Downloading files via BitTorrent has its legitimate as well as illegal uses. Many companies like Ubuntu offer their files via BitTorrent, but at the same time it must be recognized that BitTorrent is also used to share files which infringe copyright laws.
For the uninitiated BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer download network that uses the computers of hundreds (if not thousands) of individuals to share a file. To download the complete file, different chunks are grabbed from all the different computers who are sharing the data. This way it spreads the load away from traditional download servers to individual PCs and increases the potential bandwidth available. To use it, a BitTorrent client needs to be installed on your PC (there are multitudes of variations available for Windows, Mac and Linux).
However all this sharing isn’t anonymous. As chunks of files are downloaded records are kept about who has what bit so that other computers can connect and the chunk passed on. It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize that a fake BitTorrent client can connect to the network and see who is sharing what. In fact the entertainment industry has been doing just that for years now. However this information has never really been readily available as an easy to search index. Until now that is.
Youhavedownloaded.com is a new website which lists all your recent BitTorrent downloads for everyone to see. The site can’t track every single file being downloaded on the Internet, however it has managed to collect data on nearly 2,000,000 files downloaded by over 53,000,000 users.
“We just want to remind people that the Internet is not a place to expect privacy,” said Suren Ter-Saakov, one of the brains behind the site. “Nowadays many people use it without understanding what information they leave behind. Also, even those who understand choose to ignore it quite often.”
The sites biggest failings however is with regards to dynamic IP addresses. Many Internet providers provide users with a modem which when it connects to the Internet gets a different dynamic address each time it connects. If the modem is switch off (for example at night) then the next time it connects it will have a different address.
When asked about this Suren Ter-Saakov responded: “We don’t bother ourselves to separate dynamic IPs. The site is just for show. However we have time-stamps. 126.96.36.199 might be a dynamic IP – however it belonged to a certain person at 12:12am 12/12/2011.” The implication is that together with the records from an Internet provider the exact user of any given address at any given time can be discovered.
So the key question of course is, how can you download using BitTorrent without having your IP address recorded, tracked and displayed for everyone to see.
The answer is simple. Use a virtual private network (VPN) like FoxyVPN. A VPN is a special way to connect to the Internet by creating an encrypted link from your computer to a server on the Internet. All network traffic from your PC will go out onto the Internet via the remote VPN server. This means that all your web surfing, emailing and downloads using services like BitTorrent will appear as if they come from the VPN server and not your PC. This means that any data stored on the BitTorrent network will show your VPN provider while you remain anonymous. In fact your Internet service provider won’t even be able to tell what you are doing on the net.