Protecting Yourself When Using BitTorrent, And The New Put.io

Stop receiving copyright infringement notices from your ISP because of BitTorrent

I like BitTorrent a LOT. I’ve used it since it’s release around 2001 or 2002. Recently, however, it’s become more risky to download torrents from your home internet connection.

Disclaimer: I am absolutely not condoning downloading copyrighted material, of any kind. This is aimed at giving casual BitTorrent users some things to consider and nothing more

A number of my friends have received copyright infringement notices from their ISP’s for downloading a movie, music album, or any copyrighted material, for that matter. Most ISP’s will terminate your service if you continue to infringe.

When you download a torrent to your computer, and you aren’t using a VPN, your IP address will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker (that’s just how BitTorrent works). Various groups (including anti-piracy groups) can gather IP addresses of people downloading any given torrent, so having your ISP provided IP show up there could result with you receiving a copyright infringement notice.

That’s where having a VPN comes into play. If you’re connected to a VPN while downloading a torrent on your computer, the IP address of the VPN server will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker, instead of your ISP provided IP.

Skip Protection Options and Go Straight to Reading About the New Put.io Interface

Protection Methods

You have a few options that offer various levels of protection, depending on how much money you want to spend, or how paranoid you are. 🙂 Three pretty simple options are detailed below. These methods aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, but should be sufficient for most “casual” pirates. You’re still at risk using these methods, please read the clarification on protection part at the end of this post.

Option 1. Use a VPS for a personal VPN (aka: Poor Mans VPN)

I’ve referred to this as a poor mans VPN in the past. Basically, get a VPS from a hosting company, like DigitalOcean (referral link). You can get a VPS from DigitalOcean for just $5/month.

Once you have the VPS, just follow the steps I outlined in my Poor Man’s VPN post and you’ll be all set.

Option 2. Get a Paid VPN

A good way to hide the IP provided by your ISP is to use a VPN. There are many paid VPN services available, like IPVanish and ExpressVPN. I know a few folks who use IPVanish and are very happy with the service.

Option 3. Use Put.io

I’ve been using Put.io for around a year now and will never go back to running a BitTorrent client on any of my machines. Put.io is a cloud-based BitTorrent client, plus much more.

Put.io was a no-brainer for me, as it’d free me of the need to download files directly to my computer. The unofficial Put.io Android app from Steven Schoen supports streaming to Chromecast, which sealed the deal for me.

That means I can stream videos straight from Put.io to my Chromecast, without the need to ever download them to my computer. I’ve often explained it to friends as a sort of personal Netflix.

Put.io also has a feature that will download your torrent immediately. If another Put.io user has already downloaded the torrent you’re downloading, the files will be copied to your account, so you never even connect to the BitTorrent tracker to download data. It’s pretty awesome.

Another benefit of Put.io is that it frees up your home internet connection bandwidth, all the downloading and seeding is done on the Put.io network. This means you’d no longer have to waste your bandwidth to seed the torrents you’ve downloaded. This is a major factor for some people, especially those who don’t have very fast upload speeds at home (like me).

There’s also a pretty active group of third-party developers who make various apps and extensions for Put.io. Steven Schoen is one such example. He’s been updating his Put.io Android client quite frequently, and recently implemented Google’s Material Design into the app. And it looks amazing.

I’m surprised that Put.io hasn’t tried to hire Steven Schoen to bring his app under the Put.io umbrella, making it an official Android client. Maybe the have, who knows.

A couple screenshots from the Put.io Android app are below.

So, which method should I use?

If you have a Chromecast and an Android device, I’d suggest using Put.io. It’s a nice all-in-one solution, and plans start at only $9.99 a month, which gets you 50GB of storage. I have yet to find a Put.io iOS client that has Chromecast support, however there are Put.io clients for iOS, just not with Chromecast support.

Even if you don’t have a Chromecast, or don’t have the ability to stream from a Put.io client to a Chromecast, you can still benefit from Put.io. After a torrent is finished downloading in Put.io, you can download the files from Put.io to your computer. Just like downloading a file from your Dropbox account using the Dropbox website.

If you want to download torrents to your computer using a more conventional BitTorrent client, like Transmission, I’d advise using a VPN. A paid VPN or the Poor Mans VPN setup will work.

Most paid VPN services have multiple VPN servers that you can connect to, so the IP being reported to the BitTorrent tracker can be changed pretty easily, just by connecting to a different VPN server. IPVanish has plans starting at $10/month and have hundreds of servers located around the world.

If you went the Poor Mans VPN route, changing your IP would be slightly more difficult because your VPS would likely have a static IP. But it’s still not your IP from your ISP. The BitTorrent tracker would see the IP address of your VPS instead of the IP provided by your ISP, giving you some level of protection. There’s still the possibility that a copyright holder could send a copyright infringement notice to your VPS host. Worst case there is you’d lose your VPS, which is far better than having your ISP terminate your internet service.

Just some things to take into consideration before you decide what the best solution is for you.

My Recommendation

Use Put.io.

Especially if you have an Android device and a Chromecast. Even if you don’t have a Chromecast or Android device to stream to the Chromecast, you can still download the files from Put.io to your computer.

Put.io is a bit more expensive than the other options, but is well worth it in my opinion. Put.io offers 4 plans:

  • 50GB of storage for $9.99 a month
  • 200GB of storage for $19.99 a month
  • 500GB for $29.99 a month
  • 1000GB for $49.99 a month

A Quick Poll

Do you use any method to obscure your IP from BitTorrent trakers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Now, On To The New Put.io

A couple months ago, Put.io released a new interface to their website, which also implements aspects of Google Material Design. The new interface is still being built and tested, but can be previewed at http://soon.put.io/.

Here’s a screenshot of the new Put.io interface (it’s the featured image for this post, too).
newputio

And here’s a screenshot of the old Put.io interface, which is still the default.
oldputio

The new interface is much easier to use than the old. It makes extensive use of AJAX, which makes for a much nicer user experience as far as not having to wait for a new page to load. It’s also much more visually appealing.

The new interface and the Put.io Android client from Steven Schoen look very similar to each other, providing a consistent look across the put.io website and the Android client. Not really important for functionality, but it’s nice to have a consistent look across the board for a specific service.

End

This post covered a lot of material and was written without much revising. If I’ve gotten something wrong, I’d really appreciate you letting me know.

If anyone knows of a Put.io client for iOS that supports Chromecast, please let me know! I’m an Android guy but my daughter has an iPad mini, and I’d love if she could cast from a Put.io client on her iPad to the Chromecast.

Comments are open if you have any questions or anything else to add.

Clarification on Protection

The protection methods listed aren’t full proof, something I thought was quite obvious. All methods listed can lead to your IP address being discovered, but they all add an additional step that law enforcement must do to find your IP. Some scenarios that would result in your IP address being discovered are covered below.

Scenario 1. A law enforcement agency could demand user information from a VPN provider, which would reveal your identity if the VPN provider complied. Same deal with the Poor Man’s VPN solution. Law enforcement could request information from your VPS host, and if your VPS host complied, your identity would be revealed.

Scenario 2. A Law Enforcement agency could demand user info from Put.io, which would also reveal your identity, provided Put.io complies with the request. Put.io says they respect the privacy of their users, but there’s still absolutely no way to prove that they wouldn’t hand over user information if it was requested. However, I tend to trust Put.io more than most companies, simply because they’re not based in the United States and the owner is a genuinely good guy.

In both scenarios listed above, your home IP would be revealed. But why not make law enforcement jump through some hoops to get your IP? Instead of just handing it to them like you do when downloading a torrent from a public tracker without using a VPN.

If you’re uploading new movies to public trackers or are downloading massive amounts (think terabytes a month) of copyrighted material, none of the protection options I’ve outlined will offer you enough protection. Those of you who would draw the attention of anti-piracy groups who would get law enforcement involved should be able to figure out better ways to protect your identity. And that’s not something I care to cover.

Advertisements

Elitetorrents Operator Gets Jail Time

Elitetorrents was shutdown over a year ago. Grant Stanley, age 23, was the main operator of Elitetorrents. Elitetorrents was one of the most popular private BitTorrent trackers a couple years back. Unfortunately, it was based out of the United States.

Anyway, Grant has been sentenced to 5 months in prison, and 5 months of home detention on top of that. He also has to pay a $3000 fine for his involvement with Elitetorrents.

Torrentfreak has more on this story. Here’s a bit from their article:

This ruling is the first BitTorrent related conviction in the US. Stanley pleaded guilty earlier this year to “conspiracy to commit copyright infringement” and “criminal copyright infringement”. He is one of the three defendants in the Elitetorrents operation better known as “Operation D-Elite”.

Don’t Pay For BitTorrent

TorrentFreak has a post warning users not to pay for BitTorrent. Apparently, there’s lots of ads circulating that try to dupe the viewer into purchasing a piece of software that is most likely free.

Most of them are lured by misleading advertisement, and flashy banners. They end up paying $3-$30 for a completely free application. In the best case they receive a couple of links to bittorrent search engines, and a bittorrent client. Support e-mails are simply ignored.

Pretty lame, but I’d imagine it’s a pretty successful method for bringing in quick cash. On the defensive, Bittorrent Inc. has launched an advertisement campaign warning users not to pay for BitTorrent. It reads “The Official BitTorrent is entirely free. Spell it with 2 Ts and 2 Rs”.

Ernesto, the guy that runs TorrentFreak, has noticed some of these “pay for bittorrent” ads showing up on his site. He’s managed to blacklist a number of them but they just keep popping up. And his blacklist is full, so he can’t add anymore. Google should take aim at these advertisers since they’re obviously making money off a free program.

But just remember, don’t pay for BitTorrent, ever. There’s a plethora of free clients out there. Don’t pay for access to sites purporting to give access to bittorrent movies and music, they’re most likely a scam. And besides that, almost any torrent can be found on a number of BitTorrent search engines and public trackers. Bottom line is you shouldn’t have to pay a penny to use BitTorrent to it’s fullest extent. It’s all free people.

Head over to TorrentFreak for more details. Ernesto has an image of one of the Bittorrent Inc. advertisements that are currently running to warn people not to pay for BitTorrent.

John Edwards Using BitTorrent

John Edwards, a democratic presidential candidate in 2004 is using BitTorrent to distribute his campaign media. He’s hosting his torrent files at MoveDigital, a company that basically sells bandwidth and uses bittorrent to distribute files once they’re nicely seeded. Here’s a piece from their FAQ:

Unlike other services, MoveDigital only deducts bandwidth from your account after the entire direct download is completed. If a direct download is stopped before completion, no bandwidth is deducted. For P2P traffic generated by MoveDigital on your behalf and for mobile streams, bandwidth is deducted on a per-byte transferred basis.

Windows Vista

So, the Windows Vista Beta 1 was released yesterday. It hit MSDN sometime yesterday morning. It’s all over BitTorrent networks now too. I’m gonna give it a shot tonight as I have an extra PC to try it out on. I really don’t think I’ll like it that well. Probably just more bloatware.

I can’t really comment on Vista though as I haven’t tried it yet. Jeremy Wright’s Ensight has some good information about Vista though. He’s got a few links to screenshots.

TDavid @ Make You Go Hmm doesn’t understand what all the excitement is about. And neither do I frankly. I suggest you read his take on all the microsofties partying it up for the beta release of Vista. Seems silly to me too.

I am mostly interested in what Microsoft has done with the user interface. Does it have a dashboard? I know there was talk a long time ago about a dashboard in Longhorn, dunno if it came through into the Vista Beta 1 or not. I stopped paying attention.

I hope Gnome officially adds some sort of dashboard soon. I think the Longhorn dashboard was different than the dashboard in Mac OS X. The dashboard that was in Longhorn and may be in Vista (I dunno yet), is more like Beagle, which looks awesome. Beagle is similar to the Spotlight in Mac OS X. I’d actually expect to see Beagle in Dropline Gnome sooner or later, even if it’s not part of the official Gnome. The Gnome people seem to be really good about scheduling releases and sticking to those deadlines. I’m not sure if they plan what new software to include in future releases. I’d bet Beable will officially be included with Gnome around Gnome 2.2 or 2.4, if the releases continue being numbered as they are now.

This was supposed to be a post about Windows Vista. Maybe I should have touched on that subject after actually trying Vista. Doesn’t matter, cuz Gnome kills Windows in terms of UI.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t want to validate your copy of Windows to get updates, see below. Found this via BoingBoing.

Before pressing ‘Custom’ or ‘Express’ buttons paste this text to the address bar and press enter:

javascript:void(window.g_sDisableWGACheck=’all’)

It turns off the trigger for the key check.

After doing that, the page where you select “Custom” or “Express” is reloaded. Select your option and you can get the updates you want (not just the critical updates) without validating.