The internet contains just about anything that anyone could possibly be interested in. Millions of people all over the world are downloading something from it every second. The majority of them are using a direct download, a file that comes from one source. Another popular form, however, is called bittorrenting. People usually just call it torrenting to simplify things though. Instead of data being downloaded from a single source, it is taken in tiny bits from many different sources called seeders. When you torrent something there is a lot of information that is published to whoever is watching. Information, like your computer’s IP address, can be accessed by anyone who is curious. Because of that, many people like to download anonymously. Thankfully the process of hiding your information is quite easy compared to how it used to be. By clicking a single button you can make your IP address look like it is thousands of miles away. You accomplish this feat through a VPN, a virtual private network. Consider this as a torrenting guide so you can find the service that will keep your information safe.
Is A VPN All You Need to Be Protected?
All anyone has to do to find your information is to join a torrent and look at the other people’s IP address which sits there shining clear as day. There are a lot of people and companies that could potentially be watching your online activities, your company’s or university’s web administrator (even your internet service provider) is probably watching your online activity right now. They are not quite the same as an outsider watching because they can see exactly what you are doing, what sites you visit, what things you buy, what you are interested in, who you communicate with, what is in your email, etc. Specifically, if you are talking about downloading stuff online, they can examine what and how much you are downloading.
Many people get the wrong idea when it comes to a VPN, thinking that all they need is to be connected to a VPN to be completely safe from anyone snooping around while they download anything they want. Well, unfortunately it most likely is not all you need to protect yourself. So you might be wondering, does a personal VPN work for torrenting if it is not good at keeping your identity secret? Many services may not be able to protect you when the time comes. Thankfully, however, there are services that offer internet encryption AND complete anonymity. If you have both it means that snoopers can’t figure out what you are doing and what sites you are visiting online. Even if you didn’t complete the download of a torrent whether it is three megabytes or one gigabyte, once anyone has your IP address linked to a specific download, you are completely exposed.
Common Mistakes People Make While Torrenting
There a lot of people that know about VPN and how to use them for torrenting. However, many people make mistakes that defeat the point of anonymity. For instance, you just finished torrenting a movie correctly using the VPN with its built-in internet encryption but the file did not include the subtitles and you really wanted them. So you, with your VPN off, go searching for the subtitles online. You did not download them because you were just curious. Companies can compare the IP address of people looking for the subtitles of the movie to actual downloads of the movie. For an analogy, look at modern crime shows. There was no evidence at the crime scene but a few days earlier someone purchased all the tools to commit the crime using their credit card, now the police have a suspect.
You may also be one of the seeders for the file upon completion of the download and inadvertently expose yourself when you turn off the VPN connection while still seeding content to others in the torrent network. Whichever the case may be, the company that’s sniffing around now has your IP address and can do what they want with the information.
Avoid Exposure When Your VPN Connection Drops
There are also other things to be on the lookout for when torrenting. What happens when you are in the middle of a torrent and your connection to your VPN suddenly drops? Believe it or not, this happens quite often with free VPN services especially. Your computer will reconnect to the torrent with your actual IP address and not your anonymous proxy address. So make sure that you have enabled the internet kill switch option on the VPN. This will stop all internet activity on your computer if the VPN is disrupted, so there is no way for your IP to be broadcast by accident.
Finding the Right Service to Keep You Anonymous
There are many services out there claiming to be the best VPN for torrenting, but only a few select services actually offer everything detailed below to prevent those pesky companies and government agencies from watching you. Unfortunately, the services that have all of these traits are usually subscription based with recurring fees. You also have to keep a lookout for which programs will actually work out for you. VPN companies based in jurisdictions such as Switzerland, Panama, British Virgin Islands (BVI), Sweden and others like it should help to shield you from potential problems with the law.
Besides checking the country each VPN service is primarily based in, other characteristics you should also watch for include:
- Does the service even allow torrent traffic on their VPN servers? You’ll want to know this since you’re intending to use it for torrenting.
- Does the VPN company take anonymous payments such as Bitcoin or even gift card balances? If they capture your credit card details or Paypal info, it is too easy to link it to your account and activities.
- What do they do to ensure their services are not abused?
- If any data is collected, what exactly is it? How long is the data kept? How secure is it?
- What does the company do when confronted with a DMCA takedown notice?
- What legal procedures are necessary for the release of any information by the VPN provider?
- Do they own the VPN servers or are they leased from someone else? Getting this piece of information might be difficult in some cases but it is important since the owner still can get a hold of your information without needing to go through the VPN company.
- What encryption methods or security protocols do they offer with their plans? Do they have technology to prevent deep packet inspection of data?
Remember, just because a VPN service claims not to keep any logs doesn’t mean it can’t. Scrutinize the terms of service agreements carefully and watch for any red herrings. A good rule to follow: if you don’t feel comfortable with the service, move on and find another. There is no shortage of other companies offering this service.
Lastly, not all companies offer plans that work for every operating system. If you are using an Apple OS the choices for a VPN might be different than a Microsoft Windows OS. You might also want to use the service for your portable devices to stay protected while on the road. When you use a VPN for torrenting on a Mac or iOS, you want to make sure you are being protected. The same goes for using a VPN for torrenting on Android and Windows as well. So next time you go to torrent something to your computer, please remember to use protection and remain anonymous for greater safety and peace of mind.