How to Secure Your Torrent Downloads

Internet security and privacy are two topics that are frequently in the news. Those Internet users who use the BitTorrent protocol to share files are perhaps more aware of these security and privacy issues than others. Many government agencies, special interest groups, corporations, and hackers with malicious intentions monitor torrent downloads and look for people to catch, sue, or attack.

Because of this reality, it is important for torrent file sharers to find ways to protect themselves from litigation, prosecution, bandwidth shaping, and malware. The following tips should help you make your torrent experience safer, private, and more secure.

Disclaimer: Downloading copyrighted media without the owner’s permission is illegal is some countries. Under no circumstances is this article intended to encourage illegal activity, and there are no guarantees that this information will protect you from any legal action.

1. Port Forwarding

Every modern router has some form of port forwarding that you can use for your bittorrent client. With it, you can circumvent ISPs that may block common torrent ports or limit their bandwidth usage. Using port forwarding, you could, for example, forward your BitTorrent traffic through the standard web port (80). Some torrent clients also support randomizing of ports so that they will use a different one every time you start them.

Router configuration port forwarding

2. Limit Downloads and Uploads

Since many ISPs now limit the amount of bandwidth you can consume within a month (or even at certain times of the day), it is important to not let your torrent downloading and uploading go unchecked. Torrent clients like qBittorrent have features that allow you to limit the number, speed, and even time of day that downloads are allowed.

qBittorrent download limits configuration

3. Encryption

Encryption is all about privacy. There is no reason for anyone, even your ISP to know exactly what sites you are visiting or what files you are downloading. Most torrent clients support some type of encryption for the data and/or header information. It is important to note that encryption will not mask your IP address, so anyone spying on the torrent (i.e. actively connected to the tracker) will still know you are downloading it, but anyone trying to spy on your Internet traffic in general will not be able to see what you are doing.

qBittorrent encryption configuration

4. Filter Lists

There are plenty of organizations that are known for their snooping or malicious intent. With an IP filter list, you can completely block them from connecting to you as peers, thereby eliminating any chance of them monitoring you and catching you in the act of downloading something. This may also help reduce the chance that you will connect to a peer that sends out harmful data or malware.

5. Proxy or VPN

Of all of the security measures on the list, this is by far the most effective. By routing your torrent traffic through a proxy or VPN, you can completely hide yourself from the outside world. Used in combination with the other tools on this list, your torrent downloading will be virtually covert. Proxy providers usually charge a subscription fee, and they will require you to either download a specially configured bittorrent client or reconfigure yours to use their proxy (often utilizing a SOCKS5 protocol).

Your privacy, however, is only as secure as the company offering the service. If they are under investigation or are willing to sell your information, using their services may not help you at all. Therefore, it is a good idea to ask around and do your research before using a proxy or VPN service.

qBittorrent proxy configuration

Privacy and Security

The media often associates BitTorrent with illegal file sharing, but there are numerous legitimate organizations, from Linux distribution developers to content delivery networks (CDN), that make use of bittorrent technology. Furthermore, many free media distributors who use open licenses, such as Creative Commons, use bittorrent to help reduce their bandwidth costs.

With a little effort, you can use the above-mentioned tools to help you take back your right to download and share legitimate content and software, while also maintaining your privacy and security.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.

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