software. When software is provided for free, it can be expensive for the person who wrote the code to pay for hosting for the installation files. So instead, the software is made available through torrents so that the coder doesn’t have to pay for hosting. When you want to download a piece of open source software, you can use a torrent client to download the installation files from other users of the software. This is all perfectly legal.

However, much of the content that is shared through torrents is copyrighted content like movies, TV shows, books, anime, comics, or music. The sharing of this content for free is illegal as it is against copyright law. So it is the content shared through torrents which may be illegal, not the method of torrenting itself.

One reason that copyright holders have been so active in pursuing legal action against torrents users is to do with the way that torrents work. When you use a torrent to download a file, you start downloading that file in small chunks from other users. The chunks that you have already downloaded are then made available to other users to download from you. Therefore, whenever you use a torrent to download you are technically hosting a file for download too. In general, copyright holders are not too focused on users who download or stream their content – they are much more concerned about the people who upload or host the content. With torrents, you become a hoster of any file you download, making you a target for copyright holders if you are downloading illegal content.

How Do People Get Caught Using Torrents?

Ok, so you know that many of the content found in torrents is illegal. But how do people get caught using torrents? It’s not as if someone at your ISP looks at every single byte of data that you download to search for illegal content, is it? The reason that so many people get caught and receive legal threats when using torrents as compared to, say, direct downloads is also to do with the way that torrents work. A direct download is a file hosted on a website that you download like any other file from the web, like a picture, audio file, or even text. Unless your ISP is looking carefully at your internet activity, they are unlikely to notice that you direct downloaded a particular file.

But torrents use a particular method for file transfer, based on the Bittorrent technology. This uses a particular port for traffic – typically the 6881-6889 TCP port – which means that torrent traffic is very distinctive and easy for an ISP to spot. If you use torrents over your regular internet connection, the chances are very good that your ISP will investigate which types of files your are downloading and will take legal action against you if they find you torrenting illegal files. It is easy for ISPs to track the IP addresses of people using torrents, as torrents users share their IP addresses with each other in order to facilitate downloading. When your ISP can quickly spot that you are using torrent traffic, and then see that your IP address is sharing a particular file illegally, this is a recipe for disaster.

Tips For Downloading Torrents Safely

If you do want to use torrents, there are ways to do so safely. If you take care of which torrents you use and where you find your torrents files, then torrenting can be a really useful way to download large files quickly. Here are tips on safely downloading torrents:

1. Use Legal Torrents

The biggest thing you can do to keep yourself safe when using torrents is to only use legal torrents. It will be risky to download illegal content with torrents, especially if you are downloading a recent Hollywood movie, and particularly when that movie has been recently released on DVD or Bluray. These are the times that copyright holders will be watching most closely to look for people illegally sharing their content. You can skip this worry entirely by using legal torrents instead.

There is actually a ton of great legal content out there than you can download, like independent movies which have been released for free, older content that is now in the public domain, or open source software which is distributed for free. Here are just a few of the sites that you can use to find fully legal torrents:

2. Configure Your Torrent Client

There are many different clients out there for downloading torrents. Some of these clients will come with security features like the option to encrypt your torrents in order to disguise the type of traffic you are using from your ISP. While this certainly isn’t a foolproof method to keep yourself safe, it is an option worth enabling if it is available in your torrent client. You might also consider setting up a proxy server to route your torrent traffic via a proxy tunnel in order to increase your anonymity, and using the torrent IP address checker to make sure that your real IP address is not visible in your torrent downloads.

3. Find Torrents On Respected Sites

The risks of using torrents aren’t just legal issues. When you download a torrent file, you can’t always see what you are downloading until the download is complete and you actually open the file. Sometimes you’ll find malicious code like viruses or malware hidden inside torrent files, and when you open the files your computer will be infected.

To avoid this problem, you should only find torrents on sites that you know and trust. You shouldn’t start downloading a torrent that you found on some dodgy site you’ve never heard of before that you got to through goggling. Instead, use a trusted and well known torrent site to find the torrents you are looking for.

If you use torrents often, you might want to try to score an invite to a private torrenting site too. These sites are more secure than others because only a limited pool of highly knowledgeable people use them.

4. Use A VPN To Stay Safe

The most important way to keep yourself safe when using torrents is to use a VPN. A VPN will both hide your IP address and disguise the fact that you are using torrents from your ISP. A VPN works by installing a piece of software on the device you use to download torrents which encrypts all of the data that you send over the internet before it leaves your device. The encrypted data is sent to a server located elsewhere in the world where it is decrypted and sent on to its original destination. This encryption process makes it impossible for your ISP to see what sites you are visit, or what content you are streaming or downloading.

A VPN is the best way to keep safe when torrenting, and if you are using illegal torrents then a VPN is an absolute must to keep you safe from legal consequences of downloading.

Our Recommended VPNs For Torrenting

Not every VPN is suitable for torrent users, however. Many VPNs, especially free VPNs, will not encrypt P2P traffic including torrents. So these providers are of no use in keeping you safe when you torrent. We have found a selection of highly reliable and trustworthy VPNs that do allow you to torrent, so here are our recommendations for VPNs to keep you safe when torrenting:

1. IPVanish

IPVanish is our top recommendation for a VPN for torrenting. It has incredibly fast connection speeds which are perfect for downloading large files in lightning quick time. Other features that torrent users will appreciate include no bandwidth limits, a strict no logging policy, and 100% privacy guaranteed. You can use any of the servers available for P2P downloads, and the strong 256-bit encryption used will keep you safe. See more about why IPVanish is great for torrenting at https://www.ipvanish.com/torrents-vpn/

The available network of servers is large, with more than 1000 servers in 60 different countries around the world. And the software has helpful security features like an optional kill switch which will cut off your internet connection if the VPN server goes down, so that you don’t accidentally send data over an unsecured network – which is a key feature for torrenters. There are also option for period IP address change and DNS leak protection for maximum security. You can install the IPVanish software on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android.

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a great VPN for torrenters thanks to its combination of speed, security, and ease of use. ExpressVPN does support torrent and other P2P traffic and it has no bandwidth limits so you don’t need to worry about hitting a bandwith cap if you download lots of large files. The security used includes 256-bit encryption to keep your data locked up safely away from your ISP, and a no logging policy so that no records of your internet use will be kept. There are more security features in the software like a kill switch so you don’t inadvertently use torrents over an unsecure connection, and an IP address checker so that you can check whether your IP address is hidden before opening your torrent client. Find out more about using ExpressVPN with the popular uTorrent client at https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-service/utorrent-vpn

The network of servers you get access to with an ExpressVPN subscription covers more than 1000 servers in 90 different countries, and these servers offer some of the fastest connections available from any VPN provider. An advantage of ExpressVPN is that the software is available for a massive range of devices including games consoles and smart TVs as well as desktop machines running Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, plus mobile devices running Android and iOS. There are even browser extensions available for quick connections through your Chrome, Firefox, or Safari web browser.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a fantastic option for torrenting, packing 256-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit keys under the hood. You won’t have to worry about logs being kept either, since this provider has one of the strictest policies against logging in the industry. They don’t even keep your email address! This level of privacy is ideal when facing down the threat of copyright trolls throwing the book at you. Other features include an automatic kill switch along with DNS and IP lead protection. 

This VPN provider is speedy too, with a robust network of over 1300 servers in 30+ countries. For even better performance when torrenting, make use of their “Torrent Anonymously” profile, which automatically connects you to a P2P compatible server. Not only will this provide an optimized experience, it also adds an extra layer of protection against snooping, malware and other internet nasties.

4. NordVPN

NordVPN is the VPN that we recommend for users who are looking for the highest level of security. The service not only allows P2P traffic, but even has special P2P dedicated servers to maximise your download speeds. In addition to the 256-bit encryption and no logging policy to protect your privacy, there is also an option called double encryption for the best possible security. Double encryption works by sending your data to not one but two different servers and encrypting it at each one. These two layers of encryption make it practically impossible for anyone to crack, even with the most sophisticated tools. Other key features for torrenters are unlimited bandwidth and fast download speeds so you can get your files sooner. For more about using torrents and other P2P downloads with NordVPN, see https://nordvpn.com/features/great-p2p-opportunity/

NordVPN have recently expended their server network and they now have an absolutely massive network of 3300 servers in 59 countries. As well as the special servers for P2P, you’ll also find specialist servers for anti DDoS, dedicated IP, double VPN, and onion over VPN. The software is available for devices running Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices, and is available as a browser extension for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Conclusion

Many users are worried about using torrents due to the high number of people who have been caught downloading illegal content and faces some kind of legal consequence. However, there are legitimate ways to use torrents and you can use them safely. The most important take away for torrent users is to use legal torrents and to only download torrent from trustworthy sites. If you are going to use torrents for other purposes, it is vital that you take steps to protect yourself as otherwise the likelihood of your ISP discovering that you have been torrenting is high. Use a VPN to encrypt all of your traffic so that no one can see what you’ve been accessing or downloading – not even your ISP. This is the best way to keep yourself safe when using torrents.

Do you still use torrents, or do you consider this method of downloading too risky? What about for open source software purposes – have you tried downloading open source software with a torrent? Let us know what steps you take to keep yourself safe while torrenting in the comments below.

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