From the moment you log a new torrent into your client, your IP address becomes public to the entire swarm — which is precisely where your anonymity should be protected.
Sharing a torrent file within a P2P swarm makes everyone, including you, share public IP addresses of all the peers, or members of the swarm.
What if the swarm is infested with hungry copyright trolls?
What if someone in the swarm, where you are happily sharing torrents, is recording and keeping track of the entire swarm’s information, from what are they sharing, IPs, country of origin, to user’s torrent clients.
It only takes running a simple “what’s my IP?” online to know your local ISP and ASN, contacting them regarding the IP, a couple of screenshots, and you are all set for a DCMA letter or hopefully a bandwidth cap.
Not everyone wants this.
In this post, we’ll go through the three layers of staying anonymous while torrenting. First, consider downloading torrents from private trackers, then using a VPN, and finally a Seedbox
1. First Layer. Don’t go Public, Use a Private Tracker
Public trackers are torrent servers full of interesting characters, from people with the best sharing intentions, the hit-n-runs (the ones that don’t like sharing), and the dreaded copyright trolls.
Popular examples of public trackers? ThePirateBay (TPB) and KickassTorrents (KAT).
In a public tracker’s swarm, you’ll have to risk it all. You’ll have to hand over your sensitive information to every uninvited member within the swarm. After all, anyone has access to it. Everybody will be able to see your location, public IP, your torrent client, and know what you are downloading.
But, this is exactly the magic of P2P! So what do you do to protect yourself?
Simple… when you don’t want to go public, go private!
Private trackers are closed torrenting communities, which are very strict about who’s a member. Private trackers ensure that:
- They have the most extensive and updated torrent libraries.
- They want to make sure that everyone is sharing. High sharing ratio is a must, and hit-n-run users are quickly dismissed.
- They want to keep the copyright trolls away, as far away as possible.
To make this work, torrent trackers send invites (instead of following simple registration), they test their new members and set rigorous rules.
Private trackers are safe places to download torrents anonymously. But still, there have been some cases where copyright trolls have managed to secure membership and harvest IP addresses. Also, these places require you to SHARE!…, that means you’ll end up consuming your resources.
2. Second Layer. Use a VPN or Proxy over a private tracker
There have been some cases where copyright agencies are diligent enough (and sneaky) to get invited to private trackers. Here, copyright trolls can cause havoc, such as gather evidence and record IP addresses from swarms sharing material.
There are also some private trackers (that are considered semi-private). These places are easier to register, and anyone can have an account. So they are not safe.
This means that the only way to remain truly anonymous is to use a VPN (or a Proxy) over the private tracker. VPNs are cheap and easy alternatives to keep the right level of anonymity and privacy.
A VPN hides your details from the entire swarm. “In theory,” either private or public trackers, your personal information should not be able to be tracked down by anyone. However… some of these more advanced copyright trolls, track down VPN public IP addresses from public tracker swarms, then send DCMA letters to these VPN operators.
… and what VPN providers do?
Forward the letter to you!
Some things to consider when downloading torrents with a VPN:
- VPNs allocate dynamic IP addresses: Unless you request a dedicated IP, VPNs will automatically connect you to a server with fewer users. That means when you are connected with your sharing ratio ID “with the specific VPN IP,” in your private tracker, you’ll be forced to a new IP, which makes it impossible to maintain a ratio.
- Make 100% (stated by their policy) that VPN allows torrents. There have been some cases where enforcement has requested VPN operators to provide “real IP address” of users found on public trackers. A VPN service that allows torrents may have to be located in a friendly-data jurisdiction country.
- VPNs use your local resources: Using a VPN with a private tracker is a good idea, but remember, private trackers, request a high sharing ratio. To have a high sharing ratio, you have to upload continuously (more than what you download), which puts a strain on your bandwidth, computer’s CPU, and data plan.
- Do not use a free VPN. Free VPNs have a reputation for keeping logs, being slow, and have data caps. Do not even think about using a free VPN for torrenting.
3. Third Layer. Use a Seedbox (private or public)
Seedboxes are the third layer and the best way to download torrents anonymously. A seedbox is a software-based instance (dedicated or shared)/(VPS or non-VPS) made specifically for torrenting.
Initially, these boxes were designed for seeding, which is where the name comes from. Seedboxes were made so that you could leave your computer and bandwidth alone and forget about the torrent sharing ratio. A seedbox does not rely on your resources — you can have a crappy home computer and bandwidth and still download at 10Gbps from high-speed data centers.
But popular seedbox providers have evolved so much that now they are offering extra features such as streaming, top-of-line speed/security, remote desktop, root access, preinstalled apps, customer service, and much more.
So how to download torrents anonymously with a Seedbox?
- Log into the Seedbox via a secured web console or any remote admin application.
- Operate your seedbox. Install apps, download torrents, set up streaming, etc. Leave your seedbox sharing torrents as you please.
- Monitor torrent client. Log into the torrent client installed on the seedbox, remotely and securely, and manage your downloads/uploads on the go.
- Stream your content (without downloading it). Plex media server allows you to organize and stream all your content online.
- Download media content to your local resources. Users may not want to leave all media stored on the cloud, so they can download to their local resources using safe transferring mechanisms such as SFTP, FTPS, Rsync, HTTPs, etc.
A Seedbox keeps your online activity private! Forget about logs, bandwidth throttling, contracts, etc… Seedboxes are made to keep your anonymity intact.
There are a couple of things you can do to remain anonymous and hide your tracks while torrenting.
The first layer of anonymity can be obtained by staying within safe boundaries, by using private trackers (instead of public). The second level of anonymity can be obtained by using a VPN on the private tracker (or public). And finally, the best way to stay anonymous while torrenting is to use a Seedbox.