How To Anonymise Your BitTorrent Traffic With BTGuard

If you're using BitTorrent without taking special measures to hide your activity, it may be just a matter of time before your ISP throttles your connection, sends you an ominous letter, or you find yourself the target of a file-sharing lawsuit. Here's how to set up a simple proxy to keep your torrenting safe and anonymous.We've talked about how to boost your BitTorrent privacy before, but those measures aren't quite enough anymore to keep you anonymous, because copyright holders are getting more vigilant at tracking down people who share their content. Heck, you don't even need to be doing anything illegal, either. Maybe you just want to keep Big Brother out of your business and stop your ISP throttling your connection. Either way, if you really want to keep your activity private, your best bet involves routing your BitTorrent connection through an external service. BTGuard is a BT-focused proxy server and encryption service, and it's my service of choice. Below, I'll explain what it does, how it works, and how to set it up to privatise and anonymous your BT traffic.

How BTGuard Works

When you download or seed a torrent, you're connecting to a bunch of other people, called a swarm, all of whom — in order to share files — can see your computer's IP address. That's all very handy when you're sharing files with other netizens, but file sharers such as yourself aren't necessarily the only people paying attention. Piracy monitoring groups (often paid for by the entertainment industry either before or after they find violators) also join BitTorrent swarms, but instead of sharing files, they're logging the IP addresses of other people in the swarm — including you — so that they can notify your ISP of your doings. A proxy (like BTGuard) funnels your internet traffic — in this case, just your BitTorrent traffic — through another server, so that the BitTorrent swarm will show an IP address from a server that can't be traced back to you instead of the address that points to your house. That way, those anti-piracy groups can't contact your ISP, and your ISP has no cause to send you a harrowing letter.

But wait, can't the piracy groups then go to the anonymiser service (BTGuard) and requisition their logs to figure out that you're the one downloading the new Harry Potter? Theoretically, yes, but the reason why we chose BTGuard is because they don't keep logs, so there's no paper trail of activity leading back to you. All the piracy monitors see is BTGuard sharing a file, and all your ISP sees is you connecting to BTGuard — but not what data you're downloading, because it's encrypted.

If you subscribe to an ISP that throttles BitTorrent traffic and aren't using an anonymiser service, you have an additional problem. Your ISP can still see what you're doing, and if they detect that you're using BitTorrent — even if you're using it for perfectly legal purposes — they may throttle your connection so you get unbearably slow speeds. When you encrypt your BitTorrent traffic, your ISP can't see what you're using your connection for. They'll see that you're downloading lots of information, but they won't be able to see that it's BitTorrent traffic, and thus won't throttle your connection. You still have to be careful of going over your ISP's bandwidth cap, however, if that exists.

BTGuard offers you both a proxy (to combat spying) and encryption (to combat throttling) — though many torrent clients have encryption built-in as well.

Sounds great, right? Now the caveats: First, BTGuard isn't free. At $US7/month (as little as $US5 if you pay for a year in advance), it isn't very expensive, and we think it's well worth it if you want to torrent anonymously. A lawsuit settlement, if it comes to that, will cost you at least a couple thousand dollars, which equals a couple of decades of BTGuard subscriptions, so keep that in mind, too. The other potential downside is that piping your downloads through another service may decrease your upload and download speeds. How much depends on what torrent you're downloading, who from and a lot of other factors, but just know that it's a possibility.

Lastly, proxies aren't supported by every client, which means you'll have to use one with more advanced features. uTorrent (for Windows) and Vuze (for Windows, Mac and Linux) both support proxies, but sadly Mac and Linux favourite Transmission does not. (If you're absolutely stuck with a client that doesn't support proxies, check the end of this article for some alternative solutions to the anonymity problem.)

How to Set Up BTGuard

BTGuard has a one-click install process, but we're going to show you how to do it the manual way, since it works in any BitTorrent client that supports SOCKS5 Proxy — not just the ones supported by BTGuard's installer. It'll also give you a better sense of what exactly BTGuard does, so if you run into problems, you'll have a better idea of how to fix it.

Step One: Sign Up for BTGuard

First, sign up for an account over at BTGuard.com. It'll just take a minute, and then you can get to configuring your client. Their BitTorrent proxy service costs $US6.95 a month, but you can get discounts by buying multiple months at a time (up to a year's service for $US59.95). Once you're done, you should receive an email telling you that BTGuard is ready to go.

Step Two: Configure Your Client

Next, open up your torrent client of choice and find the proxy settings within its preferences. In uTorrent, for example, this is under Preferences > Connection. Your client may have them in a different place (Google around to find out where), but no matter your client, your settings should look like this:

  • Proxy Type: Socks v5
  • Proxy Host: proxy.btguard.com
  • Proxy Port: 1025
  • Username: Your BTGuard username
  • Password: Your BTGuard password

You'll also want to make sure you're using the proxy for hostname or tracker lookups as well as peer-to-peer connections, so check all boxes that say anything like that. You'll also want to disable connections or features that could compromise the proxy, so check all the boxes under uTorrent's "Proxy Privacy" section, or anything similar that your client may have. Hit Apply, exit the preferences and restart your client. Your proxy should now be active.

Step Three: See If It's Working

To ensure that it's working, head over to CheckMyTorrentIP.com. This site can tell you what your IP address is, and compare it to the IP address of your torrent client, which will let you know whether your proxy is working correctly. To test it, hit the "Generate Torrent" button, and open the resulting torrent in your client. Then, go back to your browser and hit the Refresh button under the "Check IP" tab. If it's the same as your browser IP — which you'll see next to the Refresh button — then your proxy isn't working, and you'll want to double-check all of the above settings. If it shows a different IP address (often from another country like Germany or Canada), then BTGuard is successfully tunnelling all your traffic for you.

Step Four (Optional): Enable Encryption

If you want extra security (or if you're trying to protect your connection from being throttled), you'll also want to encrypt all that traffic. Many clients have this feature built-in. In uTorrent, for example, just head to Preferences > BitTorrent and look for the "Protocol Encryption" section. Change your outgoing connection to Forced encryption, and uncheck the "Allow incoming legacy connections" box. From there, you should be good — your ISP shouldn't throttle your connection after this is enabled.

If your client doesn't support encryption, or you want a more powerful encryption behind your torrenting, BTGuard offers an encryption service as well. Just head to their Encryption page, download the software, and install it to C:\BTGUARD (this is very important; don't change the installation directory). Then, start the BTGuard Encryption program (accessible from the Start menu), and open up your BitTorrent client. Change your proxy server from proxy.btguard.com to 127.0.0.1, restart your client, and you're golden. Again, this isn't necessary if your client already supports encryption, but it is an extra layer of protection if you really want to keep everything private.

Other Alternatives

Lastly, while this is our preferred BitTorrent privacy solution, it won't work for everyone. For example, if you're stuck with a specific client that doesn't support proxies, you'll need something different. Here are a few of your other options:

A full VPN: If your client doesn't support proxies, you'll want a full VPN service that anonymises all your traffic, not just BitTorrent. You can use one of these great VPN services to protect your traffic, but it's likely you could still experience speed decreases — though this time, they'll affect all your browsing. If you only use it when torrenting, that's fine, but this isn't good for those that want to seed those torrents afterwards. You should also make sure that the VPN service you choose doesn't keep logs of your activity, because if they do, that defeats the purpose of using them at all.

A Seedbox: If you want to contribute back to the community (or if you're on a private tracker that requires you seed to a certain ratio), you'll want to try a seedbox. A seedbox is essentially a dedicated server in another country that does all the torrenting for you, using their very high speed connection. Once a torrent is downloaded, you can then connect to your seedbox via FTP or something similar and download your files from them that way. It's more expensive than a simple proxy (ranging from entry-level boxes at $US10 or $US20 a month to fast boxes with more storage at $US50 or even $US100 a month), but it allows you to keep seeding at very high speeds. There are a lot of good seedbox providers. Bytesized and ExtremeSeed come highly recommended, but a bit of searching can probably find you a lot of different options. Shop around and see which one's best for you.

Usenet: Your last alternative is to try a new file-sharing service entirely, like Usenet. It offers encrypted connections and doesn't connect to peers, so others can't track what you're doing. It doesn't always have the selection that BitTorrent has (depending on what you're downloading), but it offers a ton of other advantages, most notably higher speeds and more privacy. Check out our guide to getting started with Usenet to see if it's right for you.

BitTorrent isn't the safe place it once was, and if you're going to use it to share and download files, we highly recommend getting some sort of protection from the services above so you can avoid DCMA notices and throttled speeds.Got any other tips for keeping your file sharing on the down low? Share them with us in the comments.


Comments

    from reviews online they are not a good service. And the speeds you get a less than acceptable. I have been trialing a VPN but dropouts leave you exposed.

      You shouldn't be exposed with BTGuard, as you are instructing your client to use a proxy, if the Proxy goes down you shouldn't connect at all (provided the client works as it should).

      It doesn't really surprise me that it's slow though, I mean BT in general is a disgusting bandwidth hog, they'd have to be doing some serious traffic management on their end to get it running acceptably for all their clients.

    Could anyone tell me a legitimate use for this?

      No

      When as geographical monopoly on the use of force (government) unjustly inhibits the natrual rights of its inhabitants.

      Government legitimizes itself, though government in itself is not inherently legitimate, as it can be a bad actor just as much as the people it claims to rule over. Your government may choose to liscence a tax over your use of the air within its territory, but that does does not mean that doesn't violate the natural rights of whome just so happen to live within its boarders. The "if you've got nothing to hide...." folks simply don't account for the fact that very often government reclassifies legitimate behavior to illegitimate at an astounding rate, much that was appropriate and natrual for the former generation are crimes today. There are over 4,000 federal laws today, and when i say law i don't mean a single rule. I mean thousands of pages, i mean that prudent prosecuters today have said: "show me the man and I will show you the crime". The average American commits two Felonies per day. No joke, you don't even realize your already a criminal. So tell me, with no end in sight to the amount and details over the laws that control our lives, have you stopped to consider if that is illegitimate?

    I prefer to use programs like PeerBlock. Never had any trouble. Easy setup and maintenance. Auto updates IP lists and doesn't effect your up/down speeds. www.peerblock.com

      I use this too, though I don't know if it's working. I haven't gotten a notification at all, so I have to assume it's safe. Assuming though, possibly a bad thing.

        Peer Block is good, but is definitely not full proof. you are still very vulnerable to any Government/corporate sniffer that has yet to be black listed. An analogy would be having your children memorize everyone on the Sexual predator list, as opposed to teaching them to just not get molested. The first will protect you from everyone who has already been caught, but not all the new predators. ( terribly analogy i'm sorry)

          Describing the government as something similar to a sexual predator is not a terrible analogy, It's actually quite accurate.

          squizz...its spelt F O O L proof!...not full proof..meaning idiot proof..numb nut proof.. able to be used by drop kicks.

    Slight discrepancy with the story relating to Australia, our privacy laws prevent ISPs from peeking at what we're actually doing.
    Which is the whole point of what's been tabled currently for Australia... do some research guys!
    Between yourself and your ISP you're perfectly safe in Australia without a court order requesting specific details, they can't just go fishing.
    It's between the ISP and the world wide wibble that data can be tracked, and traced back to the ISP (not you specifically at that point).

    Which, at the end of the day is still a f-load of work to trace back to a specific user. Of course doing something like this will make it a lot harder to trace ultimately, but for the time being ur reasonably safe... maybe LH should actually do a proper research article on how many successful prosecutions there have been in Australia relating to this topic.

    Erm, this is no doubt a silly question, but then I'm a bit of a newb when it comes to net security, never really had a use until now! How do I make a start icon from my BT Guard VPN connected icon in the Network and sharing centre?
    I can see that I am connected to the network, but I can't find a quick start icon for that connection. It would be nice if I could just click an icon rather than set it up manually each time

    And you're missing the part where BT Guard gets your credit card number

    As the article mentioned, VPNs have the tendency to become disconnected from time to time and leave you exposed.

    Last edited 05/03/16 2:33 pm

    don't bother in Australia... 20kb maxed out. You don't get caught because nothing downloads.

    Can anyone suggest good VPN Services, free and paid?

    I set up BTGuard with Vuze on a Mac and have found that the client won't connect to the proxy server for all torrents... Some work and some don't.

    Anyone else have this issue and/or a solution?

    I know this is an offhand remark- but the best step would be to forget about BTguard entirely. There's a service called Furk.net that does the same thing- but at the same time it turns any torrent into a directo download. This also negates any need for a BitTorrent machine.

    Negate the whole topic of torrents and come to the dark side of Usenet. You won't regret it!

    Real quick and possibly dumb question here guys, just wanna be sure on this. If I'm on a university network that I need to sign in on, will they still see any torrent traffic I use, even with a proxy like this?

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