How to Torrent Anonymously (5 Easy Methods)
Torrenting traffic used to be declining, but not anymore. It seems more and more online users have turned to BitTorrent traffic to escape the shackles of overpriced streaming platforms and exclusive content.
That’s pretty understandable. But if you’re one of those Internet users, you should learn how to torrent anonymously to make sure you don’t end up in any trouble.
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry – here’s everything you need to know about anonymous torrenting.
What Is Torrent Anonymity?
Simply put, it refers to making sure nobody can see how you engage with torrents – what websites you access, where you access them from, how much data you exchange with them, and what files you download. You can achieve that by making sure nobody sees your IP address, and encrypting your Internet traffic.
Why Do You Even Need to Download Torrents Anonymously?
There are plenty of serious reasons you should learn how to torrent anonymously. If you don’t do that, you might have to deal with:
Depending on which country you live in, you might have to face serious consequences if you download torrents.
For example, if you’re from the US, you can actually end up receiving DMCA notices, facing huge fines in court, or serving prison time if you are caught downloading torrents. And in Canada, things get more complicated since you can face jail time by unknowingly breaking the law when you download torrents.
Despite having a funny name, you should never underestimate copyright trolls. They are people or organizations who gather data about Internet users who download torrents. They then forward that info to copyright agencies who pursue legal action against torrent users and websites.
However, sometimes, copyright trolls might try to blackmail torrent users. How? It’s pretty simple – they send you an email threatening to report you to your ISP, the authorities, or a copyright agency if you don’t pay a specific amount of money.
Alternatively, they might threaten to sue you for a huge amount (like $100,000 or $150,000), and say they are willing to accept a smaller amount ($2,000 or $3,000) as a settlement.
Losing Your Privacy
Whenever you download a torrent, every single member of the Swarm (the total number of uploaders and seeders on a torrent) can see your real IP address. Most of them probably won’t do anything with it, but keep in mind that anyone could use your IP address to find out:
- What country you live in.
- What city you live in.
- Your Zip code.
- Who your ISP is.
If there is just one cybercriminal among the users of the Swarm, they could use that kind of data to target you with scams and phishing messages.
Besides that, your ISP can easily see what torrent files you download. We don’t know about you, but someone watching what movie, video game, or photos you download feels very creepy. And don’t forget – ISPs can share that kind of info with advertisers for a profit.
Some ISPs might not like that you’re using their bandwidth to download torrents – either because you put them in a sensitive legal position, or because you use up “too much bandwidth.”
Whichever the case, if your ISP catches you downloading torrents, one of the following could happen:
- They could send you threatening messages, or serve you notices from the copyright holders.
- They could terminate your service on the spot if what you’re doing is a breach of the contract you signed.
- Your ISP could forward your info to copyright agencies or copyright trolls.
- Your ISP could start throttling your bandwidth, effectively lowering your connection speeds.
Blocked Torrenting Websites
Torrenting websites don’t normally use geo-restrictions, but your government can block them country-wide. If you anonymize your torrenting attempts by hiding your real IP address, you can bypass those blocks with ease.
How to Torrent Anonymously – 5 Methods
Here are the five most efficient ways to download torrents without putting your privacy in danger:
1. Use Anomos
The easiest way to describe Anomos is as a torrent client that uses end-to-end encryption. It’s based on the BitTorrent peer/tracker concept, but also adds a layer of onion routing anonymization (basically, an additional layer of encryption on top of the end-to-end encryption it already uses).
Anomos might sound hard to use, but that’s really not the case. It uses Python, and the interface is very clean and straightforward. Also, you can use the client for free, and the software is open-source.
Best of all – you can use Anomos with a VPN service (which we’ll discuss more in-depth below) to get even more torrent anonymity.
Still, Anomos does have its drawbacks. Since it’s free to use, you shouldn’t expect 24/7 support. Actually, you might not get any support at all considering Anomos’ website redirects to a domain name registrar right now. You can still download the client from here and here, though.
Also, you might come across bugs every once in a while, and you might deal with an unresponsive client sometimes.
And the last issue – Anomos only uses the .atorrent format. That means you’ll need to find .atorrent torrents since Anomos can only open and download them. Alternatively, you’ll have to convert other torrent formats with Anomos into .atorrent formats.
2. Use a Seedbox
“Seedbox” is a term popular with P2P users. Basically, it’s a remote server that uses the BitTorrent protocol to upload and download torrents from torrenting websites. Seedboxes can be physical servers, but they’re usually VPSs (Virtual Private Servers) from data centers.
A seedbox normally offers high download speeds and decent bandwidth, so you can quickly download torrents even if the distance between you and the server is very big. Plus, you won’t have to use your own bandwidth at all.
The server helps you torrent anonymously in two ways:
- First, it hides your IP address. Your ISP will only see you’re connected to the seedbox, not that you’re using it to connect to torrent websites.
- Next, the seedbox uses HTTPS encryption when you download the content to your device, preventing your ISP or anyone else from snooping on your traffic.
In terms of pricing, how much you will pay depends on how fast and powerful you want the server to be, and how much storage space you need. Fees can range from as little as $3-$5 per month to as much as $50+ per month.
And no, there are no free seedboxes. Those are rented servers, after all, so the owner has to make money to keep them going.
3. Use a VPN Service
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an online service that hides your IP address, and encrypts your online traffic. If you want to learn more about it, check out this in-depth guide.
A VPN is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to download torrents. Since it hides your real IP address, it ensures that no member of the Swarm can see it, and use it to learn various things about you.
Also, because a VPN encrypts your traffic, your ISP won’t be able to see what you’re doing on the Internet. They won’t know that you’re connecting to a torrenting website, and they won’t see what files you are downloading. So not only won’t they manage to terminate your service or forward your info to copyright agencies, but they also won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth.
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“Why Should I Use a VPN When I Can Use a Seedbox?”
Well, consider this – A VPN can be cheaper and much more convenient than a seedbox. The service lets you secure your privacy when browsing the web, not just when you’re downloading torrents.
Also, with a VPN, you can download P2P content straight to your device. No need to deal with two different download stages.
You should only consider using a seedbox if you – for some reason – need to download massive amounts of content (whole terabytes’ worth) very quickly, or if you want to improve your seed rates fast and easy.
4. Use Antivirus/Antimalware Protection
Antivirus/Antimalware security solutions might not seem like a good way to download torrents anonymously, but consider the following example:
Let’s say you did everything right, and you can enjoy peak anonymous torrenting. Nobody can see your IP address and your traffic, and nobody has any way to trace torrents back to you.
Well, what happens if one of the torrents you download happens to contain malware or viruses? Without proper antivirus/antimalware protection in place, it won’t take long for the malware/virus infection to take control of your device, and spread to all your files.
When that happens, what will keep your anonymity intact? Any cybercriminal could easily steal all your personal information, and:
- Sell it on the deep web.
- Use it in scams.
- Forward it to your ISP or copyright agencies, forcing you to pay them not to do that.
Since a VPN or an encrypted torrent client can’t prevent malware and virus infections from harming your device, it’s obvious your best bet is to install reliable protection. Currently, the best options include Malwarebytes and ESET.
5. Use a Proxy Server
Proxies help hide your IP address by intercepting your connection requests, and forwarding them to the website you want to connect to. So, your ISP can’t see what torrenting websites you’re accessing.
Unfortunately, that won’t really stop your ISP from seeing that you’re downloading torrents, and what content you are downloading since not all proxy servers use encryption.
Not only does that mean your ISP can see you traffic, but so can the owner of the proxy server.
Another problem with proxy servers is overcrowding. Since they’re pretty popular, that happens fast, so you end up having to deal with slow speeds and limited bandwidth.
Ultimately, a proxy server isn’t the best option for anonymous torrenting – unless you use VPN servers as proxies. If you do that, you get all the perks of VPNs while being able to enjoy proxy connectivity.
Can You Use Tor?
Tor (The Onion Router) is an anonymization network you can use to hide your IP address and traffic. That definition alone would make it a great way to download torrents anonymously. However, there is a pretty big issue you can’t ignore – connection speeds and stability.
The Tor network is simply not able to sustain torrenting. As it stands, the network only has around 6,000 to 7,000 relays (basically, servers that bounce your traffic) that are serving almost three million Tor users. Torrenting over Tor only overloads the network, resulting in slow speeds.
Besides that major problem, there are other reasons why Tor might not be suitable if you want to download torrents anonymously:
- Tor had issues in the past that made the service leak user IP addresses.
- Volunteers run many relays, so you can’t expect 24/7 availability.
- Tor encryption doesn’t work across multiple devices, so you’re pretty much stuck with the Tor browser.
- The exit relay doesn’t always encrypt traffic, so you can end up exposed on the web.
- Governments can block the Tor network successfully. Even ISPs can block Tor traffic if they want to.
Lastly, consider this – Tor itself said that using the BitTorrent protocol over Tor is not a good idea. The main problem is that many BitTorrent clients don’t work well over Tor, and might leak some traffic since it won’t go through Tor.
If you’re really, really keen on using Tor, though, at least make sure you use it alongside a powerful VPN service.
What About PeerBlock?
PeerBlock is an open-source firewall you can use to block data packets from and to specific IP addresses. Usually, those addresses include government agencies, copyright agencies, and other monitoring groups. The idea is to keep them from seeing your torrenting traffic.
Despite all that, PeerBlock isn’t a good option for torrent anonymity – a VPN works much better. We already have an article discussing why, but here are the main ideas:
- PeerBlock doesn’t encrypt your traffic, so your ISP (and anyone else) can see what you do online, and what torrents you download.
- PeerBlock doesn’t hide your IP address, so other members of the Swarm can see it.
- The service might be free to use, but you’re going to have to pay if you want blacklists which get frequent updates.
- Ironically, the platform blocks too many IP addresses. Because of that, your torrenting speeds will take a hit since you’ll have a limited number of peers to interact with.
- Lastly – any organization you block with PeerBlock can simply change its IP address.
How to Choose the Right VPN for Anonymous Torrenting
A VPN seems like the best way to download torrents anonymously, so you should learn how to pick the right service. Basically, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- First, make sure it’s a paid VPN service, not a free one. Free VPNs can expose you to malware, sell your bandwidth, use poor or no encryption, and much more.
- A VPN with a no-log policy is always a good sign. You want to make sure nobody knows what you do on the web – not even the VPN provider.
- Make sure the VPN provider supports P2P traffic on their servers. Not all VPN services allow torrenting traffic, after all.
- A good VPN service doesn’t enforce any bandwidth caps. You want to enjoy smooth torrenting experiences, so unlimited bandwidth is a must.
- To enjoy both security and speed, pick a provider who offers access to highly-encrypted but lightweight VPN protocols like SoftEther and IKEv2.
- Make sure the VPN provider isn’t located in a country where there are strict laws against torrenting – like the US, for example.
- Lastly, a VPN service has to offer a Kill Switch if you want really secure torrenting. That way, even if the VPN connection goes down for any reason, your torrenting traffic won’t be accidentally exposed – not even for a second.
How to Torrent Anonymously – To Sum It All Up
Downloading torrents without anyone tracing it back to you is possible, and you should do it so that you don’t have to deal with:
- ISPs terminating your services.
- Getting DMCA notices.
- Copyright trolls harassing you.
- Other seeders/uploaders seeing your real IP address.
- Blocked websites.
Your options include using a proxy server, PeerBlock, a seedbox, Anomos, a VPN, and antivirus/antimalware software. Tor might seem like a good option, but it really isn’t – even the project’s devs say you shouldn’t use Tor to download torrents.
By far, the best combo is using a VPN alongside antivirus/antimalware protection. Maybe throw in Anomos into the mix if you want an extra layer of security.