It seems like every few years, radical new technology makes the internet an even more useful tool. Just think of the impact Youtube’s video sharing service has had: by itself, it is one of the most popular search engines even though it hosts only video and audio clips.
Similarly, the availability of services like free online encyclopedias, mobile access, and social media have changed the way we connect with each other, how we do business and how we learn.
Another, somewhat controversial technology that has changed the internet landscape is called BitTorrent. In one sense, it embodies the best facets of the spirit of the internet: the system is largely decentralized and allows information to be shared freely.
The problem is that it is used to circumvent copyright on everything from movies to software to music. This does not endear its users to publishing companies, who have the law on their side.
Top VPN for Torrent Comparision
|Jurisdiction||Hong Kong*||Panama||Hong Kong|
|Allows P2P||Yes||Specific Servers||Yes|
|Anon Payment||Email Only||Email Only||No|
|Visit ExpressVPN||Visit NordVPN||Visit PureVPN|
How BitTorrent Works
Unlike a network protocol such as FTP (which you use to download files from websites), BitTorrent is a peer to peer system. Instead of files being stored on and downloaded from a central server, each file is divided into many pieces, which may be stored on computers located all over the world. When you download a file, P2P software on your computer looks up the internet addresses of these computers by contacting a server called a tracker, which as the name implies keeps track of all the “peer” computers.
These peers are contacted with requests for the different pieces of the file a user is downloading. This not only means that the file can have a bunch of different origins, allowing fast download speeds and high availability, but that shutting down any particular server has little effect on the network as a whole.
How to Install Vuze
The Risks with P2P Downloads
Copyright owners have tried various techniques to protect their intellectual property, such as introducing bogus content (“seeding”) onto the networks and pursuing legal action against the owners of tracker websites. However, the greatest risk for the average BitTorrent user is being hit with a huge fine. You should be well aware that your computer’s IP (Internet Protocol) address is usually visible to any other computer it interacts with, and with BitTorrent, this includes every peer computer – some of which are used as listening stations by copyright owners.
With half or more of internet traffic being peer to peer and 300m users worldwide regularly using it to download, it’s not possible to actually police every download, although more than 200,000 people have already been taken to court in the U.S.A. alone. This represents only a small proportion of those who have illegally downloaded copyrighted material, so the fines are typically disproportionate to the nature and extent of the crime. The idea seems to be that, since using BitTorrent for piracy is so easy, intimidation and fear tactics are the only ways of protecting copyright holders.
If you choose to use file sharing software, it pays to protect yourself by subscribing to a VPN (virtual private network) service. Effectively, this step conceals your computer’s location on the network, making it nearly impossible to figure out its physical location. Instead of your normal internet traffic being visible to any listener, the connection between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted, usually at 256-bit level.
This means that your internet service provider or government agencies can only figure out what you’re sending and receiving with great difficulty. There are some options available for this, but we’ve narrowed this important decision down to the best five choices when torrenting.
- VPN provided with the fastest download speeds
- Premium features make the pricing higher than other providers
One measure of a VPN’s commitment to their clients is how much information they store about them. The chances of these being subpoenaed in a court case involving copyright issues are minimal, but the VPN was not keeping them at all eliminates this possibility.
While ExpressVPN will keep some records of when you log on to their servers, they regard what you do through that connection as none of their business. As the company is based in the British Virgin Islands, they also enjoy a legal climate favorable to digital privacy. Additionally, they operate hidden servers in Hong Kong, capable of defeating internet censorship in China and elsewhere. For uses other than simple torrenting, they offer the ability to mask the country you’re connecting in.
Importantly for a service provided online, ExpressVPN has an excellent reputation for responsive customer service, and you can count on a prompt and useful reply to any queries you have. As an indication of how highly they rate their commitment to client satisfaction, you can demand your money back within the first 30 days of your contract without any hassles.
Their software is versatile but quite easy to use and is available for Mac, Android, and Windows.
- Best encryption available, perfect if you’re using high-risk networks. eg Public WiFi
- Based in Panama, which reduces the risk of legal issues
- No logs
- Easy access VPN with just one click
- Premium features make the pricing higher than ‘cheaper’ VPN services
Equally, for those who value their privacy, they accept Bitcoin as payment, allow you to disguise your geographical location and make it easy to use Tor (an additional Internet anonymization scheme) with your VPN.
Best for China: VyprVPN
- This VPN can be taken advantage of on any mobile device
- Full-time 24/7 every day of the year support available
- Install on your server in about five minutes
- No option to pay via bitcoin is available yet
- One of the newer services without a track record for you to thoroughly investigate
With access to many commonly used websites being blocked in the world’s most populous country, travelers, as well as locals, are always looking for ways to circumvent these restrictions, which can include downloading torrents.
Vypr VPN keeps no logs and uses some of the best VPN technology available. As an additional way of protecting your privacy, they also have a policy of operating their servers. There is a small risk of data being lost if a company uses virtual machines to share hardware with some other operators, but Vypr chooses not to accept that.
Heavy users of BitTorrent will appreciate the total lack of a cap on downloaded data, the network of 700 dedicated servers and over 100,000 IP addresses. Their apps are easy to use and work with almost any device you may have, while customer support is world class. For those who wish to use file sharing within China, or even without, Vypr is a reliable VPN option.
Worth Consideration: IPVanish
One of the best VPN providers for using BitTorrent, IPVanish keeps no usage or connection logs at all. This means that your ISP (internet service provider) will be able to see that you are connecting to a VPN server, but not which addresses you’re contacting after that point, nor the contents of your communication. Your ISP may choose to share this information with law enforcement, with or without being compelled to, but there are numerous legal reasons for using a VPN.
For an additional level of privacy, IPVanish accepts payment in Bitcoins if you don’t care to use a credit card in your name. Operating servers in 60 countries, this service will truly make your IP vanish.
What’s Important Choosing the Best VPN for Torrenting?
Internet legislation varies from country to country, so it would be a good idea to make sure that using BitTorrent as well as connecting to a VPN is, in fact, legal where you are. Both of these have some legitimate purposes for which they can be used. Downloading copyrighted content without paying for it is, however, illegal almost everywhere. The good news for downloaders is that it is quite difficult to enforce restrictions on internet use, so the choice is up to you. While we are not encouraging you to commit any crime, we are letting you know which options are available to you.
VPN connections sometimes cease working in the middle of a session, and the software might not let you know that your data and IP address are suddenly unsecured. Also, the strongest encryption in the world will not compensate for a computer ridden with malware or using weak passwords. Also, even if you’re using a VPN, using your real name or logging into an account associated with you effectively tells any listener who you are, even on a different IP address.
Going through a VPN is slightly slower than using only your internet service provider, though you will rarely even notice it. It is both faster and easier to use than alternatives such as Tor and provides a level of protection sufficient for nearly all users. If you download large files frequently, read the terms and conditions to ensure there is no cap on data usage or hidden fees for exceeding an arbitrary limit. Regarding the economics of running a server, neither is justifiable.
We are always happy to hear from our readers, especially if you’re a current or former user of any of the VPNs we’ve reviewed. By all means, share your experiences and help other users make the best possible choice.