You may have heard of torrenting applications such as uTorrent or BitTorrent. Torrenting is a way to quickly and easily download large files and content from the internet. Sometimes when doing this you may want to mask your location in which case you can use a VPN to hide your actual location to anyone monitoring torrent traffic.
Article quick links:
- What is a VPN?
- Do I really need a VPN when torrenting?
- How to use a VPN for torrenting
- Where to find a free VPN
- The problem with free VPNs
- The best premium VPNs
- The best VPN for torrenting
- VPN FAQs
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a way to connect to a network with enhanced security, privacy, and anonymity. It allows you to have an encrypted connection that masks your identity. VPNs are useful to use when torrenting because it prevents any person on the same network from monitoring you. If you are using a public Wi-Fi network without a VPN, you are at risk of unintentionally sharing your personal information.
You may have heard of IP addresses. Every person using the internet has a unique IP address that is basically your online identity. When someone posts a potential shooting or bomb warning on Craigslist under a fake account, police officers use the IP address to track down the actual user and question or arrest the person. Using a VPN will give the impression that you are accessing the internet from another location in the world, which makes you very hard to track. If a person is to use a VPN, their IP address is effectively hidden. It is very hard for any user in your network to identify you and you become lost in the commotion of everyone else in the network.
However, a VPN is not the end all be all. It is still possible to track your online activity, though it is substantially harder compared to a user who is not using a VPN. Think of it as extra security features for your home. You can install alarm systems or train a guard dog to dissuade potential intruders, but if they are particularly determined to trespass your property, it is still possible (but quite a bit more difficult). A VPN is simply an extra layer or obstacle one must surpass in order to identify you.
Do I really need a VPN when torrenting?
Torrenting without a VPN is definitely a big risk. You are extremely susceptible to identification of your unique IP address, which can easily be traced to your actual identification. Internet service providers (ISPs) can also slow your service or ban you from using their service if they detect that you are torrenting copyrighted material.
By not using a VPN when torrenting, you run the risk of receiving a DMCA notice, which is a Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is basically a notice that tells you that you are partaking in online activity that may be infringing copyright laws. Copyright infringement can come in many different forms including reposting an image on your social media that doesn’t credit the original creator or downloading music, movies or TV shows. A DMCA notice is sent to you by your ISP and it lists the copyright infringement claims they believe you have committed. You are required to respond by either accepting the claim or denying it and following steps from there. Be aware that a DMCA notice could lead to court proceedings.
Even if you do not receive any notices of your torrenting activity, it doesn’t mean you’re not being watched. Online activity can be monitored, tracked, and recorded by your ISP, and in many legitimate scenarios you may not want to be this visible.
How to use a VPN for torrenting
After purchasing your chosen VPN (see premium VPN list below), you can download an app for your specific software or platform on your device (computer, smartphone, etc). Launch the application and login. Enter your preferences and intentions for using your VPN in order to connect you to a server. You can connect to a server in a country of your choosing. Your IP address should now be disguised and untraceable to you. You can now start torrenting using a torrenting application such as uTorrent or BitTorrent.
How to find free VPNs
A simple Google search will list several free VPNs that are available for public use. However, it is really not useful to spend time discussing how to find free VPNs for torrenting purposes for the reasons discussed below. Suffice to say you get what you pay for and free torrents are generally not worth your time.
The problem with free VPNs
There are many potential problems with free VPNs. A few of them include the following:
- Many free VPNs have ads, data limits, and speed limits. These limits prevent you from having 24/7 security and anonymity. They can also slow down your internet connection for you and whoever else is using the internet in your household.
- Free VPNs aren’t offering their service out of the goodness of their hearts. They need funding in order to stay afloat. Free VPNs could be selling information such as your browsing history or permission to expose you to advertisements.
- Free VPNs provided by a United States company log user connections and information and are susceptible to US search warrants which could risk the protection of your identity.
The best premium VPNs
A high-quality VPN is essential for safe and secure torrenting. Here is a list of some of the best premium VPNs available:
- Express VPN
- Hotspot Shield
- Panda VPN Pro
Many premium VPNs offer a free trial period to test it out (usually around 30 days). It may be helpful to try a few to gauge which one works best for you and what you’d be willing to pay for. Whichever VPN you choose to use, make sure they do not log their user’s information. If the FBI or government agency gets a search warrant, the company that doesn’t log their user’s information will not have anything archived that could risk disclosing your identity. It is also important to research the company’s history to see if they have ever been caught by a government agency or ISP or provided them with information and data.
The best VPN for torrenting according to Reddit users
There is a general consensus that NordVPN is one of the best VPNs to use amongst Reddit user discussion pages. It offers a 31-day free trial and no speed, data, or bandwidth limits. NordVPN’s extra layer of security is provided by using a double VPN server. It is also known to work successfully on all Mac, Windows, and Android devices. There is a kill switch available so on the off chance the VPN connection is compromised when you are torrenting, it will “self destruct” and remove your torrenting evidence so you are in the clear.
CyberGhost has also been categorized as one of the best VPNs for torrenting on Reddit. It does not log your information which is another layer to withhold your anonymity. This company is not based in the United States, so they aren’t susceptible to any US search warrants from the FBI. However, it’s not known to be the fastest VPN out there. CyberGhost offers a 45-day free trial.
Frequently Asked Questions:
You run a risk of being identified by your internet service provider or any government agency who is looking for online torrenting user information. This can lead to legal consequences and very high fines.
Not all VPNs allow torrenting, such as VyprVPN. The VPN must have peer to peer (P2P) server locations. If this feature is not enabled, you will not be able to torrent. Some VPNs risk revealing IP addresses and log information of their users that could be traceable to you. Others are just useless for torrenting due to either their data limit or slow speeds. Do your research when deciding on which VPN to use.
When it comes to accessing bank accounts or streaming services that use servers that are based in your country, it is necessary to use your own country when using a VPN. However, torrenting doesn’t usually rely on country-specific servers so you are free to connect to a VPN in a country of your choice. Countries have different laws when it comes to its users’ privacy.
When selecting the best country to use a VPN when torrenting, do not choose a country that has a history of not protecting the privacy of its users. The country that is known for providing the best security is Switzerland. This is also where many premium VPN companies are based. Switzerland does not follow laws that make them required to give information to other countries regarding user logging information and other sensitive data that could lead to a potential identification reveal. Runners up include Romania, Iceland, Malaysia, Spain, the Netherlands, and Mexico.
There are several things that may happen if you are caught torrenting. A few of them include:
* You receive a DMCA from your ISP (which can result in legal action against you).
* The No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act) is the law that prosecutes those who download unauthorized copyrighted material.
* Internet service providers can slow your service or even ban you if you have a history of torrenting.
The act of torrenting itself is not illegal in the US. Nor is use of a VPN. Torrenting is legal to use when downloading copyright free media (such as free music given away by the creator), free trials of software, and more. However, when torrenting other types of copyrighted media such as TV shows, movies, and music without the copyright holder’s permission, it is illegal to download.