Whether you’ve been torrenting for years or are looking into it for the first time, you want to torrent anonymously when doing it. While torrenting itself is not illegal, many organizations are taking down torrenting websites and impacting their users. Aside from that, you’re also exposing yourself and your private information to hackers when you connect to a P2P network.
Because of these vulnerabilities, VPN and other tools that help torrenters stay anonymous have seen spikes in popularity.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best apps and technologies that you can use to protect yourself online and torrent anonymously.
What is torrent anonymity?
Put simply, torrent anonymity is the act of staying anonymous while torrenting, meaning no one can see how you engage with torrents in any way.
This includes hiding what torrents you’re downloading, which websites you’re getting them from, and where in the world you’re accessing them from.
When you’re torrenting, you’re using a peer-to-peer network where everyone on the torrent network can see your IP address. This network is known as a swarm. The entire swarm shares bits and pieces of the torrent in question.
This exposes you to potential security risks, as cyber threats could be in the swarm with you, looking for potential victims.
If you use a VPN provider, you can stay anonymous. A VPN will let you mask your IP address, ensuring that no one can find your personal information. With your IP address, someone could find out not only what city you’re in but your zip code as well.
In addition, a VPN also encrypts your traffic, so no one (including your internet service provider) can see what websites you’re accessing or what you’re downloading.
How is torrenting dangerous?
Torrenting anonymously can be dangerous if you do it without any protection. Here are four risks to consider.
Because anyone can upload a torrent onto the Internet, it’s an easy way for malicious actors to spread malware. All it takes for you to be infected with malware is one wrong download.
Torrent files could be loaded with different types of ransomware and viruses, and you’d never know it. Before you torrent anonymously, or opening any torrent file, scan the file with an anti-malware program like Malwarebytes.
2. Copyright issues
Torrenting could get you in a lot of legal trouble, mainly if you’re downloading copyrighted material. Even if it’s not your intention, a torrent could be mislabeled and have copyrighted material in it without you realizing.
Because the entire swarm’s IP address is available, you could get caught downloading stolen material and be held accountable.
A copyright holder can request your information from your ISP, which they can use to send you everything from a warning to a hefty fine. In some severe cases, you could even face jail time, depending on where you live.
3. ISP throttling
To build on the last point, if your ISP notices you trying to torrent anonymously, they can throttle your bandwidth and speeds. They don’t only do this if you’re downloading illegal files — sharing any large file could get your bandwidth throttled.
This affects your internet speeds across the board, leading to worse internet overall.
Because your IP address is available for anyone to see whenever you download a torrent, a hacker could use it to discover your location and ISP. They can go as far as using this information to take control of your device or steal your identity.
If you have sensitive information on your computer, like confidential work files or banking information, they can access that too.
4 ways to torrent anonymously
1. Use a VPN
A VPN service is the best way to download torrents anonymously. For just a few dollars a month, a VPN will reroute all of your traffic through its secure VPN tunnel, keeping your IP hidden from the swarm and any cyber snoops within.
But not all VPNs are good enough to keep you safe while torrenting. Look for a service like ExpressVPN, which uses AES-256 encryption to keep your data secure. This is a powerful encryption method that makes your information impossible to breach.
You also need to ensure the VPN you choose has P2P-dedicated servers. These servers are optimized for peer-to-peer networks, keeping your speeds high. This is one reason we don’t recommend you use a free VPN. They often limit your bandwidth and aren’t fast enough to download torrents at a reliable speed.
ExpressVPN has P2P support across every one of its servers. It’s fast enough to overcome the speed bump that comes with connecting to a VPN and is simple to use. For more on this service, check out our full ExpressVPN review.
Another thing you want your VPN to have is a no-logs policy. This means the VPN doesn’t store any data regarding your sessions, including the websites you visit and what you download. This is important because ISPs and governments can request that your VPN provide them with data. If they don’t store it, they can’t provide it.
Premium VPNs also have an automatic kill switch. Imagine your VPN connection drops while you’re in the middle of torrenting. This exposes your real IP address, and by the time you notice this happened, you could already be in danger.
The automatic kill switch will immediately shut off your internet connection if the VPN drops, preventing any unencrypted information from making its way onto the internet.
2. Use a torrent proxy
Similar to a VPN, you can also use a proxy.
A proxy server can mask your IP address like a VPN, making it look like you’re accessing the internet from another location.
However, a torrent proxy server is limited to your torrent client. It doesn’t affect anything else, including your web browsing and the content you can stream. Proxies also do not encrypt your data — they only mask your IP address.
You may prefer this since a VPN service can slow down your connection a bit, but we have found that premium VPNs solve this problem.
One benefit of a proxy server is that there are free options available. If you only want to mask your location, this could be enough, but you won’t be protected should someone get a hold of your information on the web. Free proxies often face overcrowding issues, slowing speeds down by a lot.
Premium VPNs like NordVPN provide torrent proxies, so you can get the best of both worlds.
3. Use Anomos
Anomos is a free-to-use torrent client that uses end-to-end encryption in addition to a layer of onion routing. There’s an extra layer of encryption over the first for added security.
It’s open-source and made with Python, plus the interface is clean and easy to use.
However, like most free software, it hasn’t undergone rigorous testing and may not be as secure. There’s no customer support, and the client may be buggy at times.
Another drawback is that it only supports .atorrent formats, which aren’t the standard. You’ll have to search for .atorrent files specifically or mess around with converting them.
While we don’t recommend you use Anomos as your primary method of protection, many use it in addition to a VPN provider for an added layer of security.
4. Use a seedbox
Some P2P users prefer a seedbox over torrents. It’s a remote server using the BitTorrent protocol to store torrents — downloading and uploading them from torrenting websites.
Seedboxes aren’t free, as they are servers (sometimes they are physical servers, but more often than not, they are virtual private servers). The cost of renting a server can be as low as $3 per month to $50+ per month, depending on how fast the server is and how much storage space you need.
With that said, a seedbox provides good download and upload speeds. Downloading torrents happens pretty quickly, thanks to that, even though you’re likely far away from the server.
But we prefer a VPN over a seedbox.
A VPN is much more convenient, as it keeps you secure through all of your online activity, not just when you torrent anonymously.
You’re able to download content directly onto your device. With a seedbox, it’s downloaded onto the server and then onto your device — that’s two different steps.
With a VPN, you get much more for a lower price.
Additional measures for torrenting anonymously
Besides picking the right software, there are a few things you can do to stay safe while torrenting.
Choose torrents carefully
When you’re browsing for a torrent to download, stay away from those that have only a few seeders and leechers.
Instead, choose heavily populated torrents that have a lot of comments. Torrents with a lot of seeders are less likely to be infected with malware and will download much faster. If you’re still in doubt, check the comments. Someone will usually let others know if the torrent is unsafe.
Only download legal torrents
On a similar note, try your best to avoid downloading copyrighted material. You’ll avoid the headache of potentially downloading something you shouldn’t have.
Use a safe torrent client
There are many different torrent clients out there, and the one you choose makes a difference. Four of the most popular choices are qBittorrent, Deluge, BitTorrent, and uTorrent.
We and many others are partial to qBittorrent these days. Some torrent clients can feel like they’re advertisements first and clients second, but not qBittorrent.
It’s the least busy client with no ads or bundled software. The platform is fast and uses little CPU and memory. It also has many great features like a torrent search engine and media player built-in.
On the other hand, uTorrent is the most widely used torrenting software outside of China. It’s a client maintained by BitTorrent. While this is a great option for beginners, it’s ad-supported and goes a little too far for some people.
The BitTorrent client is another option made by BitTorrent themselves. However, it runs into many of the same problems as uTorrent.
Stay anonymous when torrenting
Torrenting can be dangerous, but you can torrent anonymously and stay secure on any P2P network with the right know-how and access to some tools. In addition to using a VPN to mask your IP address, consider using reputable torrent clients that offer features like built-in encryption and secure connections. Furthermore, always verify the integrity of the files you’re downloading to avoid malware or malicious content. Practicing safe torrenting habits, such as reading user reviews and comments, can also help you steer clear of potential risks. By combining these measures, you can enjoy the benefits of P2P file sharing while maintaining your online anonymity and security.
While there are other options, we recommend using a VPN service as your main source of protection while torrenting. A good torrenting VPN will mask your IP and encrypt all of your data while having useful features like an automatic kill switch in case the worst were to happen.
We’ve done the work of reviewing many of the top VPNs on the market. We prefer ExpressVPN, but you’ll be safe using any on this list.