“Torrenting” is something which has become fairly common on the internet and has become the most popular method of doing one thing. Downloading free movies and TV shows online. We could discuss some of the other things which torrenting allows computer users to do, but this is what it is most known for.
Something which you probably don’t know though is that by torrenting content, your activity is still available and can be seen by other users on the internet. Because of this, we’re going to be taking a look at how you can get around this problem (whilst maintaining your high broadband speeds) by picking a VPN.
How BitTorrent Works
If you have a basic understanding of how sending files across a network works, skip to the next paragraph. If not, let’s jump into it. Generally, files are sent in their original form: as one file. This data is sent as many different packets across a network, although the network will still feel the stress as if the file was being sent as one file.
BitTorrent, however, allows for files to be split up into incredibly small chunks so that every person who is download the file, can also be uploading the file to. The more people who begin to download a file, the fast the download gets for others. This is because as certain file segments are downloaded, they are being uploaded and sent to other users.
We’ll try not to get too complicated with how this works, although this peer-to-peer system which is used is incredibly effective when it comes to sending large files and actually is a lot faster than regular downloads.
After all of these file segments have been downloaded by a single user, they are patched together as one file again and work like they should. The only issue is that when it comes to torrenting files, privacy is undoubtedly lacking.
As previously stated, BitTorrent is the perfect method for transferring files as it allows for networks to share bandwidth and create their own network of peers which they can download any data from. Some torrents use something known as “trackers”. Trackers can be used to locate peers.
However, regardless of whether a torrent user’s trackers, torrent clients are not the most secure when it comes to privacy and anyone who is connected to the “swarm” and is a peer will be able to view the information which his being leaked. From your network’s IP address to information regarding the content which you’re downloading, a lot of information is made available.
There are many copyright agencies which use this to their advantage and will connect to different torrenting networks so that they can get a hold of IP addresses and target individuals who are illegally obtaining content which they would otherwise profit from.
To help you get an idea of how common this sort of monitoring is, Birmingham University recently released a study which showed that users begun being monitored within the first 3 hours of them connecting to a torrenting peer-to-peer network.
Let’s side-track for a moment. This is something which copyright agencies do, although over the years it has led to a lot of legal issues for several different parties. An example of this is “Prenda Law”; a firm who attempted to make a guess, which was based on statistics, regarding how many internet users were illegally downloading content. This let to Prenda Law being sanctioned.
With this in mind, it’s becoming more common for law firms to sue individual users who are yet to be named, and thus forcing ISPs to provide these law firms with the information which correlates with the culprit’s identity.
To finish of this tracking section, let’s quickly discuss how a VPN can sort this out. Since these law firms will be in search of your IP address, using a VPN will mask your true IP address and so if a law firm does focus in on you, they won’t be able to pinpoint that IP address to a single individual.
In regard to torrenting, if you are someone who torrents frequently and uses a lot of broadband data, make sure that the VPN you choose to use has a fairly high data usage. If you go over the data limit, you will either be cut from the service until your subscription renews or will be charged a set rate for going over the limit.
We previously briefly discussed how in order to rapidly increase both upload and download speeds BitTorrent creates several connections around the world. Even for individuals who use a VPN, there are several vulnerabilities when it comes to your internet security and privacy.
This is largely because of VPN providers who continuously log every action which their users perform. Along with information which is available from simply joining a peer-to-peer swarm, you can get in a fair bit of legal trouble.
Although there are other options, the best would be to look into a VPN which either doesn’t keep any logs at all, or which overwrites their logs shortly after being written. Given that logging data is different from a legal standpoint all across the world, you may struggle to find a VPN which abides by this.
If you find a VPN which doesn’t keep logs rather quickly, fantastic! Our only suggestion here would be to look into their terms and conditions and find out for sure whether or not they keep logs and if they do, what information it is that they log. Some services store logs so that if something goes wrong, they have an easier time troubleshooting what the issue is, so acknowledge this.
The bottom line is, always take the time to run your eyes over the terms and conditions.
Using a VPN Properly and Using a Kill Switch
Even though there are several advantages to using a VPN, these advantages are only in place if you know how to use the VPN properly. We all mess up from time to time, although messing up with a VPN could get your real IP address out to the world.
After some time of using a VPN, you’ll begin to use it subconsciously and won’t even realise if it drops. For whatever reason this may happen, it’s not something you’re likely to notice.
Some people notice that their Skype status icon turns blue, others notice that their webpage won’t continue to load. A lot of people don’t notice at all. The thing is, if you continue to torrent data or continue to browse the internet, you are no longer protected by the VPN. For this reason alone, VPNs have begun to use a “kill switch” method which instantly blocks your devices internet access.
If the VPN disconnects without notice, the kill switch will hop into action and you won’t be able to access the internet.
As with the logging feature, this is something that we recommend focussing in on and making sure that your VPN has before you purchase it.
Protection Against a DNS Leak
The last thing that we’re going to look at is how to protect yourself against a DNS leak. Even if you are using a VPN, your network is still using your ISP’s pre-defined DNS servers and so if you are torrenting copyright content and your computer is requesting server details for torrent related websites, you could get yourself into some trouble.
Without getting too complicated, a DNS address can be compared to a phonebook. Even if a VPN is in place, a DNS can be used to leak your internet traffic.
There are two issues which this vulnerability can lead to.
The first issue is that this can lead to legal issues depending on how your ISP logs their DNS requests (if they do at all).
The second issue is that many ISPs in places such as the United Kingdom have begun blocking torrent websites using DNS servers, and so even a VPN will not help you get around this.
That being said, we’re happy to provide you with a way around this. Rather than go through the trouble of finding a separate VPN service and DNS servers which are reliable, find a VPN service which will provide you with DNS servers too. By doing this, all DNS requests are being sent through the same connection as your VPN.
If you done as we previously suggested and looked into how your VPN service logs data, then you’ll be aware of if they log DNS requests too. To top it off, your DNS traffic will also be encrypted since it will be going through the VPN connection and so you’ll be completely invisible when it comes to the internet.
There’s a lot of information that we’ve discussed in this article. We focussed in on some of the issues which torrenting entails, as well as how you can get around these problems and solve them for yourself.
The BitTorrent industry is continuously developing and becoming a platform for many different things, although there’s no doubting that it will continue to be well-known for the illegality which is downloading movies and TV shows.
After taking everything which we’ve discussed today on board, you’ll be able to look at some of the different VPNs which are available and confidently pick the best one available.