BitTorrent is very popular. But many users don’t know how it actually works, and there are lots of myths about what the actual risks of BitTorrent are.
In this article, we’ll provide a detailed answer on the question: “is BitTorrent safe?” And we’ll also show you how to make it a lot safer.
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Use a VPN to Make BitTorrent Safe
If you want to save yourself some time, a good BitTorrent VPN will drastically reduce, if not completely eliminate, most of the risks we’re going to cover.
Our favorite VPN for this purpose is PIA VPN. It will protect you from monitoring, throttling, hacking, and a variety of other dangers, whether you’re torrenting or just surfing the web. Plus, it’s very affordable, at just a couple bucks per month.
For a more in-depth look at how a VPN keeps you safe, keep reading.
Is BitTorrent Safe? The 5 Biggest Dangers of BitTorrent
There are definitely some risks to using BitTorrent. Let’s take a quick look at the top 5.
Risk #1: Torrent Monitoring
BitTorrent monitoring occurs when someone – either snoops, copyright “trolls”, or your internet service provider – watch what you’re torrenting. This can lead to some of the other dangers we’ll discuss below, including bandwidth throttling and legal issues.
But it’s also a basic privacy invasion.
This monitoring can be done either by identifying your IP address in the torrent “swarm”, or by watching your traffic on your ISP’s end.
Risk #2: Torrent Viruses
The BitTorrent world can be a little, well, shady. And unfortunately, this attracts some less-than-desirable characters.
These people, whether their goals are mischief making or something more malicious, love to infect people’s computers with viruses and other malware. They accomplish this by placing the virus inside a torrent, especially in executable files, like games or software.
Fortunately, by downloading from reliable sources and being careful about the files you select, this risk can be greatly minimized.
Check out our article on How to Avoid Getting a Virus from a Torrent for more tips.
Risk #3: Torrent Throttling
As we hinted at earlier, your ISP’s traffic monitoring can actually lead to them throttling or slowing down your internet connection.
Why? Because BitTorrent traffic often uses up a lot of bandwidth, which puts extra stress on your ISP’s infrastructure.
It can also open them up to legal issues, if their users are downloading copyrighted material. By slowing down your BitTorrent download speeds, they kill two birds with one stone. But it’s a major annoyance on your end.
Risk #4: Torrent Hacking
When you download through BitTorrent (without a VPN, at least), you expose your IP address to your peers in the swarm. That can be used to monitor your activity, as we covered earlier.
But in rarer cases, it can be used to hack you and even steal your identity. Again, this isn’t particularly common, but it’s another reason to keep your IP address hidden.
Risk #5: Legal Risks of BitTorrent
Depending on the country you live in, there can also be some legal risks. This can include DMCA notices, fines, lawsuits, and even, in extreme cases, jail time.
But again, not all countries are created equal here. For instance, the United Kingdom and Germany are very aggressive in going after torrenters.
That being said, no matter where you live, it’s a good idea to use a VPN when downloading from BitTorrent.
How a Good VPN Makes BitTorrent Safe
All of the risks above, except for viruses, can be pretty much eliminated by using a reliable BitTorrent VPN.
This is accomplished in two key ways:
- The VPN hides your true IP address
- The VPN encrypts your traffic
Not only does this hide your activity from snoops and hackers, even your own ISP won’t be able to see what you’re downloading. This protects you from monitoring, hacking, and throttling, while greatly reducing any legal risks.
Our favorite VPN for accomplishing this is PIA VPN.
Is BitTorrent Safe? Wrap-Up
So, let’s summarize: yes, BitTorrent has its risks. And we would not recommend doing it unprotected. That being said, with a reliable VPN, BitTorrent can actually be pretty secure. Especially when combined with a little common sense.