What is Torrenting? Is it Safe?
Most people are curious about torrents and whether they are safe and legal. Well, the answer is simple: torrenting is legal and secure, as long as one uses a VPN for torrents.
Terms like internet piracy and copyright infringement became quite popular in 2016 when the infamous HBO series Game of Thrones released its season 6. People just could not wait to see if Jon Snow was really and truly dead! The general public’s curiosity made Game of Thrones the most pirated TV series in the world, in 2016, made possible by Torrenting.
Streaming media, including movies, TV series, and music, is quite popular and successful, perhaps too much! Currently, there are countless streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and the list goes on. These streaming services can cost around $10 – $20 per month. That is if you don’t want to re-watch Game of Thrones, because then, your monthly cost will skyrocket! However, a free alternative to streaming is torrenting.
But what is torrenting really? Is it legal? Is it safe? In this article, we are going to answer those questions and how you can safely get started on downloading media by using torrents.
In this post, we will explore
- What is Torrenting?
- How Torrenting Actually Works
- Is Torrenting Safe & Legal?
- Risks of Torrenting
- How to Stay Safe When Using Torrents
- How to Download Torrents Safely
- Torrenting FAQs
Torrenting is downloading and uploading files (media, music, apps, etc.) by using a network platform like BitTorrent, uTorrent, etc. You can think of torrenting as a free online file or data sharing tool. Similarly, a torrent or a “torrent file” keeps track of the file’s location that you want to download. A torrent file is used to share data like movies, books, videos, etc., with other users through a Peer-to-Peer network.
Instead of downloading media from a central server, users can download data from the devices of other users on the network by using Torrent. Similarly, the users can also upload the data for other users to view and download. Despite being free, torrenting is mostly related to piracy because of sharing files and media content that is protected by copyright.
How Torrenting Actually Works
When you download something from the internet, you select the download file button, and the file is directly downloaded into your computer. Torrenting, however, is different from downloading. In torrenting, the desired file (torrent file) is not downloaded directly. The torrent file is broken into small “packets.” These packets are on the server and are shared throughout the network among “seeders” (uploaders) and “leechers” (downloaders). “Peers” on the torrent network have different parts of the same torrent file.
Through a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network, users can upload and download files easily. Each leecher also acts as a server because with downloading, you are also uploading; therefore, it might affect your speed especially if you have limited bandwidth. See more details
Is Torrenting Safe & Legal?
Yes, the act of torrenting itself is legal! It means that downloading and uploading data to share files through a P2P network is considered a legal activity. However, downloading content that is protected by copyrights is illegal. Downloading of such files that are copyright protected through torrents is called copyright infringement, or otherwise known as piracy.
Therefore, torrenting itself is not illegal, but downloading copyrighted content is considered illegal. Around 126.7 billion worth of viewership is pirated every year in the case of US-produced TV series episodes.
The legal and law enforcement regarding the use of torrents really depends upon your location. Copyright infringement is considered a punishable crime in the US. However, in most countries of Latin America and Eastern Europe, torrenting is considered illegal, but laws are mostly never enforced when it comes to piracy.
When it comes to torrent safety, keep in mind that your ISP monitors your activity on the network, and they can take action in case of torrenting illegal, copyrighted content. Therefore, to stay safe, you need to use the best VPN service to mask your internet activity and IP address when torrenting.
Risks of Torrenting
There are multiple risks involved with torrenting because, most of the time, it hard to discern if the content is legal or illegal to download. There is a lot of grey area, and most of the time, you end up committing piracy. Here are some common risks that you can encounter when downloading torrents:
1. Downloading Copyrighted Content:
The most apparent risk is downloading copyrighted content that is illegal. It poses the biggest threat of being sued as it is illegal in almost all countries, and you might get into serious trouble if you are caught torrenting copyrighted material.
Several countries all around the world have shut down access to torrent sites like Kickass Torrents and The Pirate Bay. Also, users in the US have been sued in the past for downloading media (music, movies, TV shows) illegally.
When you are downloading from torrents, chances are you might download a virus alongside your file that you want. When you are torrenting, you are downloading files from a vast network of peers so that you might download a virus along with your desired file.
There are a lot of trolls that put virus-laden files and data for other users to download. Therefore, one of the greatest risks of using Torrent is downloading malware or a virus.
When you are torrenting files, always remember that hackers can target you in different ways. It is not very common due to laws; however, very possible. According to ArsTechnia, the BitTorrent transmission app allows users to control the app through their web browsers. It means the attackers can take control of the user’s system remotely. It could lead to a lot of problems for the vulnerable torrent user.
How to Protect Yourself When Using Torrents?
Torrenting comes with its risks; however, there are ways to ensure your online privacy and safety. Keep in mind that torrenting copyrighted content is illegal! There a lot of legal torrents that you can download and share files. In order to stay safe during torrenting, and to avoid any legal consequences, make sure to follow these tips:
The best way to protect yourself when you are torrenting is to use a VPN. Using a VPN does two things: first, it re-routes all your traffic through a server at a location that you choose, which also changes your IP address. It makes your internet traffic anonymous, which makes it harder to track.
Second, the VPN also encrypts all the traffic that goes through your computer. It simply means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will not be able to monitor your internet activity. As you are using a VPN, ISPs won’t be able to tell where the traffic is headed because it goes to the VPN first, before it reaches the server.
If you don’t want to use a VPN, you can go for Tor. Tor is pretty similar to a VPN, as it also re-routes and encrypts your internet traffic to protect your online privacy. However, VPN is still your best option because Tor is slower in comparison and is more suitable for low-bandwidth activities like simple web browsing, etc.
To protect yourself from unwanted viruses and malware, use the best antivirus software. It is essential to use antivirus when doing anything online, especially torrenting. Once you download viruses un-intentionally, they can render your device useless. There are a lot of antivirus software online that can protect your computers from all kinds of unwanted viruses and malware like spyware, etc.
Now, you know the good and the bad of torrenting, so let’s see how to actually use torrents. Here are some tips for you:
- Download and install a VPN.
- Enable your VPN, and connect to a server that is P2P-friendly
- Select a torrent client (uTorrent, BitTorrent)
- Go to a torrent site, and search for the desired torrent file
- Magnet torrent, and start downloading.
Here are the details:
Before you get torrenting, make sure you have a paid or free VPN because, without it, torrenting is a bad idea! When you have your VPN, you need to download a torrent client to hook seeders and leechers. There are plenty of options to choose from, e.g., uTorrent, BitTorrent, Transmission, etc.
Now, with your VPN and program installed and running, you can look for torrents online. There are plenty of sites like The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, and Lime Torrents, etc., where you can search and download the content that you desire.
When you are searching torrents, make sure to select the one with plenty of seeders and leechers. To give you an idea, three leechers per seeder is the best proportion. Before downloading a torrent file, make sure to read the comments to make sure the content is genuine and not malware. When you are sure about the quality of the content, click “get this torrent,” it will open a window where you can magnet the link, and you are set to go. All you need is to wait till the download finishes up, and you can view your content.