Why You Shouldn't Use BitTorrent Instead of Tor

Why You Shouldn’t Use BitTorrent Instead of Tor

A smartphone screen displaying the Tor Browser logo.

You shouldn’t torrent files using Tor because the network can’t handle the pressure. There are also in-game security issues 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 into torrenting, you probably know that you need to use some sort of protection to do so. However, one of the more 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 tracked

Torrenting using the BitTorrent protocol is generally frowned upon by the powers that be, as it is a very popular way to distribute copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holders, a practice better known as hacking. Therefore, if you are torrenting files, chances are someone is watching, especially in the US, Canada, and Western Europe.

If you are tracked by a copyright watchdog, 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.

Therefore, you may want to avoid being tracked yourself. As far as anyone can tell, this tracking is done by keeping tabs on torrent IP addresses, the set of numbers that indicate where an internet connection is coming from. It follows that if you want to avoid being tracked, you must 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 redirecting your internet connection through so-called nodes. These nodes, which are operated by volunteers, “lend” you their IP address, making you feel like you’re somewhere you’re not.

On paper, this is a perfect solution: if a watchdog sees you torrenting a file and tries to find your IP address, it will just find the IP address belonging to the node, not you. However, in practice, some factors spoil this seemingly simple solution.

Practical issues

The security implications are pretty serious, but before we even get to that, let’s run through some practical issues. The first is that while you can avoid legal attention when using Tor, the person running the node will bear the brunt of it. Usually they also hide their involvement, but it’s still not particularly nice to leave someone else hanging around to dry off just so you can enjoy some free entertainment.

Another problem is that Tor is very, very slow, especially if you follow the proper protocols – and you should since you risk undue legal attention – and use three nodes to cover your tracks. A reroute like this slows down your connection (VPNs have the same problem) and doing it three times is tripling the problem. If you use Tor for torrenting, it will take you a long time to download even a single movie.

A final issue is that chances are the Tor network won’t be able to handle the load if too many people start torrenting on it. Torrenting is very resource-intensive, and Tor is a simple, volunteer-based project. It’s just not designed to handle terabytes of streaming data. If too many people start torrenting, sections of the network may just go dark.

Security issues

However, more seriously than all of this are the security issues of using Tor for torrenting. A blog post from the Tor Project itself gives a lot more detail, as well as warnings against network overload, but that boils down to how Tor works.

When you use Tor, you’re not protecting all of the data coming in and out of your connection, you’re essentially only protecting part of it. This is usually enough to hide your IP address if you’re trying to avoid censorship blocks, but in the case of targeted attacks it doesn’t work as well.

The result is that copyright watchdogs trying to get a pearl on you might very well be able to see your real IP address and thus track you down.

What can torrents use instead of Tor?

All of the above sound like serious issues, and they are. Therefore, it’s probably best that you don’t use Tor to torrent files, not even small files or those set up legally. Instead, use a virtual private network. These services are specifically designed to accommodate large streams of data and will generally offer better protection against targeted attacks than Tor.

There are excellent VPN providers, although torrenters will generally have to use paid plans due to the amount of data they require. That said, the cost is negligible compared to the fines you otherwise risk.

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

#Shouldnt #BitTorrent #Tor

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