Torrents anonymously: The BitTorrent protocol came to revolutionize the way we share files. The protocol is popular for being fast, reliable, and one of the best ways to transfer large files.
BitTorrent is considered as the preferred big file sharing mechanism for known enterprises and organizations, including Linux, Facebook, Twitter, Blizzard, to mention a few. For example, Linux Ubuntu gives you the option to alternatively download Ubuntu ISOs using BitTorrent.
Although BitTorrent is a fine piece of file-sharing technology, the method it uses puts your identity on the line. Anyone participating within the torrent swarm and the tracker server provider will have to know and share your information, including your public IP address, torrent client, and even the contents of your torrent file.
Fortunately, there are ways to download torrents anonymously. In this post, we’ll talk about three ways to protect yourself while uploading or downloading torrents. We’ll also go through how BitTorrent works and where is exactly that you need to hide.
BitTorrent is a file-sharing protocol based on Peer-2-Peer (P2P) technology. The idea behind P2P is decentralization. P2P is a distributed system formed by large numbers of unreliable nodes which are roughly functioning symmetrically.
As an example, imagine a flock or swarm of flying birds. A flock of birds is coming from a single source and flying towards a singular destination. If one bird or two decides to fly away from the swarm, the flock will still be the same. If three new birds come along to join, the flock will be the same. There is no commander or central leader that tells birds where to go, so they have to move and decide in unity.
Nodes within a P2P behave similarly to that flock of birds. Nodes have something in common: the torrent. These nodes are also decentralized. There is no server commanding and controlling the behavior of these nodes.
For more clarity, let’s define the P2P inter-operational elements:
Let’s say you want to download Ubuntu’s ISO. You go into Ubuntu’s official site. Ubuntu is likely the seeder of the Ubuntu torrent. You download their torrent file and load it into your torrent client. The client establishes a connection with the torrent tracker or uses DHT to find the peers. The tracker logs your IP and sends you a list of peers (IPs) that also have an interest in the same file. The peers start sharing bits and pieces of the entire content. If you disconnect and come back a week later, the torrent swarm will likely be composed by an entirely new set of peers. But that is ok because the content (torrent file) health is what keeps the torrent swarm alive.
Torrents may compromise your privacy in two ways:
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the widespread solution to cover your tracks while torrenting. VPNs provide the right identify protection you need from the prying eyes of copyright trolls, hackers, or ISPs. They hide your tracks by encrypting your entire Internet connection and by masking your IP with someone else’s. VPNs provide a high level of security due to their encryption.
But VPNs were originally designed for quite a different purpose from what they are advertised today. They were created to connect geographically distant branch offices via unsecured networks like the Internet. They do this, by establishing an encrypted tunnel from client to server. So VPNs will provide a great of security but will hurt your speed and resources.
Proxy servers work as middle-man or intermediaries between client and destination. They centralize requests and responses from complex distributed networks and provide different processes like masking IP, hiding portions of the header, or filtering requests/responses. For example, a forwarding proxy can be used as an anonymizer to protect users of an internal network from the rest of the Internet. On the other hand, a reverse proxy can be used to protect a server from the rest of the Internet.
There is a type of proxy known as the SOCKS5 (level 5 OSI model) that can be used to anonymize your torrent traffic. While a SOCKS5 proxy does not encrypt traffic, as VPNs do, they can do mask your IP and can work with torrent applications (VPNs vs Proxies). Plus, SOCKS5 proxies tend to be more cost-efficient, easier to use, and provide faster speeds.
There is another type of technology that can be used to download and upload torrents privately. A technology designed with the sole purpose of seeding torrents. This technology is known as Seedboxes.
Seedboxes, as the name implies, are boxes built for torrent seeding. They may be deployed or obtained via a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or physical server or via shared or dedicated resources. Seedboxes are high-speed servers (not a network as a VPN) that are built around the idea of seeding torrents.
You could download torrents anonymously using VPNs and proxies if you are a casual torrent. But if you are a serious torrenter, and like to participate in public and private trackers, then seedboxes are the right path to take. Seedboxes will help you, not only download/upload torrents anonymously, but also save your resources, improve download speeds, and even stream your own content online.
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