How to Torrent Safely: A Five Step Guide
1. Use a VPN (or proxy service) to hide your IP address
The best way to protect yourself while torrenting is to use a VPN. A good VPN hides your true IP address, which stops copyright trolls from identifying you. It will also hide the fact you are torrenting from your network administrator and internet service provider (ISP).
This only works with a safe, P2P-optimized VPN, though. We recommend some safe VPNs for torrenting later in this guide.
A proxy is like a VPN, but it doesn’t encrypt your traffic.This means your ISP will still be able to see that you are torrenting, and could throttle your connection.
If you use a proxy on a school or university network where torrenting is not allowed, the network administrator will still be able to see that you are torrenting.
2. Always connect to your VPN before opening your torrent client
One of the most common ways people get caught out when torrenting is that they forget to always have their VPN on when the torrent client is active.
Torrent clients can start seeding as soon as you start them, which will expose your IP address unless you have a VPN active. This is why you should always start your VPN before your torrenting client.
Another way people get caught out is not closing their torrenting client properly. It isn’t enough to just close the window, you need to select exit from within the client’s menu.
Only disconnect from your VPN when you are absolutely certain that the torrent client has stopped.
3. Configure your VPN and torrenting clients
A properly configured VPN client can almost totally eliminate the risk of your IP being exposed while torrenting. The same is true of your torrenting client.
For your VPN client, make sure that you have a VPN kill switch which cuts out your internet connection if your VPN goes down.
In your torrent client look out for an IP binding setting. It allows you to whitelist IP addresses to torrent from, and blocks any other connections. In practice it works like a kill switch, but it will also cut your connection out if your VPN changes IP address.
4. Only download torrents you trust
Torrents can contain dangerous contents such as malware, spyware, ransomware, etc. Because of this, it’s really important you only download torrents you trust.
Some torrent sites have trusted user icons for regular posters who haven’t been caught posting malware, which can be a useful tool for finding safe torrents.
You’ll want to look for files with a good number of seeders and leechers, too. Surprisingly, though, it is generally best to avoid the very biggest torrents as these tend to attract copyright trolls.
You should always stick to trusted sources, like the Internet Archive. Even then, check the comments to make sure no one else has had a bad experience with the files.
Once the torrent has downloaded, double-check its contents. If you expected a video file and you get a .exe, do not open it. In general you should be cautious of file extensions you don’t recognise. If you see an unfamiliar filetype look it up before opening.
5. Install anti-virus software on your computer
If you want to be really careful, you can scan the contents of your torrent specifically once it has downloaded. If you’re downloading any files from the internet you need to have a regular virus scan at the very least.
There are several good free antivirus services available including Windows Defender, Malwarebytes, and Avira Antivirus.