Torrenting may be dangerous if safeguards are not taken. Apart from the legal ramifications, downloading and uploading data using BitTorrent exposes you to a variety of cyber risks.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, encrypts and routes your internet traffic via an intermediate server. This safeguards you in two critical ways when torrenting:
- Encryption ensures that neither your internet service provider nor any other third party on your network can see what you are downloading.
- By routing torrents via a middleman server, you may conceal your device’s IP address and the fact that you’re connected to the BitTorrent network from other torrenters.
Without the ability to track what you downloaded or where you obtained it, snoopers and hackers cannot monitor or attack you.
If BitTorrent or torrent tracker websites are restricted to your location, a VPN may help you circumvent such restrictions.
How to find a VPN that is secure for torrenting
No VPN will suffice. You’ll want to work with a trusted supplier that delivers the following important characteristics for secure torrenting:
- A “kill switch” that disables all downloads in the event that the VPN connection is lost for whatever reason. This stops unencrypted torrent traffic from being transmitted straight from your device.
- A rigorous no-logs policy stating that the VPN service will not monitor or record your downloads and that when you download, your actual IP address or other identifying information will not be logged.
- While fast downloads are not technically required, who doesn’t like them?
NordVPN is recommended. This is the quickest VPN we’ve tested and it has unmatched security, preventing data leakage outside the encrypted tunnel. The firm maintains no logs of personally identifiable information or permits filesharing on any server.
CyberGhost VPN and ExpressVPN are both excellent value-for-money choices. You’ll receive all the security you need while staying within your budget.
How to torrent safely and securely with a VPN
Once you’ve selected a VPN that fits all of the above requirements, just follow the instructions below to get started.
Install the VPN client software on your device. This is often a download from the VPN provider’s website or the app store on your device.
Install and start the VPN.
Navigate to the settings and check the following options:
- The kill switch (sometimes referred to as a “network lock”) is activated.
- Leak protection is activated.
- You’re connecting to a VPN through a secure protocol, such as OpenVPN or IKEv2. PPTP should be avoided.
- Optional: If your VPN enables split tunneling, you may choose which applications connect over the VPN and which connect directly or unencrypted. If desired, you may include your torrent downloading program into the former.
Choose a server or a location for the server. Depending on your VPN service, you may be required to connect to a certain location, such as Canada or the Netherlands, to torrent. A server located closer to your location often results in quicker downloads.
Establish a VPN connection. Allow a short period for the connection to form.
You’re now connected to the internet using an encrypted connection and have been assigned a new IP address. Open your torrent client and begin downloading!
What is torrenting and how does it work?
BitTorrent is decentralized, which distinguishes it from traditional single-source downloads. Rather than doing that, you’ll download files from the machines of other BitTorrent users. On the other hand, the majority of torrenting software also allows you to post files from your computer for others to download.
This is accomplished by other users downloading and uploading identical files connected in what is referred to as a “swarm.” The IP addresses of all users in the swarm are visible to one another.
An IP address is a numeric and decimal sequence that is unique to your device. Additionally, IP addresses provide information about your approximate location. Exposure of your IP address to strangers in a swarm may put you in danger, which is one of the primary reasons we advocate utilizing a VPN. When you connect to a VPN, other swarm members see the VPN server’s IP address rather than your own.
Users who upload files are referred to as “seeds,” while those who receive them are referred to as “leeches.” It is feasible and rather frequent to connect to many swarms simultaneously when downloading and uploading data.
All of this uploading and downloading is disseminated across all devices in a swarm, hence the term peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing.
Why is it vital to use a VPN for secure torrenting?
When torrenting, a VPN may assist in overcoming a few privacy and security concerns.
Your Internet Protocol (IP) address is a target
When you use BitTorrent to download or upload a file, your IP address is visible to everyone else downloading the same item. Hackers and copyright trolls often swarm torrent swarms in search of IP addresses to target.
Hackers may conduct a scan of your IP address to open ports that they may use to gain access to your home network. Additionally, they may conduct a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assault on you.
Copyright trolls often gather the IP addresses of torrent users they suspect of pirating copyrighted content. They’ll send threatening settlement letters on behalf of the copyright owner through your internet service provider.
A VPN replaces your IP address with that of the VPN server, making you invisible to copyright trolls and hackers.
Internet service provider throttling and spying
Without a VPN, your ISP may see your torrents. ISPs often frown upon torrenting, even if done legitimately. They may respond by slowing down your internet connection or even threatening to suspend your account in return.
The encryption provided by a VPN stops your ISP from seeing what you’re downloading. It can detect that something is being downloaded, but it is unable to understand its contents or origin.
Trackers of torrents that have been censored
Certain nations restrict access to torrent trackers, which are websites and services that allow users to browse and search for torrents. Similarly, your business or school may filter them as well.
By bypassing your connection via a VPN server, which serves as an intermediary, a VPN avoids these restrictions. Authorities, schools, and businesses are only able to see the connection to the VPN server, not the connection to the tracker.
A cautionary note on NAT firewalls and port forwarding
Numerous household WiFi routers and VPN services have NAT firewalls. In a nutshell, they keep unwanted internet traffic away from your device. This is often a positive thing for security. You just wouldn’t want anybody sending anything to your phone or laptop.
However, NAT firewalls may obstruct torrenting by limiting connections to peers. This may significantly slow down download rates and potentially prevent you from uploading files entirely.
Bypassing a NAT firewall is achievable using a technique called port forwarding. Port forwarding is usually enabled by default on your wireless network, as well as by several VPNs and torrenting software. However, care should be used with port forwarding, since it might expose ports to intruders. Additionally, if you pirate using a different port than the majority of other users, you make it much easier for other parties to trace you.
Have you ever encountered this?
You boot up your PC, launch your torrent client, and… oh no! You neglected to establish a VPN connection first. While you’re scrambling to switch it on, you’re already connecting to peers and exchanging files over an unencrypted, direct connection, revealing your true IP address.
This is where IP binding may be advantageous. IP binding is an option available to several torrent managers, including uTorrent. This prevents your device from transmitting torrent traffic unless you use a certain IP address. You may change this IP address to that of your preferred VPN server so that BitTorrent will not operate unless you are connected to a VPN.
IP binding is advantageous protection if you neglect to switch on your VPN. Consult our instructions on configuring IP binding in uTorrent.
Verify files prior to downloading
While we’ve explored the security and privacy implications of BitTorrent, you should also exercise caution when downloading files. Torrents have a reputation for containing viruses, so take safeguards before they reach your system.
Large numbers of seeds and leeches are often an indication that the community has confidence in this file. Numerous trackers enable users to write comments, so examine them carefully for any unfavorable feedback.
Always check files with an antivirus program before opening or running them.
Additionally, private trackers exist that restrict uploaders and downloaders to a limited set of individuals. This reduces the likelihood of a malevolent actor uploading anything, although private torrent trackers often require an invitation from an existing user.