Is the uTorrent App Safe to Use? (Full Tests & Results)
Torrenting always presents some risks to your safety, whichever client you use. However, these risks can be offset with caution.
uTorrent is hugely popular, and it is not technically unsafe. The application does not currently contain malware, and it does work to effectively download and distribute torrent files. However, it is not the safest torrenting client on the market.
There are two versions of uTorrent for your computer:
- uTorrent Classic: This is the desktop client, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s designed for bulk downloads, with a feature to turn off the app or your PC when it’s finished downloading, and a scheduler for downloads. It supports simultaneous torrent downloads.
- uTorrent Web: This enables you to download torrents and play films in your browser while they’re still downloading. It includes a safe torrent scanner to help you find safe torrents when searching the web. If you’re using macOS with Catalina 10.5 or later, you have to use uTorrent Web. There’s no desktop application.
We’ve put both versions through a series of safety tests. We found that both versions of uTorrent are safe to download. However, compared to qBittorrent, uTorrent presents a higher risk to your privacy and security. Our tests found unwanted software bundled in the application along with invasive adverts. The application is not open-source either, which means it cannot be independently inspected for security.
Here’s a summary of uTorrent’s strengths and weaknesses:
Now, here’s a more detailed overview of what makes uTorrent potentially unsafe to use:
uTorrent installs unwanted software (bloatware)
Several different applications have been bundled with uTorrent since 2009. In 2010, uTorrent bundled the Conduit Engine adware. Users reported that it was installed without permission and was hard to remove. In 2015, uTorrent came bundled with software called “SearchProtect” which was similarly hard to remove or opt out.
While the bundled software has changed over the years, the policy hasn’t. When you install uTorrent, you must be careful to avoid unwanted bloatware.
Our tests found that the application still includes a lot of unnecessary software. During the installation process, we were offered McAfee WebAdvisor and Adaware Web Companion. If you do accept these applications, they will change your homepage, default search engine, and new tabs to Bing.
uTorrent makes it deliberately difficult to opt out of these additional downloads:
Consent forms are disguised to look like part of the uTorrent installation process, which is deliberately misleading.
These web security applications are legitimate in their own right, but they’re unnecessarily included in the uTorrent installation process, and some security applications flag them as potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
There is also bloatware you can’t avoid. uTorrent silently installs the DLive and TronTV streaming features.
Additional programs will have their own privacy policies and mechanisms, which means they can potentially monitor and record your downloads and behaviour within the application.
Includes adverts and shares your personal data
uTorrent includes ads in the free versions of its classic software. You can buy a subscription to remove them from the desktop client, or manually turn them off in the settings. If you’re using uTorrent Web you cannot disable ads at all.
Ads are risky because they can be used to distribute malware. In 2017, an advert in uTorrent was compromised and used to distribute malware called Meadgive, which attempted to use a vulnerability in Flash to install ransomware.
If you buy a subscription, you can remove the adverts in uTorrent Classic, but not in uTorrent Web. Here’s an overview of the four subscription levels and their advertising policies:
|Subscription Tier||Price per Year (USD)||uTorrent Classic||uTorrent Web|
|Pro + VPN||$69.95||
There is also a uTorrent Android app that supports bulk downloads, music and video playback, and a WiFi-only mode to save your mobile data. You can use it to remotely add torrents to uTorrent Classic on Windows. The app is free, but you can pay $2.99 to remove ads and access power-saving features.
Previous security vulnerabilities
In 2018, Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy found a vulnerability in uTorrent that enabled a hacker to plant malware on a user’s computer. uTorrent created a fix, but it didn’t fully address the security vulnerability. Instead of fixing the hole, they blocked Ormandy’s exploit.
Vulnerabilities and patches are a fact of life in software development. Software is complex, and errors slip in. uTorrent didn’t handle this vulnerability well or quickly, which raises doubts about their commitment to user security.
Is uTorrent a virus or malware?
uTorrent itself is not a virus, but it is often flagged by third-party security software. This is most likely due to complaints that uTorrent tricks users into installing unwanted software.
For this reason, Windows Defender and enterprise firewalls may block all torrenting clients to prevent torrenting on corporate networks.
We ran the uTorrent application through dozens of antivirus packages, and 28 out of 66 flagged uTorrent as malicious. The installer for the web client was also flagged as malicious by 11 out of 58 virus scanners.
EXPERT TIP: Although uTorrent is not a virus, there may be copies of the software that have had a virus or malware added to them. To be safe, always download from the official uTorrent website.
Does uTorrent include a cryptominer?
A cryptominer is an application that uses your computer’s processors to mine cryptocurrency.
In 2015, uTorrent bundled the Epic Scale cryptominer in version 3.4.2. It mined Litecoin and sent the currency to an unknown owner, although there were claims it would be donated to charity. Cryptominers use your computer’s resources, which means they can slow your device down significantly.
Some users claimed this software was installed silently, without asking them. Others have stated there was a prompt during the installation process. From the number of user complaints, it’s clear that the process was not transparent enough.
Following user feedback, uTorrent cancelled its deal with Epic Scale. uTorrent no longer has a bundled cryptominer, and Epic Scale is no longer trading.
uTorrent is not open-source
uTorrent is proprietary software, and the source code is not available for inspection. This means that third-party security researchers cannot scrutinize the code quality or be sure about how the application uses your personal data.
The closed nature of uTorrent was one of the motivations for the qBittorrent project, which provides an open-source alternative.
Is uTorrent Legal?
uTorrent is legal to download and use in most countries, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most European countries. However, using uTorrent to download copyrighted movies, music, and software is illegal.
When you download torrents (leeching), your torrent client also shares (seeds) content for others to download. You may be threatened with legal action or a fine if you are caught distributing copyrighted material.