This post by no means promotes the downloading of anything illegal, please use the information I provide here at your own risk.
I have been torrenting files for a long time. I remember when I first discovered torrents. This was around the time when people were using Napster-like p2p clients to download single songs. I remember the thrill I got downloading entire collections with the click of a button, all organized in folders by album. It was fucking awesome. I don’t swear much on this blog, but when I do, its warranted. Getting a decade of albums downloaded from a band in 5 minutes is indeed “fucking awesome.” Back then things were easier, nobody really knew how to fight the war on file sharing. Today its different. I am an advocate of file sharing to the fullest, but you need to take precautions before doing so.
Someone that is not familiar with using bit torrents might just waltz over to the Pirate Bay and start downloading. Maybe back then it was a good idea, but these days, you have to be smart. There are 3rd party companies that scour IP’s looking for idiots downloading cam videos of movies released yesterday only to offer them scary settlements or cease and desist letters. Here are some rules and guidelines to follow.
1) Don’t use Pirate Bay. Don’t get me wrong. The Pirate Bay is legendary and they are constantly fighting for internet freedom. The truth is, unless you are pretty experienced downloading torrents, this site can expose you to torrents riddled with virus’s, fake files, or torrents monitored closely for infringement.
2) Get yourself onto a private tracker. There are some really great private trackers out there. The problem with these is that its tough to find any with open registration. The only way to get into them is to be persistent and check every day to see if they open up registration. Another way is to get an invite from someone who is already a member. You can sometimes gain invites by being cool in a forum where someone might have a spare one for you. There are a number of great private trackers out there, just do a little research. I belong to “Iptorrents”. Another good one is “ilovetorrents”. Again, there are tons. The benefits of belonging to these are high speed downloads, and every file posted will usually have plenty of very accurate comments pertaining to the file of interest. You rarely find fake files posted or anything infected with a virus. One thing that you can’t be when belonging to a private tracker is a “leacher”. These are people who download files but do not share them. The trackers usually have a minimum ratio of download to upload that they want you to maintain. If you don’t maintain this requirement over a period of time, they will ban you from the community. This can sometimes be tough to do, especially when we get to my next topic.
3) Be careful what you seed. This won’t be popular amongst file sharing community, but if you are new to torrenting, don’t seed anything until you learn the ropes. You are probably thinking, “How can i get my sharing ratio up on a private tracker if I shouldn’t seed?” That answer is easy. Know and understand what you are seeding. Don’t seed anything new and popular as they are sure to be targeted files. Join a private tracker and download something obscure. A lot of the time, you can sort the search results for files that have a lot of people downloading them. Look for something obscure, even if its something that you don’t care about, you are getting it to increase your ratio. Another way to increase your ratio without uploading, is to “Donate”. Many of the private trackers will grant you a certain amount of Gigabyte downloads per dollar that you donate. The money goes towards server costs. Its a nice way to not seed, but to contribute without being looked at as a leach.
4) Get a VPN or Torrent Proxy….or even better..Both. These days, with the NSA nonsense, there hasn’t been a better time to get yourself a VPN. VPN’s are tricky. If you are not familiar with a VPN, its basically a service that gives you an alternate IP address other than your own. Everything you do online will go through the vpn first, kind of like a middle man. This in turn hides your IP address from prying eyes. Just recently, TorrentFreak recently published an article that was more of an investigative piece, where they went to all of the VPN services asking them about “Logging”. The article can be seen here. Many of them openly stated that they didn’t keep logs while some chose to not comment. The others simply said that they emptied the logs after a few days or daily, simply because they didn’t have the space to house that much data. When it comes down to it, this is the statement that carries the most validity. When it comes down to it, they could be lying, who knows. One thing that is probably true though, is that the amount of data to log every users activities is probably pretty ridiculous, and they would need to empty the logs. Regardless, you might as well go with one that promises complete anonymity. Torguard offers a VPN and specifically a torrent proxy, both relatively inexpensive. So basically I have my VPN and then when I torrent, my traffic goes through a proxy and then through the vpn, and vice versa. Can your activities be tracked if you use a VPN. Its possible, depends on how much they want to spend figuring out who you are and tracking your whereabouts. Again, this post isn’t promoting illegal downloading so this shouldn’t be a concern, but you should know your options when trying to stay private.
There is so much to learn about file-sharing, that your research shouldn’t end here. Read as much as you can about downloading and about current events with the copyright wars. It all directly effects file sharing and torrents weather you download illegal content or not. Always be educated and informed. Knowing is half the battle!