How to use torrents easily and securely
If you are someone who is transferring larger files over the net, often you inevitably stumbled upon the term “Torrent”. And if you are also someone who is uncertain about how to use them simply and anonymously or doesn’t know how to use them at all, you are in the right place. Get ready for a ride of useful information on how to level-up your torrent experience.
What is a torrent?
To put it in layman terms it is a tiny file that just contains information about locations where to download digital contents, be it, for example, documents, audios, books, videos, program and games installations etc. It uses the protocol called BitTorrent and a peer-to-peer network of interconnected computers which store the desired contents. There is no central server, as is usual with most of the sites on the web. Meaning, it is a distributed network. The network is the keyword, the game changer. So the whole file-sharing thing becomes decentralised. This brings in next level options for the entire data-sharing mechanism. Just to get you a taste, you can get super-high download speeds and much greater chance to get the files you need.
What is the secret? First and foremost, the simple idea of leaving the traditional central server behind and making everyone in the network server and client simultaneously. That changes the architecture of the files flow. A data file is split into a myriad of bits, which are then saved across the network. PCs who are participating in the network (called swarm) are called peers. The subtle yet powerful idea then is that you don’t need to have the file in one place in the whole, but instead, it can be fragmented in parts on various locations. That way, to get the file, you just have to collect them all. Gotta catch ’em all, right? 🙂 And the URL addresses of peers which hold the bits you want are listed in the torrent file.
Leech it, seed it, keep it alive.
Clever and cool, huh? But let us dig deeper into details. Torrent files viability (meaning the final content you are after) is heavily dependent on the groups of peers. Seeders are the ones who are online and sharing the files for others to download, so they are the servers uploading files to clients. And leechers, on the other hand, are those clients who “suck” the data from those sharing seeders. One can be only one or both at the same time. As long as at least one seed is seeding, the torrent file is alive and downloadable; otherwise, it gets dead, and thus this mechanism stops working. So it is essential to give back to the swarm at least what it gave you, that is called seed: leech ratio, and it should be 1: 1, meaning you downloaded the whole file as well as uploaded it to another leech. This way, if everyone contributes to the network, the torrent file can stay fresh for very long.
The more seeders are seeding, the higher the download speed and at the same time, the more leechers leeching, the lower. Each seeder thus contributes to the bandwidth you can download with. This dynamic ratio of seeders: leechers at any given moment provides you with the fantastic download speeds torrent network is capable of. But on the other hand, too many leechers or too little seeds, the speed gets crappy.
The old way of torrenting
The usual way to use torrents was to download bit.torrent protocol client, a program such as µTorrent which was able to load the torrent file and to process this whole thing for you. But, one substantial security disadvantage came along as torrent content became gradually more criminalised because it was sharing copyrighted material. Keep in mind, that torrent system is a perfectly legal and kosher tool, but the digital data that some users may use it for distribution is illegal because they infringe the DMCA laws.
This way, when one uses the torrent client, the IP address is exposed (IP address identifies where you are in the world, sometimes to the street level), by being part of the torrent network and thus, can be traceable and suspicious to third parties such as government agencies, internet service providers or anyone with interest to spy, collect data for selling or ad-customisation or with the intent to submit a copyright infringement claim.
The security precautions
So what options of privacy protection do torrent users have? Please note that we are not encouraging anyone to engage in pirated content. Please read the disclaimer carefully.
Disclaimer: We stand for the right to privacy, not piracy. We do not advocate or support any distribution of copyrighted material using torrent protocol or any means whatsoever. We absolutely encourage only the sharing of free content. Please, do respect the property rights of other people. Only utilise torrents responsibly and also comply with the laws of the country of your residence.
You can check with some of the following websites, which offer a free and legal content you can download: Vodo, Public Domain Torrents, Miro Guide, Bitlove or Internet Archive.
How to make the torrent downloading process more secure
As with all things in life, there is no guarantee of anything, only steps you can take in order to raise the level of the desired attribute, in this case, security enhancement and privacy protection. As was said before, when participating in a swarm, other peers will be able to see your IP address by principle. However, many ways exist about how you can shield yourself and avoid the prying eyes with tools and methods that hide your IP address.
Proxy means substitute. It is a server that lets you go online under a different IP address identity, by not changing your internet service provider but the server you connect to, that is, to the proxy.
Nevertheless, the proxy is definitely one of the hazardous techniques available, because it may reduce the browsing speeds and in some countries, it is not allowed.
How about just staying with your BitTorrent client? Well, it really depends which one you decide to use (naming just a few popular: uTorrent, qBittorrent, Deluge, Vuze) because they have varying integrated security options like advanced encryption, Virtual Private Network, antivirus, etc. Although, you might end up paying for using some of those features because they are often not included in the basic versions.
Virtual Private Network is a service, either app or browser-based, which provides users with the ability to change their IP address to any other IP location in the world plus encrypting the communication. That way, the download location is much harder to pinpoint and the transferred content much harder to crack. It might seem simple, but it adds a potent power-up to not only your torrenting experience but your browsing experience in general, providing you with additional advantages (depending on the VPN client) such as a secure connection, private access to geo-blocked sites, high-speed bandwidth, the possibility to open more than one account on the same webpage etc. You simply choose from the list a country and a city of your preference, connect there, and thus everyone else will see you appear to be there. Some of the popular services are Private Internet Access VPN, IP Vanish VPN, RA4W VPN or Symantec Norton Secure VPN.
Disadvantages? Sure it has some: depending on the exact location it can actually slow the connection speed, or it can even drop out, hence leaving you unprotected (some VPNs have kill-switch solution); with some VPNs there are configuration difficulties; last but not least, it still leaves you with the trust upon the VPN providers that they keep the logs to themselves and do not pass it on to the third parties.
Tor is from German and means gate. It’s a freeware app called Tor browser that hides your IP address while online with multiple layers of interconnected IP addresses. Those servers work like onion layers, similar to duplicated VPNs. They are dynamically changing either by entering into the gate, by starting the Tor program or by manually choosing to create a new route (sequence of onion layers). PLUS and that is a big plus, Tor runs on demanding encryption, meaning the data transferred are scrambled into different data, protected with advanced algorithms. Even if happened to break just one of it, there is another layer of onion with different encryption one must go through in order to pass the whole route to get to the original gate and thus to you. So these ciphered layers upon layers are making it immensely difficult to crack the content of the package and its source IP.
Tor is great for accessing geo-politically restricted information and sites, but frankly, this method is the slowest one, because the connection travels through those many layers it is not that convenient for data transfers, so if you are somewhat impatient, please continue exploring other options.
Finally, we are getting to the most advanced method as we know of today. If you want to become a proficient torrent user with a high degree of privacy, security and anonymity, the cloud solution is the hero. Just in case you are not aware of all the sharp feats of this trending technology yet, here they are:
- download connections run at ultra speeds
- cloud storage frees you from using your own precious local storage space – as for the privacy issue, the most important benefit is that all communication stays secure and anonymous because the cloud server downloads the torrent for you, you only download the final file, thus leaving your IP out of the torrent network. But, it is still advised to combine this practice with additional VPN
- despite space, it also saves you time, bandwidth and energy because it does the downloading for you, as well as seeding
It often comes with convenient tools such as cross-platform and cross-device synchronisation, a browser-based system with no need to download an app, dedicated servers with antivirus integration, or the ability to stream the content while being downloaded and much more. We will delve into the specific details in the comprehensive reviews.
What to be aware of with cloud torrent providers, just as with all other mentioned products, is the simple fact that not all features come free of charge. Sure there are free plans and premium plans, so you can check it out and decide later. You got to be able to make a consumer decision and to consider how much you are willing to pay for your security, privacy or convenience. We are here for that exact reason, to help you map out the alternatives available on the market today so you can make an informed choice.
Keep firmly in mind, the general act of using a (free or paid) service, tool or provider, such as VPN, BitTorrent client or cloud torrent is potentially risky still because you are trusting the third party not to misuse the personal information you provide. For that reason we have another powerful advice for you: create a disposable email address when signing up for these services and use cryptocurrencies to further anonymise your internet identity. Apply this as a general practice while using the internet, together with carefully chosen VPN, and you will achieve the most effective anonymous and secure strategy.
The final note
The situation on the field of internet security is highly evolving, so we take the job of monitoring the conditions as well as tools. We specialise in the cloud torrent services and analyse them for you by thoroughly testing all the features. Please feel free to explore our reviews, comment and ask questions.
Take into the notice that you are fully responsible for your internet behaviour and the content you distribute. We do not take any responsibility for the use of information provided in this article. Educate yourself, do your research, use your own discernment. That is real freedom and true power.