How To Completely Anonymise Your BitTorrent Traffic With A Proxy

How to Completely Anonymize Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy

BitTorrent isn't the quiet haven it once was. These days, everyone's looking to throttle your connection, spy on what you're downloading, or even send you an ominous letter. If you use BitTorrent, you absolutely need to take precautions to hide your identity. Here's how to do that with a simple proxy.

This post originally detailed the setup of a proxy called BTGuard. Since its original publication in 2011, we've changed our recommendation to Private Internet Access due to BTGuard's slow speeds, bad customer service and other difficulties. If you're still interested in using BTGuard, you can find instructions on its website.

You have a few different options when it comes to hiding your BitTorrent activity, but we've found that a proxy is the most convenient and easiest to set up, so that's what we're going to cover here. We've talked about proxies a few times before, most notably with our original guide on how to set up BTGuard, our guide to safe torrenting post-Demonoid. Unfortunately, BTGuard has never been a great service -- it was just the most convenient. Thankfully, Private Internet Access -- one of our favourite VPN providers -- now provides a proxy very similar to BTGuard, but with faster speeds and better customer service. So we recommend using it instead, using the instructions below. If you don't want to use a proxy, go to the end of the article for alternative suggestions.

How a BitTorrent Proxy Works

How to Completely Anonymize Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy

When you download or seed a torrent, you're connecting to a bunch of other people, called a swarm. All of those people can see your computer's IP address -- they have to in order to connect. 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 Private Internet Access) funnels traffic -- in this case, just your BitTorrent traffic -- through another server, so that the BitTorrent swarm will show an IP address from them instead of you. In this case, Private Internet Access' proxy server is in the Netherlands. 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 and requisition their logs to figure out what you're downloading? Theoretically, yes, but if you're using a truly good anonymiser, they don't keep logs, so there's no paper trail of activity leading back to you. All the piracy monitors see is a proxy service sharing a file, and all your ISP sees is you connecting to a proxy service. If you encrypt your BitTorrent traffic (which we recommend), your ISP won't even be able to see that you're using BitTorrent.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, there are a few downsides. Most notably:

  • Anonymity isn't free. Well, at least the ones worth using aren't. Private Internet Access costs $US6.95 a month or $US39.95 a year. That isn't very expensive though, and it's well worth it for the privacy you get.
  • You'll get slower download speeds. Running your connection through another server inevitably slows you down, although how much depends on what torrent you're downloading, who from and a lot of other factors. In my experience, more popular torrents stayed at their top speed of 3.4MB/s (my bandwidth cap) with a proxy, while other less popular torrents slowed down from 1MB/s to about 500-600kb/s. Your mileage may vary. I lost significantly less speed with Private Internet Access than I did with BTGuard though.
  • Not every BitTorrent client supports proxies. uTorrent for Windows works great, but Mac and Linux favourite Transmission sadly does not support proxies. You'll have to use something like Vuze or Deluge instead (or try one of the alternatives listed at the end of this article).
  • Nothing is foolproof. Using a proxy may bring you increased anonymity, but nothing is guaranteed unless you avoid BitTorrent entirely.

Ready to get started? Here's what you need to do.

How to Set Up the Private Internet Access Proxy

Setting up a proxy just involves signing up for a service and checking a few boxes in your BitTorrent client. We'll be using Private Internet Access and uTorrent for Windows for this guide, but you can tweak things to fit your own setup pretty easily.

Step 1: Sign Up for Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is primarily a VPN provider. We'll talk a bit more about VPNs later in this post, but what we really want is the SOCKS5 proxy that comes with their VPN service. So, head to Private Internet Access' website and sign up for its VPN service. We recommend starting out with a monthly plan to see if you like it before buying a whole year's subscription.

Once you've signed up, Private Internet Access will email you your username and password. Log into the system with those credentials, and change your password from the client control panel.

Step 2: Generate a Proxy Password

How to Completely Anonymize Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy

Your account credentials are only to manage your account -- we'll need a new set of credentials for the Proxy service. In the client control panel, click the "Generate Password" button under "PPTP/L2TP/SOCKS Password". This is what we'll be using to configure our BitTorrent client. Write down the username and password that appears here (it's different than your regular account credentials)

Step 3: Configure Your BitTorrent Client

How to Completely Anonymize Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy

Next, open up uTorrent and head to Options > Preferences > Connection. Under Proxy Server, choose Socks5 under "Type" and enter the following information:

  • Proxy Type: Socks5
  • Proxy Host: proxy-nl.privateinternetaccess.com
  • Proxy Port: 1080
  • Username: Your Private Internet Access Proxy username (from step two)
  • Password: Your Private Internet Access Proxy password (from step two)

Check all of the other boxes under "Proxy" and "Proxy Privacy". Your Connection preferences should look exactly like the image above.

Step 4: See If It's Working

How to Completely Anonymize Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy

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 uTorrent. 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 (which should be in the Netherlands), then Private Internet Access is successfully tunnelling all your traffic for you.

Other Ways to Anonymise Your BitTorrent Traffic

A proxy like Private Internet Access is the most convenient way to anonymise your traffic, but it isn't the only way. If you want to try something else, here are a few other tricks we recommend.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (or VPN) is very similar to a proxy, but instead of rerouting just your BitTorrent traffic, it reroutes all your internet traffic. For some people, that's a good thing -- it gives you privacy all over the web. However, it can also be inconvenient, navigating you to different web pages for that VPN's country or causing issues with streaming services. If you have a NAS, you can set up your VPN on it to route only your NAS traffic, which is a perfect option for downloading anonymously. VPNs are about the same price as most proxies, and I personally have found that I get better speeds with most VPNs than I do with a proxy.

So which VPN should you use? Check out TorrentFreak's list of the best VPNs for BitTorrent, as well as our Hive Five on the subject to find a provider that works for you.

Rent a Seedbox

Unlike proxies and VPNs, seedboxes don't route your BitTorrent traffic through another country. Instead, you actually rent a dedicated server that resides in that country and do all your torrenting through that machine. They usually have insanely fast speeds, and if you're on a private tracker, they'll seed 24/7, giving you a great ratio. Once you download a torrent on your seedbox, you can just connect to it via FTP and download the file as fast as your home connection allows. Note that seedboxes also require a bit of extra setup, and some may require a little command line work to get running.

Seedboxes are more expensive than proxies and VPNs, 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 offers a lot of advantages over proxies and VPNs -- if you have the money to spare and want super-fast speeds and a good ratio, we highly recommend getting a seedbox. Providers like Whatbox, Feral and Bytesized come highly recommended, but a bit of searching can provide you with alternative options. Shop around and see which one's best for you.

Ditch BitTorrent Altogether

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 lot of other advantages, most notably higher speeds and better privacy. Check out our guide to getting started with Usenet to see if it's right for you.

Pictures: Simon/Pixabay, lynea/Shutterstock

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Comments

    How does all this compare to using PeerBlocker?

      Peerblocker blocks unwanted hosts from a known list, to hopefully keep your client from connecting to dodgy folk who want to see you uploading content illegally or to send you false data. They can still obtain your IP, they just cant connect to you after.

      This (and VPNs and Seedboxes) are a level removed from that; they represent you as a physically different location and IP address. You can still use peerblocker, but even if somebody gets past that they cant link it directly to you.

      I'm personally a fan of seedboxes. it lets you download and seed as much as you want without choking your router or your uplink, which is pretty handy for all of us stuck with a 1mb/s upload limit.

        You can try Private Internet Access http://bitly.com/privateinternetaccessvpn for torrenting they have specific servers that provide good downloading speed while torrenting also they offer 7 days money back guarantee so you can easily test it.

        Last edited 14/06/16 12:04 am

      PeerBlocker is a joke, dont use it, you are much better off using a proxy or a seed box. if you use peer block you can still get caught, whereas using a proxy you wont get caught

        this just annoys me...if they want to catch you they will, no matter what your using

          You wont get caught if you use something like BTguard

          1. We do not keep any logs whatsoever.

          2. The jurisdiction is Canada. Since we do not have log files, we have no information to share. We do not communicate with any third parties. The only event we would even communicate with a third-party is if we received a court order. We would then be forced to notify them we have no information. This has not happened yet.

          Taken from: http://torrentfreak.com/vpn-services-that-take-your-anonymity-seriously-2013-edition-130302/

          So basicially, even if a company sent a court order, BTGuard will simply say that they cant do anything since they have no logs since they dont have to keep them

          Last edited 23/08/13 10:50 pm

            http://torrentfreak.com/vpn-services-that-take-your-anonymity-seriously-2013-edition-130302/

            Private Internet Access

            We absolutely do not maintain any VPN logs of any kind. We utilize shared IP addresses rather than dynamic or static IPs, so it is not possible to match a user to an external IP.

            We chose the US, since it is one of the few countries without a mandatory data retention law. We will not share any information with third parties without a valid court order. With that said, it is impossible to match a user to any activity on our system since we utilize shared IPs and maintain absolutely no logs.

            We have proprietary technology and an experienced legal team which allows us to comply [With the DMCA] without any risk to our users.

            Last edited 15/12/13 11:23 am

            HideMyAss https://www.hidemyass.com/vpn/r20533/ is a good choice for torrent downloaders as it has servers in more than 60 countries across the world, so finding a server in a country close-by for maximum transfer speeds should be easy. In fact, it had some great speedtest results, which when combined with highly secure 256-bit encryption, makes it ideal for downloading and performing other Internet activities that you wish to keep private.

            Last edited 05/04/16 4:58 am

          wrong. VPN no letters of copyright infringements for 3yrs

            There are easier ways (but slow), sensible firewall rules and do not allow incoming connections. On riskier torrents, I use a simple method to hide my real ip from the tracker. Never had such a notice in my entire decade of torrenting.

      Never use proxy to make your traffic encrypted because ISP can easily trace them. Only the best option is to use a security software.

    Actually; setting up a seedbox is rather easy! Just go to seedbox.me, choose your plan and away you go!

      EDIT: I need coffee!

      Last edited 15/12/13 1:29 pm

    What sort of slow down would I get in Australia using a proxy in the fucking netherlands?

      I am currently using BT Guard and i have experienced no slowdown, but it all depends on you internet connection and whether your provider throttles p2p, BT guard includes a program that allows you to disguise your traffic so you dont get any slowdown from throttling

    On the homepage of Private Internet Access, under the heading "Why Choose Us" they list "US based corporation"

    I'm not sure I'd use a US based company for privacy.......

      http://torrentfreak.com/vpn-services-that-take-your-anonymity-seriously-2013-edition-130302/

      I use BT Guard because they are based in Canada

      Last edited 23/08/13 3:03 pm

    The title of this article is a bit over the top: "...Completely Anonymise Your BitTorrent...". A VPN provider will always know the IP address you're connecting from and the IP address you're connecting to. VPN can't provide you with "Complete" anonymity (http://invisibler.com/lulzsec-and-hidemyass/). As @nersh pointed out private internet access is a U.S. VPN provider and it is subject to US law and surveillance. The Guardian's information comes from whistleblower Edward Snowden (http://vpnverge.com/can-nsa-crack-vpn/) shows that NSA could potentially crack some VPNs.

    Last edited 24/08/13 8:03 am

    You say above that one can use a VPN rather than a proxy....

    "A virtual private network (or VPN) is very similar to a proxy, but instead of rerouting just your BitTorrent traffic, it reroutes all your internet traffic."

    I am confused. I signed up just as the article suggest. It was 6.95. Then I generated the proxy name/password and put that in to UTorrent.

    So don't I have now have both a VPN and a proxy. The Private Internet Access website says:

    "Private Internet Access provides state of the art, multi-layered security with advanced privacy protection using VPN tunneling."

    Sounds like if I follow the directions of this article, I am doing both, yes?

      I downloaded TFK_AFK as a test after following the directions. It downloaded 3.5G in 2.5 hours. So that seems a bit slow. I wonder if I use the proxy only and shut down the VPN if it will be faster.

    After reading this article I switched to PIA. Am now going back to BTGuard because BTGuard works.

    The socks proxy flakes out every few hours, requiring a restart of the client. And their support desk is a joke.

    Their service only works for short bursts.

    proxies from http://instantproxies.com/ work well for this.

    I personally would avoid using Canadian VPNs for the time being. It seems the government is investigating laws that would make a VPN service legally obligated to notify its customers if there is a copyright infringement which implies they would also require the VPNs to log more customer data. I've been using PIA for the last several months, and I'm relatively happy with it, thought the client software can be a little glitchy

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