Torrenting myths debunked
Torrenting is a file-sharing technology, often considered as a way to pirate movies or music. There is a mist of confusion surrounding such activity. How does it work? Is it safe using torrent apps? What happens if you get caught? In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about torrenting technology from scratch.
To put it simply, torrenting is one of the many ways of downloading files online. What makes torrenting different, is that it’s based on an advanced Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technology. Typically, when you download a file, it’s sent from a single server to your device. To understand better, imagine searching for “best cat memes 2019” on Google images. You find a meme that cracks you up and press the download option. By that, you’re asking the Google server “Hey, could I have it on my device?” And Google says “Sure, here you go, pal!” and sends it right to your device.
To learn how torrenting works, imagine the same cat meme divided into thousands of pieces. At the same time, it’s no longer a Google single server that has the file. Instead, it’s owned by everyone that has both the file and a torrent app on their device. To download the file, you send a request to everyone that has it and ask it to send it by pieces.
Is it illegal?
Now that you know the torrenting meaning, is this technology legal? One of the most common myths about torrenting is that the technology itself is illegal. In fact, using torrent apps is completely legal and it’s a great way to share large files. But, there’s a reason why it has a bit of a negative reputation. Many think using it’s illegal because such apps are often used to download copyrighted material. Indeed, pirating copyrighted films, books or music is illegal in most countries.
Either way, not all uses of torrent apps are illegal. As you already know that P2P technology is adjusted for downloading large files. For example, you can legally use torrents to install another operating system on your PC. Or, some offices or universities use torrenting apps for internal file sharing. If you’re not sure downloading a particular file is legal, you can check their terms or contact the creator.
How can you get caught?
The government or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see everything you do online, from websites you visit to files you download. But, how can they tell if you’re downloading copyrighted material? Well, everything you do on the internet involves network packets. Since types of packets differ from one another, it’s visible in your web traffic when you download copyrighted or non-copyrighted material.
What happens if you get caught torrenting?
If you are ever caught torrenting, consequences depend on various criteria, such as regulations in your country or type of copyrighted material. For the first couple of times, you’ll probably receive a letter asking to stop sharing copyrighted content. As well, your ISP can start throttling your bandwidth so you’re technically unable to download files. Then, if you continue torrenting, expect a legal warning notice: from a monetary fine to a few years in jail.
How to use such apps safely?
Even if you’re not going to download copyrighted material, there are some security measures you should take into account. You can never know if the file isn’t infected with malware. As well, if you try torrenting without VPN, your actions won’t be private. Besides your ISP and the government, every person that is sending or receiving the same file can see your IP address.
One of the options to torrent in safety and privacy is to use a TOR browser. It will encrypt your web traffic by routing it through a secure virtual tunnel. But, this method can be slow. If you don’t want your speeds to be cut-off, consider getting a VPN that supports P2P traffic. VPN is a technology that hides your IP and encrypts your traffic. If you connect to a VPN server, no 3rd party will be able to check what you’re up to. Your ISP will see is how much data you sent and received, but they won’t see what were the files exactly.
Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.