If you have downloaded files from torrent sites such as PirateBay, Torrentz, Isohunt or the like, then you have joined the millions of internet users enjoying free access to information thanks to this communication protocol that has made it possible to share data throughout the internet quickly and easily. Ever since the first version of the BitTorrent protocol was made available by programmer Bram Cohen, a former University of Buffalo student, it has quickly become a very popular means of communication for P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing, which is primarily used to distribute data and files (such as books, music, movies, etc.) via the internet.
But it’s not all a sweet deal, though, especially since torrenting has sparked the ire of copyright owners, mostly because there is some abuse of file sharing and so they sought to regulate file sharing. The result has lead to government restrictions, which vary from country to country.
Secure Torrent Downloads on Mac
While very helpful in getting the latest movie, album or book (or maybe even a game), there is a weakness in the torrent system due to its setup: peers can see the IP addresses of any swarm participants. That includes yourself if you are seeding a torrent file to help the community. This means your identity is available to anyone in the network, and that could include the copyright owner who could be doing everything to stop the torrent community from sharing the material.
The best way to protect your privacy (and enable access to torrent sites in countries where the government blocks them) is by using a VPN service. Doing so will hide your real IP address behind one given to you by the VPN service provider based on the location of the secure server you choose. A VPN service acts like a tunnel, securing traffic between your computer and the VPN server, shielding your real identity (IP address) from prying eyes and encrypting any traffic between the two. Hence no one, not even your ISP, can see what you are doing online.
Best VPN Services for Mac of 2020
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This way the P2P network you are connected to will see only the IP address provided by the VPN service provider, so your identity is protected. Another important aspect is that VPNs help you avoid ad tracking, since advertisers that monitor your activity and serve you ads based on location cannot correctly find your IP details. By shielding your real IP address, this matter is handily resolved and access is opened up to torrent sites, restricted platforms, and blocked content in services such as Netflix, Hulu and Spotify.
Still, there is something to keep in mind: you might notice some speed difference when using a VPN service compared to relying solely on the speeds of your ISP. The reason for this slowdown is that by using a VPN you are routing all your traffic through the VPN server. The more people using the VPN server, the more likely the speed will slow down. The speed is variable based on the distance between you and the server you’re connected to, as well as the protocol you are using.
While a slower speed might be the only trade-off of using a VPN service to protect your privacy, there are workarounds that help keep it as fast as possible. Try using all the different types of VPN protocols available to test their speeds. One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that you will be limited to a bandwidth cap, which varies by country. For a good P2P experience, your best option should be to choose a server located in a country with relaxed rules for P2P services. For example, the Netherlands, Mexico, Spain or Canada are good choices that all provide nice, average speeds.
VPN vs Proxy for Torrenting
Regular users of torrent sites use either VPN services or proxy servers to mask their real identity. A proxy server is a computer between your Mac and the internet, hiding your IP address so that you appear to be accessing the web from where the proxy is located instead of your true location.
While VPN works similarly to a proxy server – since you connect to a server in a location of your choice – they work slightly differently. A proxy is like a gateway to the torrent software you are using, so it will only disguise your activity through that torrent client (think uTorrent, Vuze, Deluge and so on). For example, if you set up a proxy server with your torrent client, all your traffic is routed through that proxy server and as a result the torrent swarm will see only the IP address of the selected proxy. But not all proxies encrypt your traffic, which means using them is less safe.
A VPN service, on the other hand, shields all your internet connections from the very moment you connect to your selected secure server, encrypting all the traffic between your computer and the VPN server so that not even your ISP can see it, not to mention the government or hackers looking for new targets.
When it comes to protecting your online privacy, limitations apply with proxy servers; hence, we recommend using a VPN service that encrypts all your activity. It’s also worth noting that some VPN services, such as IPVanish, also offer proxy servers.
Best Torrent Clients for Mac
In light of the above, you might want to ‘update’ your torrenting habits with a few tweaks, such as either using an encrypted proxy server or – our recommendation – a VPN service. We’ve picked three torrent clients for Mac that we consider to be among the best for use with a VPN connection.
Available as a free BitTorrent client, Transmission is very popular among Linux users, but we recommend using it for torrenting because the app encrypts the connections it makes with other peers, when necessary, using the RC4 cipher. This implementation is compatible with other clients such as Vuze and uTorrent. Encryption is always on, but you can set Transmission to use preferred encrypted peers and ignore unencrypted ones completely. Now, when you access the most popular torrent website, PirateBay, it strongly recommends protecting your privacy using a VPN service. Torrenting with Transmission is easy: just launch the VPN service, then connect to the preferred server to hide your IP address, and then start downloading the desired file.
You can safely download torrents using Deluge since the free app works well with the majority of VPN services. Like with every torrent client, there are only two options when using VPN: either use the VPN as the primary connection, with all the traffic passing through the VPN, or use it only for torrents. The good news is that Deluge supports all of the most commonly used protocols, and all inbound and outbound traffic. The entire stream is encrypted by default, making it friendly for torrent users. If you don't mind adding an extra layer of security, set up Deluge with a proxy server using SOCKS5 with authorization. Your VPN service provider will supply the necessary credentials to enable the connection.
Available as both paid and free versions, Vuze is definitely one torrent app worth using due to its VPN-friendly capabilities. Best of all is that you can set up Vuze to only download or upload files while the computer is connected to the VPN, a very neat feature that is available for both the Mac and Windows app. The catch is to make sure the checkbox next to “Enforce IP bindings even when interfaces are not available” is checked, otherwise your real IP address – and hence your real identity – is revealed to peers participating in the swarm, so you might want to enable this feature. Having that checked can be an advantage, especially if your VPN connection is unreliable or fails for some reason.
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