Torrenting is a great method of downloading content from the web based on a peer-to-peer system. Instead of expensive file hosting that would need to be paid for by the uploader, the files are downloaded from a number of users who share the burden of uploading files.
And while there are more and more people torrenting for one reason or another, a number of questions about it remain unanswered such as how torrenting works, whether it is legal, or how to torrent safely.
If you want answers to these questions, you are in the right place. This article will help you learn a thing or two about torrenting and get it to a whole new level.
Is torrenting legal?
Torrenting itself is legal. As a method of peer-to-peer file sharing, it provides users with a possibility to download content from the internet free of charge.
As broadband internet gained popularity, torrenting became widespread as users were finally able to upload and download content at higher speeds, which allowed them to share much larger files.
However, torrents quickly became synonymous with illegal actions since a number of users started sharing copyrighted movies, music, TV shows, books, and other content. Therefore, it is the sharing of this content that is illegal, not torrenting itself.
How does torrenting work?
When a user downloads a file through torrent, they download smaller pieces of the file from other users. All the pieces that you have downloaded then become available to other users to download from you. That way, everyone who uses torrents technically also hosts a file for download.
Moreover, torrents work in a different way than direct downloads. They use a specific method for file transfer which is based on the BitTorrent technology, making torrent traffic distinctive and easily noticeable by your ISP.
As a torrent user, you share your IP address with other users to facilitate downloading. When you are torrenting, your ISP identifies torrenting activities coming from your IP address and tracks them to see which types of files you are downloading.
Now, copyright holders don’t really care that much about users who stream or download their content, but they do about those who share it.
That is why people who torrent can easily get caught if they do it directly through their ISP. So, if you use torrents to download copyrighted material, you are in trouble.
How to stay safe while torrenting?
Not only is torrenting legally in the grey zone but it is also often dangerous as you are exposed to computer viruses and other malware.
If you want to stay safe and anonymous while torrenting, here are some of the most effective methods to do it.
Download from respected websites
When torrenting, you often don’t have a clue what you are downloading until you open the file. And sometimes, that may be too late since some torrent files contain malicious code hidden inside them that can infect your computer.
For this reason, instead of downloading content from any torrent website, you need to look for torrents on trusted websites. This will keep you safe from viruses and malware.
Install antivirus software
Another way to protect yourself from viruses is to install an antivirus which will help protect from malicious torrents.
If you are a Windows user, you probably have Windows Defender, which works well for catching most viruses. On the other hand, regardless of whether you use Windows or Mac, you can always install a third-party antivirus software tool like Kaspersky, Norton, or Bitdefender.
However, make sure that you have only one antivirus program installed at a time since they tend to interfere with each other’s functions.
Download legal content
As you could already read in this article, torrenting itself is not illegal if you download legal content. So, the solution is rather simple – download only legal content.
Some copyright holders watch closely for people who share their content illegally, especially when a movie or show has been recently released in cinemas or on DVD/Blu-ray.
Instead of downloading illegal content, you can find a lot of free and legal content that is often of the same or even better quality than the latest blockbuster.
PeerBlock is a desktop firewall – a very useful program that basically blocks the IP addresses of known torrent trackers. In other words, it prevents your device from being able to connect to these IP addresses and thus blocks them from participating in your torrent traffic.
However, it is highly unlikely that the blacklist of IP addresses could contain all the torrent trackers’ IPs. In addition, if you want to use a free version of PeerBlock, the blacklist is updated only upon the program installation and you need to pay in order to have regular updates.
Therefore, using PeerBlock is not a surefire way to avoid getting caught, especially since your ISP will be able to tell that you are using torrents to download files.
Look for seeders and comments
One of the ways to tell if a torrent file is corrupted is to look for the number of seeders it has. If a torrent file has a large number of seeders, it is generally considered to be safe.
There is a simple reason behind this – other users have downloaded and checked the file, and they found no viruses in it. Another advantage of a file with a lot of seeders is that it can be downloaded much faster since there are a lot of hosts for it.
One more thing that can help you determine whether a file is safe is the comments section. If there are no comments about a potential virus, the file is probably safe. On the other hand, if previous users have mentioned a virus, steer clear from that file.
However, you need to be aware that neither seeders nor comments are a guarantee that the file is safe to download.
Avoid risky file extensions
Certain file types are more prone to viruses than others. This is particularly true for executable files, so make sure to stay away from them.
The most common executable files to avoid are .exe and .bat. It is good to know that cracked programs are generally the most dangerous files that you can download through torrents.
Download the torrent onto a virtual machine
When you download a torrent file onto a virtual machine or sandbox, it is much easier to prevent it from infecting your computer with a virus.
In fact, doing this is very simple – when you download the torrent onto your virtual machine, use an antivirus to scan the file for viruses. If it is clean, you are good to go but if not, make sure you delete it right away.
Join a private torrent community
If you are an old hand at torrenting, you have probably heard of private torrenting communities. The best-known such communities are:
Getting into such a community is not easy since you need to get an invitation to join it. In addition, there is a limited number of members in each community and generally one of them must leave in order for another member to be able to join.
If you really want to join a private torrent community, make sure to be active on Reddit, make contacts, and be in the circle of people who are already members of such communities.
Use a VPN to torrent
Finally, one of the best solutions to stay safe while torrenting and download all types of content is to use a virtual private network.
There are two reasons why a VPN is a superior solution for torrenting. First, it reroutes your internet traffic through a server of your choice and technically changes your IP to a completely different IP address. This technology provides better online security and anonymous torrent activities as it makes it much more difficult for anyone to track your activities.
Moreover, the fact that a VPN encrypts your traffic before it leaves your computer means that neither your ISP nor anyone else can monitor your activity, making your torrenting activities top secret.
Connect to a proxy server
If for one reason or another, you are not a big fan of VPNs, a proxy server will do the job almost as well as a VPN.
It will replace your true IP address with another one, but you can choose only one application to be encrypted at a time. Even though a proxy is not as effective as a VPN, it is the next best solution for torrenting safely and anonymously.