HomeTechnologyNewsWhy you shouldn't use BitTorrent instead of Tor

Why you shouldn’t use BitTorrent instead of Tor

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You should not download torrent files using Tor, as the network cannot handle the stress. There are also some security issues at play that leave you open to tracking by watchdogs. Using a VPN for torrenting is a better option for several reasons.

If you’re looking to get started with torrenting, you probably know that you should use some form of protection when doing so. However, one of the most popular ways to remain anonymous online, The Onion Router or Tor, is generally not recommended for use with the BitTorrent protocol. Why is that?

Torrents are subject to tracking

Torrenting with the BitTorrent protocol is generally frowned upon by the powers that be, as it is a very popular way of distributing copyrighted material without the permission of copyright holders, a practice better known as hacking. . As a result, if you torrent files, there is a good chance someone is watching, especially in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe.

If a copyright watchdog tracks you down, you can expect a warning or two, followed by a fine if you persist. Depending on your location, you could even be sued, like a Minnesota woman who was ordered to pay $220,000 for downloading two dozen songs in 2012.

As a result, you may want to avoid being tracked. As far as no one can tell, this tracking is done by monitoring torrenters’ IP addresses, the set of numbers that show where an Internet connection is coming from. It follows that if you want to avoid being tracked, you need to hide your IP address in some way.

Can Tor cover your torrent tracks?

Enter The Onion Router, better known as Tor, a browser that can hide your IP address and should help you browse anonymously. It does this by routing your Internet connection through so-called nodes. These nodes, which are run by volunteers, “lend” you their IP address, making it appear as if you are somewhere you are not.

On paper, it’s a perfect solution: if a watchdog sees you downloading a file and tries to find out your IP address, it will only find the IP address that belongs to the node, not you. However, in practice, a few factors ruin this seemingly simple solution.

practical problems

The security implications are pretty serious, but before we get to them, let’s go over some practical issues. The first is that while you can avoid legal attention by using Tor, the person running the node will bear the brunt. They’ll usually hide their involvement as well, but it’s still not particularly nice to let someone else dry out just so they can enjoy some free entertainment.

Another problem is that Tor is very, very slow, especially if you’re following the proper protocols (and you should, as you risk undue legal attention) and uses three nodes to cover your tracks. Redirecting like this slows down your connection (VPNs have the same problem) and doing it three times is triple the trouble. If you are using Tor to torrent, it will take a long time to download even a single movie.

One last problem is that there is a good chance that the Tor network will not be able to handle the load if too many people start using it to torrent. Torrenting requires a lot of resources, and Tor is a simple volunteer-based project. It’s just not designed to handle terabytes of data streaming through it. If too many people start using it to torrent, some sections of the network may just go dark.

security issues

More serious than any of this, however, are the security issues related to using Tor to download torrents. A blog post from the Tor Project goes into much more detail, as well as warning people against overloading the network, but boils down to how Tor works.

When you use Tor, you’re not protecting all the data going in and out of your connection, you’re essentially only protecting some of it. That’s usually enough to mask your IP address if you’re trying to bypass censorship blocks, but for targeted attacks, it doesn’t work as well.

The result is that copyright guards trying to locate you could very well see your real IP address and therefore track you.

What can torrent users use instead of Tor?

All of the above sound like serious problems, and they are. As a result, it’s probably best if you don’t use Tor to download torrent files, even small files or the ones that are legally posted. Instead, use a virtual private network. These services are specifically designed to accommodate large data flows and will generally offer better protection against targeted attacks than Tor.

There are some excellent VPN providers out there, though torrenters will generally have to use paid plans due to the amount of data they need. That being said, the cost is negligible compared to the fines you risk otherwise.

Our favorite for torrenters is IVPN, but a service like Mullvad might also be just what you need. Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t use a US-based VPN, as it has been targeted by anti-piracy organizations in recent years.


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