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Is Usenet Safe? How Safe is Usenet?

To properly answer the questions “is Usenet safe?” and “how safe is Usenet?” you have to fully understand the risks of downloading from Usenet newsgroups. But the good news: yes, Usenet is a very safe way to download content, with only a few “buts”. 

Is Usenet Safe How Safe is Usenet image

People want to know, is Usenet safe and, if so, how safe is Usenet for downloading?

In a nutshell, Usenet is a very safe way to download the content you want in complete privacy. There are some risks, especially if you upload (post) materials to Usenet, but most people choose only to download from Usenet (“leech”). If you only leech, Usenet can be the safest and most private way to download online content.

Usenet is Safer than Torrents and Streaming

Usenet is proving popular (in fact, it is making a big comeback) because it offers about the same amount of content available as torrent file-sharing, including the latest new releases, but also because Usenet offers advantages over torrenting.

We wouldn't say that Usenet offers more content then online streaming these days, but Usenet is definitely safer than streaming.

In contrast to torrents and streaming, you are safe from third party monitoring while downloading from Usenet because you are not downloading the content from other users or from a website.

Fast and Undetectable Downloads

With Usenet, you are downloading directly from the news servers of your Usenet newsgroup provider. Because it's a direct connection, your download speeds reflect this and are super fast. Downloads are as fast as torrents, if not faster. This direct connection also means you don’t have to rely on the availability of seeders or peers as you do with torrents. Or to rely on a streaming website run by goodness knows who.

You will be safe if you choose the best Usenet provider for your needs.  The “best” Usenet provider means one that:

  • uses encrypted SSL connections that can't be monitored, not even by your ISP and
  • keeps no logs of user activity so that your Usenet downloading habits aren't recorded anywhere

Obviously, you have to trust your Usenet provider. But that's more manageable than trying to trust hundreds or thousands of fellow torrent users. In addition and similar to torrents, your ISP may be able to detect if you are using Usenet, so make sure to always protect your Usenet connection by using a provider with secure (SSL) connections or even doubling your protection by using a VPN when Usenetting.

Safe Usenet Providers

RANK

PROVIDER

FEATURES

#1 "Best"

newshosting usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•110,500+ newsgroups •highest retention • no logs • generous free trial •includes free, fast newsgroup browser •exclusive discount for Cogipas readers!

#2 "Easiest"

easynews usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•easiest Usenet (ideal for newbies) •no logs •free trial •exclusive discount for Cogipas readers!

#3 "Cadillac"

giganews usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•110,000+ newsgroups •includes free, fast newsreader •best customer service

Why Is Usenet Safe for Downloading? (“Leeching”)

Leeching (sometimes called lurking) refers to when you only download files from Usenet, but never upload them. In theory, even merely leeching might be logged by your Usenet provider, resulting in records of your downloading activities which a third party could later try to obtain. To avoid this risk, choose a Usenet provider that does not log any user activity.

Check the provider’s privacy policy and FAQs to determine whether they are logging, what they log, how long they keep logs and under what conditions they disclose customer activities reflected in the logs. For example, our most highly recommended Usenet provider Newshosting makes clear that, “we do NOT log the downloads of our users“.

Why is Uploading to Usenet Traceable? (Posting)

From its inception, the entire Usenet has been and continues to be archived. Searchable archives exist of more than 700 million Usenet posts covering a period of decades (see screenshot)! This means that unless you have given anonymity some thought, any and all items you post to Usenet will be recorded.

Such posts could come back to haunt you. So, if you want to play it safe, stick to leeching & downloading and leave uploading & posting to the pros.

Google Groups Usenet archive

Figure: Decades of Usenet messages have been archived (source: https://www.cogipas.com/UsenetGoogle)

To illustrate the privacy risks of posting to Usenet, browse or search Google Groups https://groups.google.com/ to find a message of interest. Once you have opened a message, click on More message actions (the small down arrow) and then Show original. Notice how some of the fields contain potentially revealing information (such as the message ID or even an IP address). Posting to Usenet newsgroups without taking measures to protect your privacy means revealing details that, once posted, are impossible to undo.

This is why, at an absolute minimum, you should not enter your name or email address in the settings of your newsreader app. Although this makes your posts untraceable for simple Google-type searches, there are still more precautions you should take.

As mentioned earlier, you could also choose simply to never upload or post anything to Usenet and only download; this would be the safest approach.

Posting to Newsgroups Using an Alias is Still Traceable

Even if you post to Usenet under an alias using a fake name and email address, the post is still traceable back to you. Just as your Internet browsing, email messages and torrent file-sharing activities are stamped with an IP address that can be traced back to you, Usenet posts are too. Similar to email messages, Usenet posts contain a number of headers. One or more of these headers will contain information that can be traced back to the poster.

For example, the following headers are taken from an actual Usenet post from 1996 (!) using my name and email address at the time. The post is clearly traceable from a number of the headers.

my old Usenet post

Figure: Headers in Usenet posts contain information that can be traced back to you

Some Usenet providers log the activities on their news servers, including for technical reasons, legal requirements and to deal with abuse or complaints (for example, spam or take down notices). By comparing the headers of a post to these logs, a message you posted can be traced back to you even if you posted it under an alias using a fake name and email address.

To post anonymously, you need to use a news server that omits any traceable path back to you. You could also try finding an open news server and post to it while using a VPN to mask your IP address. Even when you think you have found a news server that eliminates traceable headers, always do a test post to the alt.test newsgroup to ensure no identifying information appears in the headers of the post.

Is Usenet Safe? Yes! How Safe is Usenet? Very!

RANK

PROVIDER

FEATURES

#1 "Best"

newshosting usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•110,500+ newsgroups •highest retention • no logs • generous free trial •includes free, fast newsgroup browser •exclusive discount for Cogipas readers!

#2 "Easiest"

easynews usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•easiest Usenet (ideal for newbies) •no logs •free trial •exclusive discount for Cogipas readers!

#3 "Cadillac"

giganews usenet image

Official Site | See Review

•110,000+ newsgroups •includes free, fast newsreader •best customer service

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best Free Usenet - Cogipas.com - June 6, 2015

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    […] How Safe Are Usenet Newsgroups? The Privacy Risks of Using Usenet […]

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