5 Tips to Stay Safe While Torrenting
By Nick Anderson 6 minutes
Torrenting is an easy way to download large files. It is popular among internet users as a way to download movies and games for free. The obvious copyright violation aside, the public torrenting websites are not safe. One thing that hackers look for distributing malware are platforms with a high number of active users.
Torrent websites easily hit monthly users in the millions. And because of the unverified nature of files uploaded to the platforms, it’s easy for hackers to distribute trojans. But you can follow a few tips to stay safe while torrenting.
What is Seeding and Leeching in Torrents?
BitTorrent is the technology that enables torrenting. It is based on the peer-to-peer (P2P) network, which is a decentralized network of users. In this type of network, users act as both the client and the server. It is different than the more common type of network called client-server network, in which data is hosted and shared by a central server. Any communication between two users on a client-server network goes through the server first.
In P2P file sharing, users on the network share bits of a file that they contain. New users joining in download those bits of a file, then immediately begin sharing those with other users. This creates harmony between users, where they all upload and download some parts of a file concurrently. The uploaders of the file are called seeders, and downloaders of the file are called leechers.
The more seeders there are on the network, the faster your file download will be, provided that your internet connection can keep up. Here are some tips if you want to upgrade your internet connection.
Public Torrents vs. Private Torrents
A distinction between torrent websites is accessibility. As the name implies, public torrent websites are platforms that are open to all. Anyone can visit the website, search for torrents, and download them. They can just as easily upload torrents and start seeding them. While it makes public torrent websites accessible and more popular, it also makes them vulnerable to malicious software.
Private torrent websites are exclusive in nature. They require a sign-up process, and at times require an invitation from an existing member. Furthermore, there is also a strict download and upload policy that makes users upload the torrents that they have downloaded. This policy makes torrents on private trackers more likely to have active seeders even after a few years.
On the note of uploading torrents, private trackers typically have a reputation system that provides an insight into the legitimacy of the torrent file.
Is Torrenting Legal?
As explained above, torrenting is based on the BitTorrent protocol and is absolutely legal. The problem lies in what you torrent.
Torrenting websites are swarming with illegal content such as movies, TV shows, games, and applications. These content are protected under copyright laws, which dictate that the distribution of the content without the permission of the owner is an offense. It imposes strict fines and even jail time for copyright infringement.
Over the years, many torrents websites have been shut down by law enforcement agencies. Torrenting websites such as Kat.cr and The Pirate Bay that were once very popular on the internet for hosting copyrighted content are no longer online.
The DMCA is an entity that actively monitors such platforms to find users who violate copyright laws. In one extreme example, the three owners of The Pirate Bay torrent website were sentenced to serve jail time and a collective fine of more than $7 million USD. While a user will not rack up such hefty fines, you can expect to see a fine if you are caught downloading copyrighted content illegally.
How to Stay Safe While Torrenting
You need to have a basic understanding to stay protected while torrenting. Here are some torrenting tips:
Before you can download any torrent file, head over to the comments section and read the feedback. There will be people who have downloaded the torrent and possibly scanned it through an anti-virus too. If the comments check out, then it’s probably safe to torrent it.
Turn on your anti-virus
Did the torrent not have enough information? You may take the risk solely on the number of seeders available and download the torrent. Scan the downloaded file through an up-to-date anti-virus. The anti-virus may flag the program if it detects anything suspicious when executed.
Don’t download copyrighted content
It goes without saying that downloading copyrighted content without the permission of the owner is illegal. But more than that, movies, games, and computer applications have been known to be trojans.
A crypto-miner was discovered to have infected thousands of PCs worldwide. The report identified that the “Crackonosh” malware was distributed through popular games such as Grand Theft Auto V on torrents.
Switch to Private Torrent Websites
Private torrent websites are exclusive in nature. But, if you can have some friend hook you up with an invite, or the platform is accepting new registrations for the moment, it will be worth it. Private torrent platforms are much safer than their public counterparts.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN will mask your IP address from other users on the network. It can hide your geo-location and prevent any DDoS attacks. FastestVPN has over 550 VPN servers worldwide. Connect to the nearest VPN server from your location to get the best download speeds.
Install an ad-blocker
Torrenting websites have excessive ads plastered all over the web pages. There are also little download buttons that are links to spam domains. It may confuse you which button to press on the download page. Download an ad-blocker to block all ad elements on the page.
As you surf through thousands of torrents, ensure that what you download is not protected by copyrights.
Malware may escape detection despite anti-virus protection. Corrupted files and programs, missing data, slow performance are some of the signs of malware. Narrow down to when the issues occurred and what you had downloaded since then manually scan those files with an updated anti-virus program.