How to torrent safely: 9 P2P file-sharing guidelines

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If you ever wondered if torrenting is safe – you need to know that it comes with its own risks. P2P file-sharing might get you in trouble due to copyright holder constant monitoring for illegal downloads which might result in huge fines. Then when looking from another angle – the files you download need to be secure and malware-free. Let’s see what kind of simple and low effort measures you can take to ensure you torrenting safely.

When it comes to torrenting it is important to understand the risks involved with P2P file sharing and more importantly how to reduce them. It’s not only about not getting caught by authorities but protecting your identity, online activities as well as avoiding scammy and malicious torrents.

Nothing screams more danger than a random shady website with a bunch of unknown torrents. Most of these websites are a big scam and generate the titles according to your searches. If you can not find a file you’re looking for in one of the reputable torrent sites – then it’s probably non-existent. To protect yourself from malicious downloads do not use any unknown websites, instead, try to use a well known and reputable torrent website. Here are the few of them which you can try:

  1. The Pirate Bay (obviously) – probably the most well known and popular
  2. RARBG
  3. 1337x

When a new movie or a popular TV show premieres – those torrents become the hottest and popular. Movie studios know this and they start monitoring such torrents for illicit downloads immediately. Those ones who download first become the target and the risk is the highest to get caught when downloading these hot torrents.

It’s not only the copyright holders who try to exploit the trends. Eavesdroppers know this too. Many fake torrents with a popular title are uploaded every time when a popular trend emerges. Those usually have malware-infected files that might damage your device or steal personal data.

Speaking of not getting caught and staying safe even with the most popular torrents – you need to use a VPN.

If you want to make your torrenting activities safe and hidden from copyright holders, authorities and ISP – a VPN is essential. Not all VPNs are suitable for that – some of them might not openly support P2P and keep logs, therefore you need the right one.

With a VPN you would hide torrenting from your ISP and with a new IP address protect yourself from those who monitor the torrent trackers. So far it’s the safest way to torrent privately whatever you want without the risk of getting caught.

The best VPNs for torrenting have an Internet kill switch feature that protects you from torrenting with an unencrypted connection and from any IP address leaks.

Do not skip this, always look at the comments. Since many people download the same torrent they often leave feedback on the quality of the file. Whether the file is infected or if it works properly or if it’s a total scam you should avoid. Reading a few comments most definitely can provide an answer about the torrent quality and protect you from downloading malware and save your time.

It is a good practice to inspect the files before downloading them. First, evaluate the file size – ask yourself – is this file more or less the size it should be? If it’s an HD movie it may be from 1-2GB if it’s a PDF it should not be just a few KB. Evaluating the file size as well as their extensions can protect you from downloading the fake ones.

Unless it’s a software installation, try to avoid executable files with .exe or .dmg extensions. These are the ones usually that get altered and injected with viruses and malicious scripts.

Avoid unnecessary archived files too – a movie or a song should not be zipped – there’s absolutely no need for that. It’s easy for eavesdroppers to add up some viruses in archives and once you unpack them they infect your device.

To avoid dangerous torrents it can be as easy as to check the uploader rating. Many torrent websites (ThePirateBay included) show how trusted the torrent is. It has symbols that show if a member who uploaded it is a VIP, Trusted or it has no rating. VIP torrents are usually the safest pick while the ones with no rating can carry more risk.

Here’s an example of how do these ratings look like:

Torrent uploader rating mark example on the Pirate Bay website
Torrent uploader “skull” mark rating on The Pirate Bay website

When hoovered on the skull icon you can see the status of the uploader. The green one is VIP, the pink one is Trusted while no icon surely means no rating. Always choose VIP or Trusted ones for download.

Whenever it’s possible to use a private torrent tracker – use it. If not sure what it is, here’s a simple explanation: the websites such as ThePirateBay are considered public and files shared along peer information could be seen by anyone. However, there are private trackers, which are usually invite-only and have a trusted peer community. These private trackers are much safer and can not be that easily monitored as well as the risk of sharing an infectious file is greatly reduced.

Once you downloaded a file you should scan it with an anti-virus. As mentioned, executable and zip files are the ones that have the greatest chance of being infected. Simple scanning the file before opening it would prevent the malware from infecting your device. There are many free anti-viruses for that or the ones that even come with VPN software too.

If it happened that you already got a letter from ISP about copyright infringement – never, ever reply to that letter. Once you reply that is considered as an acknowledgment of committing a crime. ISPs send those letters just to frighten and discourage its users from torrenting. Instead, if possible look for legal counsel or discuss it with a lawyer first.

A quick story from Germany: Germany is extremely strict about downloading copyrighted material, so one guy on Quora told his story about torrenting there. […] One day he got a letter with an immediate fine from authorities for downloading copyrighted goods. The copyright holders were not happy about the few-hundred euro penalty and wanted a much higher compensation. He did not reply or paid the fine immediately but consulted with the lawyers first. They were able to dismiss the larger compensation request and in the end the guy even paid the lower amount of the initial fine.

To torrent safely you need to consider a lot of things, but if you want to truly be at ease and protected – always use a VPN. It will hide your P2P traffic from ISP and the ones who monitor the torrent won’t be able to catch you. Besides that, look out for scammy torrents since those ones are the most likely infected with malware. A good practice is to scan your file with an anti-virus before opening it too.


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