Torrenting is a popular form of file-sharing, which uses peer-to-peer, or P2P, networking technology. This allows a large number of users to be able to connect to a network and share content freely, without needing to rely on a single source for their downloads.
Over the years, torrenting has become extremely popular. It’s estimated that there are about 250 million internet users downloading torrents every single month.
But, while this type of file-sharing can be extremely beneficial for accessing content that would otherwise be inaccessible, torrenting comes with its own set of inherent risks that you should be aware of before attempting to download torrent files.
Due to the fact that most torrented material comes from sources that often infringe upon copyright law, downloading torrents can sometimes be illegal. So, to avoid any legal complications, the safest thing to do is to avoid torrenting completely.
However, if you insist on torrenting, it’s vital to make sure that your privacy is protected, and your activity is hidden from your ISP, who may be monitoring your activity for any signs of piracy.
The Legality of Torrenting
Well, the act of torrenting itself isn’t illegal. However, downloading copyrighted material from any unsanctioned sources is.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that’s it’s not always easy to tell if the content you’re downloading is legal or not. Depending on your location, some content might fall into a bit of a grey area when it comes to the law. Which means you could easily find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you’re not careful.
Both your internet service provider, as well as law enforcement agencies, monitor networks such as BitTorrent, and they can take action against you if they catch you red-handed.
The consequence for being caught ranges from warning letters and throttled internet service to legal action or lawsuits, although the latter is relatively rare.
Still, because it’s easy to download content protected under copyright unwittingly, safe torrenting always involves using a VPN to hide your activity.
Always Use a VPN for Torrenting
The best way to ensure that your data is protected is always to use a VPN while torrenting files from the internet.
Using a VPN achieves two things:
First, a VPN re-routes your traffic through one of its private servers. This masks your IP address as one being used by hundreds of other people, which adds a significant layer of security and anonymity since it’s nearly impossible for anyone to distinguish your actual IP address from the hundreds of other people using the one.
Secondly, it encrypts all your traffic before it leaves your computer. This means that it’s impossible for your ISP, or anyone else, to monitor and track your online activity. And, since your traffic is all bypassed through the VPN server first, it’s impossible for ISPs to see where your traffic is heading to either.
Also, keep in mind that not all VPNs tolerate torrenting and P2P traffic. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that the provider of your choice approves of using their service for torrenting.
Torrenting Vs. Streaming Services
Today, many people are moving away from downloading torrent files and instead, have started using streaming services such as Netflix or Kodi. But, when it comes to your own safety and the law, is it really any safer to be streaming?
Many people believe that streaming is safer than torrenting. But, from a legal standpoint, streaming is still be considered illegal if the content is protected by copyright and being streamed from an illegal source.
Still, the law tends to be slightly more lenient towards streaming, since it’s significantly harder for law enforcement agencies to catch internet users in the act of streaming illegal content.
On the other hand, when a person torrents a file, their IP address, as well as the IP addresses of anyone else uploading or downloading the same file becomes visible and traceable.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why using a VPN is crucial in order to download torrent files safely.
Other Safe Torrenting Alternatives
Aside from using a VPN, you might also consider using the Tor browser to keep your internet activity hidden. Tor works much in the same way as a VPN, in the way that it routes your internet activity through several of its volunteer servers to encrypt your traffic and keep you anonymous. But, is using Tor safe?
Regardless, we recommend using a VPN over Tor, because the Tor browser tends to be slower and is best to be used only for simple internet browsing and other low-bandwidth activities.
Another good rule of thumb for safe torrenting is to avoid downloading any movies or releases that came out on DVD or Blu-Ray within the past two months. During this time, copyright holders tend to be putting most of their anti-piracy efforts into going after people who download torrent files to help minimise their financial setbacks.
Finally, it’s important to understand that there are risks to torrenting, which is why you must vigilant and only download torrent files that you’re sure are safe.
Many of the more popular torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, are closely watched by copyright trolls and law enforcement agencies. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid them and download from unpopular sites either.
Just make sure to read through the comments section to see if anyone else has had issues with a file before downloading it. And even if a file seems like it’s safe to download, we still recommend using a VPN while downloading it, and then running your own anti-virus scan afterwards.