Why You Should Use a VPN Every Time You Torrent

By Michael Gargiulo

Every day 28 million people engage in peer to peer (P2P) file-sharing, also known as torrenting. The allure of owning content without paying drives people to torrent, even though they are putting their privacy at risk. While it may be easy to acquire this content, you should be aware that there are serious security issues when you download copyrighted material.

In addition to throttling by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), your online activity could result in legal action and heavy fines. When you torrent without protection in place, you also make yourself vulnerable to cyberattacks and hackers.

This article will examine some of the dangers that occur when you torrent and how you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to solve them.

How Torrenting Works

To download files for free over the Internet, you must take part in a P2P network that is run via BitTorrent technology. Traditionally, downloads exist on a central server, but when you torrent these files are decentralized and located on a group of computers known as a "swarm."

"Seeders" have files they are willing to share with others, and "Leechers" download these files. During this process, users act as both the client and the server. So when you download a file, you also upload the file at the same time.

When you torrent, your IP address is visible to members of your swarm. As a result, it’s easy for them to collect your IP information that can reveal your identity and location.

ISPs also monitor your activity and how much bandwidth you’re using, and they may choose to slow down your connection. But your biggest threat is media companies who track your downloads and may take legal action against you for pirating their material.

What Does a VPN Do?

A VPN acts as a security blanket when you torrent by hiding your IP address. Your Internet connection is encrypted and sent through a virtual tunnel to a remote server. Since your location has been digitally altered, it’s difficult to trace your online activity.

It isn't illegal to torrent, but it is illegal to download copyright material, so you should always take steps to protect your privacy.

When you torrent you also are vulnerable to malware located in files that you download. Many VPNs provide protection against malware, but you will need antivirus software to properly combat these attacks.

Why Use a VPN to a Torrent?

Legal Consequences

There are many countries, including the United States, that have strict policies regarding torrenting. The U.S. government has shut down several sites that they believe foster illegal behavior. Other countries including Germany, Finland, France, and the United Kingdom have been known to dole out heavy fines to people who download copyrighted content. In some extreme cases, you could even face imprisonment like the four founders of thefoundry.com in the UK.

Since a VPN hides your IP address and encrypts all of your data, you can protect yourself from anyone attempting to monitor your Internet activity.

Throttling

You may not be fined for your download activity, but your Internet connection will likely be throttled by your ISP. Throttling is the act of intentionally slowing down a network connection. ISPs will throttle a connection if a network is overcrowded with users or if they suspect illegal behavior (such as torrenting copyrighted content).

With a VPN in place, your torrent activity is hidden and they are unable to detect and control your online behavior. Allowing you to avoid a throttled connection that could cause your downloads hours or even days to finish.

What Type of VPN Do I Need?

Most paid VPNs have strong security policies in place to protect their users. One of the main features you need to look for is whether they support P2P file sharing. Some services do not allow users to torrent on their servers.

You should also check for a no-logging policy to ensure that they do not keep a record of your data. Some VPN companies are required by their local government or law enforcement agency to log user behavior. Make sure your provider does not track your online activity.

Wrapping Up

Torrent laws continue to change, so it's important to always protect your privacy online. Many countries shutdown torrent sites or issue fines for downloading copyrighted content. Make sure you use a VPN when you torrent so you don't have to worry about security or unnecessary legal consequences.