Torrenting is one of the most popular and fastest ways to share files over the internet. It is commonly associated with illegal filesharing, but there are plenty of legal companies that offer torrents through their websites as a fast way to download their content.
Torrent downloads work using peer-to-peer (P2P) connections, where you connect to several other people who are actively sharing the file. The download then happens in pieces, with different pieces coming from each different connection and eventually stitching the pieces together into the completed file. Similarly, as you are downloading the file you are also actively sharing it to other connections (seeding), helping others to download the file faster as well.
Because you are connecting to so many different people it’s very important to take your security seriously. For example, some malicious users may use these connections to track you or determine your identity.
There are a few steps we can take to increase our security when we torrent files, and in this post we’ll go over a couple of the most important steps.
Choosing a Good Torrent Client
When you are torrenting it’s important to use a trustworthy torrent client. You can have all the security in the world otherwise, using VPNs and the like, but if your torrent client is maliciously tracking your activity or otherwise compromising your security then you may as well not bother with security at all.
For this reason you’ll want to avoid torrent clients that are not Open Source (code available for anyone to read). Similarly, I’d recommend shying away from “brand new” torrent client projects that don’t have a large user base, as gaping security issues are more likely to pop up in less thoroughly tested software.
There are two main torrent clients that I use frequently that are both Open Source and used by a large number of users - these are the two I’d recommend choosing from:
These are both available for Linux, macOS, and Windows, so you can choose whichever appeals to you.
Choosing a Reliable VPN or Proxy
The next step to protecting ourselves from malicious activity is to disguise our identities to our fellow connections and our ISP. The two options you have to protect yourself are either using a VPN connection, or a SOCKS5 proxy.
VPN vs SOCKS5
The main benefit of using a SOCKS5 proxy is that it is a lot faster than connecting through a VPN. The con is that, although your identity will be hidden, the data being transferred via SOCKS5 proxy is not encrypted unlike a VPN connection which is encrypted.
I personally just use a SOCKS5 connection for both speed and the benefit of being able to only route my torrent client through the proxy, compared to a VPN which will typically route all of your internet traffic through it. But if you want the extra security, then definitely route your internet traffic through a VPN connection.
Recommended VPN services:
- ProtonVPN - My personal favourite VPN, but does not offer a SOCKS5 proxy. There are specific P2P servers you can connect to for torrenting.
- TorGuard - Very reliable VPN with SOCKS5 proxy included.
- NordVPN - Another popular, reliable VPN with SOCKS5 proxy included.
Note: If you are going to just use a VPN you don’t need to do any specific setup with your torrent client - simply connect via your VPN’s app. If you are using a SOCKS5 proxy, see the next section below.
Configuring a SOCKS5 Proxy
The configuration steps for both qBittorrent and Deluge are pretty similar, but the URLs and credentials you need are specific to which VPN service you are using.
The screenshot below shows an example of editing the “Proxy Server” settings of qBittorrent. This can be accessed from Preferences -> Connection -> Proxy Server.
Simply set the proxy type to be SOCKS5, specify the URL and port (can be found in the “Proxy Info” section of the client area in TorGuard), and enter your username and password. Ensure that the proxy is also enabled for peer connections, and that connections not supported by proxies is disabled.