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Torrent Technologies: What is Torrenting? How to Torrent Safely? by @dancarthy2

torrenting on a laptop

You’ve probably downloaded something using the torrent technology at least once in your life. Maybe you’ve downloaded a certain game you bought or a TV show, it was probably through a torrent client of some kind but you weren’t aware of it. Torrenting is so popular that some major tech companies use it for their internal operations. They use torrents to distribute patches, updates and fixes. But is this widespread technology safe? You want to learn how it actually works and how you can play with it safely?

What it really is

Torrenting is, simply put, a file sharing technology. Users, peers in this case, connect and share the files online. When you are using torrents you don’t download files from a single website or source. Files circulate around the peers who seed them. For example, you want to build a car. You get some pieces but your neighbors have the rest. Your neighbors also want to build their own cars and they might need the pieces you have. You guys will visit each other and take what you need until all of you have your complete products. Of course, torrenting means that you download stuff from one direct source but you also download chunks from other users of the same torrent. That enables a smooth transfer that’s hard to trace. But, your IP address may be visible if you’re not using a VPN. Each peer is a mini-server which reduces the stress on the network.

Terms you need to know about

In order to understand torrenting you have to posses some knowledge about the most important terms you’ll come across while visiting torrent sites and using this technology in general. As we’ve mentioned, peers are the users who are involved in the sharing process through torrent P2P network. You are a peer as long as you keep sharing files on the given network.

Seeders are users who are downloading but also uploading the file for other users to download. When you download something through torrent, you download certain amounts of data but you also upload a bit. That upload means that other users will get the chunk they need when you upload it.

Indexers are websites that work as search engines for the files and content that can be downloaded through torrents. Some people may refer to these as the torrent sites. And the best torrent sites that were really popular (especially in the world of pirates) were Piratebay, Torrentz and Zamunda (Bulgaria).

BitTorrent Client is an app that allows you to download torrent files. The most popular client is BitTorrent along with ‘uTorrent’. These apps or e.g. programs enable the process of combining the fragments from many seeds, assembling them and managing the whole download.

Trackers are servers that connect the peers. They are the ones who direct the packets from you to another peer, they help you find a peer on the network of a certain download.

How to use it?

It’s quite simple, first of all, you have to download a torrent client then find the torrent file you want and add it to the client. The downloading starts at that moment. However, the whole process isn’t that simple. Torrenting is awesome but there are some dangers that come with it. First of all, people who aren’t using torrents legally risk being incarcerated. It depends from one country to another but almost all ‘first world’ countries have strict copyright laws that could land you behind bars for 10 or more years if you download all the latest Hollywood movies and copyrighted music. You can also fall victim to online criminals, hackers, since your IP address could be visible while torrenting. And, last but not least, some hackers plant a virus into a seed and wait for you to start downloading. That way you download a virus without even knowing it.

The safe way of using it

You’ve probably heard of VPNs. A Virtual Private Network is a network that hides your identity and activity online. Many pirates use VPNs to safely download stuff they aren’t allowed to download through torrent or in any other way. For example, there is this software called ‘Tunnel Bear’. Tunnel Bear offers VPN services to its users. When you turn it off, the app changes your IP address from the real one to a phantom one in Romania, for example. This way you’re masking your real IP address so that you can’t get tracked or identified.

Conclusion

Torrenting is great but you have to be careful. There are harmful sites and files online. The people behind those files are always looking for new ways to get into your computer. So, do your own research and protect yourself while you torrent. Please do all the torrenting legally.   

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