Bit Torrent Anonymity: Illusion or Reality

Digital Thief With about 5,000 people being sued over the illegal download of the Hurt Locker via the peer-to-peer Bit Torrent network, some may be curious how to “safely” download content (be it the latest copy of the Big Bang Theory, or the latest Ubuntu) without corporations spying on what is being transferred. When a user connects to the bit torrent network and starts downloading a file, they are broadcasting their IP address, allowing others to connect to them, and download portions of the file they may need. The issue with this is that you are essentially proclaiming that you have files (you are uploading content) which you may not have license to distribute. To be entirely honest, the best way to avoid being sued over downloading content is to quite simply not download it. If you absolutely need a file (say the latest Muse single, prior to album release), I’d suggest a non peer-to-peer solution such as newsgroups. At least in this way, you aren’t retransmitting content to others.

In terms of providing anonymity for yourself, if you choose to use the very public bit torrent network, I’d suggest a few options:

1) Peer Block – an open-source program which you can run in the background, which can help block *some* organizations from spying on you. Note: this does NOT provide 100% protection. The best protection is not using bit torrent for questionable downloads. For those who think this sounds familiar, it’s based off the same code that ran Peer Guardian years ago. This version actually supports 64 bit windows, which comes in handy for those not living in the past.

2) Use some VPN service that allows encrypted data between yourself and the VPN service. In this way, your traffic is not easily decipherable to those snooping on your traffic. This option can also be useful in getting around ISP traffic shaping, given your service provider will see encrypted traffic, as opposed to bit torrent specific packets.

3) There’s an interesting service called BitBlinder which is in private beta now (allows encryption of traffic) – to read more about it check out:

4) If you use Utorrent, enable  Outgoing Protocol Encryption (helps bypass traffic shaping for some ISP’s):

Ultimately though, there’s no such thing as entire anonymity. If you want to download files, and not be tracked, it’s probably advisable to stay off peer-to-peer networks.

Seeding Ubuntu 10.04 64bit at a computer near you,


Image courtesy of Vernhart – Digital Thief / CC BY 2.0


Author: sylint

I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

One thought on “Bit Torrent Anonymity: Illusion or Reality”

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