Ask LH: How Do I Torrent Safely Now That Demonoid Is Down?

Dear Lifehacker, My favourite private BitTorrent tracker, Demonoid, has apparently gone down for good. I was so dependent on it for its quality, security from viruses and protection from prying eyes. Where can I torrent safely now that Demonoid is gone?Sincerely, Lost and Leeching

Photo by Mmaxer (Shutterstock).

Dear Lost,

This is an interesting question, and the answer is going to go in directions you may not have expected. First, we need to clear up a few common misconceptions about BitTorrent and Demonoid. We've already recommended more secure ways to share files online, such as the much-safer Usenet (set it up in three easy steps here) or the truly private BitTorrent trackers. The main thing you need to know is that Demonoid, while a fine site, was not nearly as safe and anonymous as you probably thought.

In fact, many common BitTorrent "safety" precautions aren't really doing you any good.

Demonoid Was Not a Private Tracker

The Problem: Demonoid was perceived as something great because it was considered to be a private tracker. You could only download torrents on Demonoid if you had an account, and you couldn't just sign up for an account anytime you wanted. You either needed to get invited by another user or wait for one of its limited "open signup" periods.

However, Demonoid invitations were incredibly easy to come by, and open signups were held often, meaning virtually anyone could join the community. They had few rules on who was allowed to participate, what kind of quality was allowed, and they'd even sometimes list torrents from other trackers. All of these things together gave a false sense of security when in reality anyone could come on in and seed viruses, leech without seeding or track what you were downloading if you were pirating content.

The Solution: If you want faster, high-quality downloads with strict community rules, check out our guide to private trackers for suggestions. Note that they'll be much harder to get into, so you'll have to be patient and ready to seed your torrents 24/7.

Encryption and PeerBlock Do Not Protect You from Prying Eyes

The Problem: Many BitTorrent users, in an effort to hide their activity from media companies, the government, hackers or other organisations, encrypt their traffic and use a program called PeerBlock to block known snoopers from connecting to you. Unfortunately, neither of these solutions can truly hide you. PeerBlock can't possibly know everyone that could try to snoop your traffic and is only going to give you a false sense of security. Many users have gotten "caught" torrenting while using PeerBlock. Similarly, while encryption used to protect you from ISP throttling, ISPs have found other means of snooping on your traffic.

The Solution: There is no harm in using encryption and PeerBlock, but they aren't enough to keep your traffic hidden. If you really want to keep other people out of your business, you'll need to use a proxy like BTGuard, a VPN or other similar methods. And you'll probably have to pay money for these services, so if you're looking for free solutions, you're mostly out of luck.

Not All VPNs Are Created Equal

The Problem: It's good practice to use a proxy or VPN service, but it's pointless if you sign up for one that doesn't take privacy seriously. Many VPN services, like the very popular HideMyAss, keep logs of all your activity and will gladly offer it to those who ask. This means your data is barely safer than if you had foregone the VPN in the first place.

The Solution: If you want to use a proxy or VPN service, do your research and find out how committed the provider is to privacy. Make sure they don't keep logs and see what their policy is on sharing information with third parties. TorrentFreak has a great guide to finding a committed VPN provider, so I recommend starting there if you're looking to anonymise your traffic.

The best way to avoid getting in trouble is not to pirate, and the best way to get high-quality content is to go to the original, physical source (if possible). But unfortunately BitTorrent is under so much heat that even legitimate BitTorrent users need to take precautions to avoid throttling, viruses and other problems. While Demonoid was a better site than most public trackers, it was not the Holy Grail of BitTorrent trackers by any means, and you should take this time to make sure you're really being safe.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    VPN.S does not keep records...

      I use VPNSecure too! Can't recommend these guys enough, and they're based in Australia as well :)

        +1 for i use them too

          -1 for obvious attempt of leeching onto useful article to plug your own website.

    Would happily subscribe to netflix if it was available in Australia. $8 a month for unlimited movies is something that I could handle. Already am on Spotify premium as it's finally in Australia. Prefer legitimate methods, but if there isn't any, what can you do? Might want to point out that I know you can rent movies online in Aus for like $4 each, but for an extra $4 in the States and Canada, I can get unlimited...

      If they want to stop piracy just let us consume it EASILY and at an affordable price.

        I was in the same boat and now i use a service called unblockus to get access to netflix, so now im happily paying for content and my amount of torrenting has dropped dramatically.

      + 1000000. I torrent like craaaazy when it come to movies and TV shows. Up until about 4 months ago I torrented music like crazy too, but I am now paying for Spotify Preium, a service which is fair and legal.

      Australians do not thinkg, "Oooh, a movie. I should pirate it because I'm a cheap bastard."

      What ACTUALLY happens is this:
      "Huh. The content I am trying to view is not available in my region? Oh darn. I guess I have to go get it for free."

        (Well. We don't =universally= think that. Some of us are actually just cheap bastards.)

          I completely Agree. I am from America, and I have all but stopped pirating TV and movies, because whenever i want to watch something it's usually on Netflix, if it's not its on hulu. I do still pirate things that i want to see if they aren't on any of the 3 things big unlimited view things I pay for monthly ( hulu+, netlifx, and amazon prime Video)

          I usually think 'Well f*** I don't wanna pay a hundred a month for Foxtel and the channels I want to watch these on..... so what the hell.' and download the shows I watch. However that being said, I damn well will buy their seasonal box sets etc. *looks at shelves of Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad etc*

          Just have to buy GoT season 2 and I'm up to date :)))

      100% there with you mate.
      Spotify premium day one and I have literally stopped getting music from a tracker. Even in cases where I cannot find what im looking for on the service I just forget it because I have virtually unlimited other choices and things I need desperately I already have on cd and need to digitize them.
      TV on the other hand. Nothing good to watch on tv in Australia and no decent legitimate way to get anime.. :(

      Couldn't agree with you more. I was an avid Music Torrent'er, but with the advent of Spotify in Australia, I don't download at all anymore. $12 a month I think is very reasonable and the service is excellent.

    I know... Stop been cheap asses and pay for you content, that way you have 100% peace of mind, get perfect quality content and aren't breaking half of the laws out there.

      Y'know it's more likely people are pirating stuff like TV shows that aren't out on Blu-Ray/DVD here yet because they just started airing in the US and we won't see it here on pay TV for anywhere upto a year and sometimes more on Free to Air TV which also holds back local releases on Blu-Ray/DVD. I'm still waiting to buy Season 5 of Burn Notice on DVD from JB, even though I watched it more than a year ago when it aired in the US.

      Perfect quality content? No.. I'm afraid not, I've had quite a few occasions where I've purchased dvds and there were problems or issues with them, even at the mastering level. QC is never perfect.

      Yes though, you're right, I should stop being cheap, and pay for everything I want to see or watch, let me just go pay these companies in Japan so I can watch their shows without any subtitles, and hope that they'll accept payments from outside of Japan, you know, since companies haven't blocked foreigners before.

      Let me just go buy everything I want to see or listen to, even if it's only a one off, and then I'll just have it lay there for the next thirty or so years, taking up room. Wait, I can buy digital content too? Yes? I already do though, I buy a lot of digital and physical prodcuts, and when it comes down to it, I do not have the money to buy everything I want , and some things are not worth the overly high price tag for me... nah, I'm just a cheap ass.. totally.

      Not everyone can afford to pay for everything, and naturally, that means that have NO right what so ever to view it, right? I'll be honest, I hate people like you, and I'm willing to bet you won't care.

        You have to work for the things you want in life. I want to own a home, but I'm not going to forge documents and pretend I own it. I have to pay a mortgage.

          why not, fuck it, worse case senario you go down having a more exiting life then your current one

      I am all for paying for content, but for some people paying for things like Foxtel isn't an option, some of us work weird hours and shifts which conflict with when shows are aired, yes I know Foxtel has a built in dvr but it still only lets you watch it on the Tv which it was recorded on

      I would gladly pay for media if it were readily available to me, in a nice easy DRM free package so I could watch where and how I wanted to, I don't want to watch HD movies on my phone

      Not only that, the disparity of time and cost and availability between Australia and the rest of the world severely limits what is actually available

      There is just so much crap, instead of making things available to the masses for a reasonable price the promoters would rather charge through the proverbial and severely limit the functions of it all, until they get a new business model there will always be "pirating"

      Well, aren't we inflicted with a case of the hyperboles.

      Check your facts before posting. Many, many people use torrents to acquire TV content, for instance, when there is no other way to get it. Even if you want to pay, there is no way to do so.

      Now, please list "half of the laws out there" that people are breaking.

      Legal, physical content = 5-10 minutes of unskippable film studio logos and promos and anti-piracy ads, then the movie.

      Pirated content = The movie.

    With all the money some people pay for VPN's and other services, they probably could have done it cheaper getting Unblock us for $50/yr and NetFlix & Hulu Plus/ month... get XBMC and Free Cable... golden opportunity to access most content you want and you pay for the good's your accessing... for the same price if not much different anyways and you cant get caught pirating...

    Lower the profit margins on new movies, lower costs = higher quantity of sales.
    In this day and age it is *almost* silly to have to goto the cinemas to see new films when so many people have home theaters etc
    H+ has the right idea of online content although being free makes that case kind of irrelevant on this subject

    I use Unblock-US to stream netflix and hulu+ from the US and it works brilliantly. I pay around $20 for all three (you need the unblock-Us to access the other two) and get more high quality, on-demand quality content than you could shake a stick at. Admittedly, it was a minor hassle setting it up a year ago, but since then it been perfect.

    For anything else* I use a seedbox based in Canada and then either stream to my jailbroken ATV or download to local storage. Life's good.

    *implies whatever you want it to.

    Allow us to subscribe to the above mentioned services and release the content the same time worldwide.

    I don't want to wait 1 extra year to watch season 2 of Game of Thrones because its not available here. Paying $50+ a month for cable TV and still not have the shows you want.

    Movies is not problem as they get released on DVD/Blu-Ray months after release, but TV shows it takes a year easy

      Costs a lot more than $50 a month for cable, if you want a half-way decent package.

      $20 a month for all 3? What amount of data do you go through a month? I'm on 100gb Telstra - I'm assuming I'd struggle with that

    I use Peer Blocker and Witopia as my VPN (apx $65 p/ year)

    That guy, well I assume it's a guy is downloading the notebook... wtf

      why would you assume its a guy? its a girl with a long hair, womens clothing and a headband.

    Worse still is when you actually buy a legitimate blu ray or dvd you are bombarded with piracy is illegal messages. Really? I'm doing the right thing and paying for content and its more difficult for me to get to that content that someone who just pirates a dvd rip.

    The danger to individuals is as close to zero as it possibly can be anyway. Share with impunity. I do, and will continue to do so until legitimate sources offer products that compete (availability, price, quality) with illegal sources.

    I don't know how many movies I have been to and said to myself what a bloody waste of money, I have walked out of many a movie.
    I download movies now, illegally , yeah sure, I watch them at home, if I like what I see I will go to the movies pay for it and watch again, watching the movie advertising is a waste of time, it shows one thing and if you see the movie most times all the excitement was in the add and the rest of the movie is boring.
    another point, they have made the cost to see a movie too dam expensive and I wonder how a young family can afford to go.
    push the price up on any thing, make it unaffordable, and theft will arise. it happens on nearly every thing that's pricey.
    think about it.

    Yeah jack is right, think about it.... angry birds.... 1 dollar product... everyone can spare a dollar right ??
    Then even if its shit they won't care they wasted their dollar
    Only need a couple of million fools and 1 dollar is alot

    Not saying that a movie should cost a dollar :)
    But it would help to stop paying fuckfaces like tom cruise 20 odd million a film when they can't even put on a god damn german accent for valkyrie !!!!!

    There is several openvpn applications for example it  works the best for me

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