Is it safe to use uTorrent for sharing files?
uTorrent is a lightweight BitTorrent client that overshadows many of its counterparts. Over the years, uTorrent software had several run-ins with the law and public criticism. Some feared the program itself came tainted with unnecessary components. Others doubted whether this tool could serve its purpose without any legal implications. However, it remains one of the most popular BitTorrent clients. If you use it, you should learn more about it and improve its security and privacy.
How uTorrent works
uTorrent (also known as µTorrent) is a free torrent client, widely popular across the world. Users can also sign up for its premium version, which reassures an ad-free experience. However, its internal workings resemble any other torrent client you have come across:
- uTorrent supports peer-to-peer sharing, meaning that you exchange files directly between users.
- It prioritizes performance, and due to its lightweight nature, it does not drain computer resources as much.
- BitTorrent Inc. maintains uTorrent after purchasing it in 2006.
- In April 2017, BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen had introduced uTorrent Web, designed to function within users’ browsers.
Security issues with uTorrent
There are some risks of installing and using uTorrent. One clear threat is that torrenting will lead to a malware infection on your device. This scenario typically plays out when users download torrent files from suspicious sources. However, over the years, uTorrent has been involved in several questionable affairs.
- In 2015, users reported that the latest uTorrent update had brought a cryptocurrency miner into their devices. The client came bundled with Epic Scale, a Windows tool exploiting computers’ processors to mine Litecoin. According to BitTorrent, the installation was not a secret as users were informed about it during the install. Blindly agreeing to all offers during installation is a problem, especially when it comes to FOSS.
- Microsoft and other anti-virus providers have flagged uTorrent as a threat. Usually, the torrent client would end up classified as a potentially unwanted program (PUP).
The fact that uTorrent offers bundled software is not necessarily a surprise. BitTorrent claims that nothing gets installed without users’ knowledge and consent. Thus, it means that during the installation of uTorrent, people tend to agree with all presented offers. What they should do instead is prevent each additional program from being installed alongside uTorrent.
Is uTorrent illegal?
uTorrent is the official torrent client owned and maintained by BitTorrent. By no means is the program illegal, although it might engage in questionable behavior as mentioned above. However, the use of the software, explicitly involving digital piracy, might make it involved in illegal activities.
Downloading copyrighted content from unverified sources is illegal, and many countries impose penalties for culprits involved. You can think like this: if you don’t use uTorrent to download licensed content, it is perfectly legal.
How to use uTorrent safely?
There are several precautions that uTorrent users should take.
- Reject bundled software. uTorrent has a reputation for distributing additional software. Thus, be careful during its installation and refuse all offers to install more than one tool.
- Avoid licensed content. Never use torrent clients to download copyrighted content. It might not only put you in hot water legally, but such downloads are one of the dominant sources of malware.
- The malware threat. Perpetrators could use exclusive or licensed content as bait to get users to download files. Without realizing it, you might voluntarily infect your computer with malware. The latter involves various threats like Trojans, adware, browser hijackers, keyloggers, and spyware.
How can a VPN improve your P2P experience?
A VPN and P2P sharing is a unique combination that will give you more control over the data you involuntarily share. When you connect to a torrent client and start downloading a file, your IP address is visible to everyone sharing that file. As you might know, an IP address reveals your approximate location (city or region). If you want to prevent this IP sharing, you should connect to a VPN server beforehand. Then, your peers will see the IP address belonging to the VPN server you chose.
A VPN also delivers another perk: it prevents ISPs from throttling your connection. In some cases, ISPs might automatically flag P2P traffic as suspicious, regardless of whether it involves digital piracy. Thus, some providers might block access to uTorrent clients. Others can slow down the connection and make it difficult to download anything.
Thus, a VPN encrypts information about your internet traffic and prevents ISPs from distinguishing between different activities. The result: ISPs won’t know when you torrent or engage in some casual browsing.
A reliable VPN service qualifies to support P2P activities if it implements the following criteria:
- Provides robust encryption. For example, Atlas VPN equips AES-256 encryption to safeguard internet traffic.
- Contains a kill switch feature. A kill switch temporarily halts your internet connection when the VPN stops working. It prevents your IP address and other data from leaking.
- Servers support P2P. If VPN servers are ready to handle torrenting, you won’t experience any evident performance issues.
- Solid no-logs policy. A VPN should keep no records related to your online behavior. Only then can you use this service with confidence.
Atlas VPN delivers all these features to protect its clients. Thus, it is an effective solution for improving your P2P experience and privacy online overall.
Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.