ISPs know when you’re torrenting if a significant increase in your internet bandwidth is identified. Torrenting using applications like uTorrent require vast amounts of bandwidth to transfer files between end-users to the destination (your PC).
Your ISP also uses network monitoring apps and DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) to detect your port number, metadata and IP address from the internet packets you share. Although torrenting itself isn’t illegal, downloading copyrighted material can cause trouble.
There are various ways to hide torrenting activity from your ISP.
Read on to find out the best methods available.
What Can ISPs See While Torrenting?
Whether you’re downloading the latest episode of The Walking Dead or obtaining a copy of Office 365, the reality is your ISP has no interest in what you’re torrenting.
Typical online activities like web browsing, sending emails, and streaming content do not require much bandwidth, but you will often see your connection speeds drop if torrenting is detected. This is known as throttling, a means of your ISP restricting bandwidth regardless of whether your torrenting files are legit or illegal.
Authorities have been known to hand out unlimited fines to those who have been prosecuted for torrenting. There are also swathes of reports of users facing serious prison time for offenses.
The screenshot below taken from uTorrent shows a list of all peers simultaneously sharing a file across the BitTorrent network.
It depicts how easily accessible the IP addresses of each user are to prying eyes like your ISP.
How Do ISPs Know You Are Downloading Legal Torrents or Copyrighted Material?
When users are identified as downloading copyrighted material by torrenting, the immediate assumption is that our ISPs are the sole culprit in the detection process.
In reality, ISPs are only one piece of the puzzle.
Copyright or media owners of movies and music use automatic tracking software to detect if their content is being paid for or downloaded illegally via torrenting.
If torrenting is detected, the tracking software automatically sends an alert to your ISP containing your IP address to take further action.
What Are the Consequences of Being Caught Torrenting?
If an ISP identifies one of its customers as actively torrenting, they may send a letter similar to the one below from Sky. The letter is essentially the first warning not to continue torrenting.
At this point, a user might continue torrenting without safeguarding their online privacy, or they’ll land on a guide like this one to understand how to hide their IP address.
Can Torrent Encryption at an Application Level Hide Your Activity?
It’s not uncommon for BitTorrent applications to include a torrent encryption option, although this is not widely advertised. Once enabled, torrent encryption obfuscates the BitTorrent traffic being transmitted over your connection.
This may prevent your ISP from identifying the traffic as that of a BitTorrent stream.
The downside to torrent encryption is that the files are openly exchanged between strangers over the BitTorrent network, meaning the data inside those torrents remains identifiable. As explained in this article from Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, torrent encryption does not truly encrypt traffic and only evades ISP tracking temporarily.
How to Set up uTorrent Encryption?
Setting up Torrent Encryption is simple. Check out the steps below to enable this in uTorrent.
- Head to Options > Preferences > Bittorrent (tab) > Protocol Encryption.
- Enabled the “Forced” option for outgoing encryption.
- Click “Apply”.
5 Simple Methods to Hide Your Torrenting Activity
1. Use a VPN to Hide Your Identity
One of the most common and safe methods to download torrents without fear of being tracked is using a VPN. Modern Virtual Private Networks use military-grade encryption techniques to shield your privacy while you surf the web.
All of your internet traffic is diverted to an encrypted virtual tunnel, and your IP address is masked to ensure you and your location are unidentifiable.
You are the only user who can access the data within the VPN tunnel you are assigned to, which helps block external attacks or hackers attempting to intercept your connection.
Many VPN providers like Surfshark and NordVPN advertise the ability to use their software for anonymous torrenting. If you download large torrent files whilst being connected to a VPN server, your ISP will know that you are transmitting large volumes of traffic, but they cannot identify what is inside of the data packets.
2. Switch to a Proxy Server
A proxy is another excellent way to hide your torrenting activities from ISPs.
Providers like Oxylabs utilize a separate server to funnel all of your traffic associated with torrenting. As a result, anyone that hooks up to your BitTorrent swarm has no way of identifying you as your IP address remains hidden. If your ISP is notified of a torrent containing illegal content and you then download that file, they will be unable to identify you as the IP address they see will belong to BTGuard.
Unlike the uncertainty of a VPN logging policy, Oxylabs and the providers listed below don’t keep records of internet activity, so you have the assurance that torrenting activity is never traced back to you.
Check out some of the best proxies available right now:
3. Consider a Seedbox
A Seedbox is another excellent solution to downloading torrents anonymously.
It comes with the added benefit of zero bandwidth usage and high speeds regardless of how far you are from the download source.
A Seedbox utilizes the same protocol as the BitTorrent network to upload and download torrents. A Seedbox commonly resides on a Virtual Private Server, but they have been known to operate from physical servers.
Content is downloaded to your device using HTTPS encryption to ensure your traffic is shielded from your ISP. your IP address is hidden, so your ISP will only detect your use of Seedbox, not torrent sites.
Much like VPNs, Seedboxes are relatively inexpensive, although this will vary depending on the storage space you need and the server speeds you require.
The best Seedbox providers right now:
|Rapid Seedbox|| |
|Seedbox Bay|| |
4. Try the Anomos Application
Anomos is similar to Utorrent in its core functionality. That is, it is a torrent client that allows you to download torrents to your chosen device. It provides end-to-end encryption that works on the concept of the BitTorrent trackers and peers.
Anomos adds anonymization using Onion routing, which makes the existing layer of encryption more robust.
The only turn-off for many users is that the client relies on python to run, although it’s pretty straightforward once you get started. The client is open-source, meaning it’s free, but that does mean support is limited when things go wrong.
5. Use Tor (the Onion Router)
The Tor Project or The Onion Router is another possible way to download torrents anonymously; however, it does have a few drawbacks that make it a solution many would avoid.
Sure, it hides your IP address from your ISP to ensure your traffic remains anonymous, but that comes at the cost of crippling speeds and unstable connections.
There are around 7000 servers that relay your traffic, which sounds great, but those servers cater to millions of users.
When millions of users attempt to torrent simultaneously, it results in an overload which causes unstable connections.
The Tor browser is the only way you can ensure Tor encryption works, and because volunteers run the relays, it means the service is unlikely to run 24/7.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of whether you are downloading something legit or illegal over the BitTorrent network, there’s a good chance your ISP will find out without safeguarding your online privacy with some of the methods we’ve covered above.
A VPN is my number one recommended method to ensure your torrent activity is hidden from your ISP. You can grab our exclusive deal on NordVPN and enjoy a discount.