You should be able to browse the internet with confidence, right? You want to explore cyberspace and download files without the fear of being hacked or becoming a victim of malware. Some types of files are riskier than others. While torrents are often a convenient tool, they can also open your computer to danger. What exactly are torrents, and how can you use them without treading on thin ice?
How Torrents Work
A torrent is a single file that comes from many sources. It is a type of peer-to-peer sharing. When you download a file, it comes not only from the person who originally shared it, but also from other online users who have also downloaded the file. This unique system can mean that you’re able to download large files, such as movies, much more quickly than you would otherwise be able to.
Torrent indexes are sites that contain a list of available content. On these indexes, which are often in the form of forums, you can search for files, share them, and download them. These online communities often have rules regarding the type of content you can share and download. Some popular torrent indexes include:
- The Pirate Bay
After you download a torrent, you become a “seeder,” which means that you will become one of the many sources for the torrent file so other users can take advantage of ever-faster download speeds.
Risks Associated With Torrents
Before you leap onto the nearest torrent site and start to download all the media you can get your hands on, be aware that torrents come with several significant risks.
As is the case with any other type of file, torrents can contain malware. While the risk with torrents isn’t necessarily greater than the risk associated with spammy emails, people may too often have a misled trust of torrent sites. A single false click could spell disaster for your computer or mobile device.
Torrents open a portion of your computer to the internet at large. While only the peer-to-peer files that are marked for sharing will be exposed, it is still good to be cautious.
Downloading torrents can invite hackers to go after your sensitive information. Your IP address will be available for others to view, and that is a stepping stone for crafty online villains to learn more about you than you ever wanted them to know.
How to Use Torrents Safely
You can still use torrents if you take a few sensible precautions:
- Don’t download any suspicious files. Even if a file you’ve downloaded looks safe, run it through a virus scanning program before you open it.
- Turn off file sharing for any important personal files. You can usually find this under “PC Settings.” It is possible to disable uploading from your computer so your torrents are no longer part of the peer-to-peer network. However, torrent sites discourage this and may label you as a “leecher.” You could be barred from continuing to use the torrent site.
- Keep your device’s security software up to date.
The most effective way to protect yourself from the dangers of torrents is to use a VPN such as Hotspot Shield. The Hotspot Shield app will encrypt your internet traffic, disguise your IP address, thereby giving you anonymity and making it impossible for hackers to take a look at your personal information.
Some VPN services may restrict your bandwidth even if they protect you from internet risks. Hotspot Shield Elite allows unlimited bandwidth. Not only will you be able to download torrents safely, but you’ll also be able to do so without restrictions.
Keep It Legal
You may have noticed that one of the most popular torrent sites is called “The Pirate Bay.” As the name implies, torrent sites are often rife with pirated, copyrighted material. Copyright laws are strict, forbidding the unauthorized copying and distribution of protected material. When you see the latest blockbuster or a hot new musical album available for free on a torrent site, keep in mind that it was put there illegally. Violating copyright laws can come with severe penalties.
Torrents in themselves are not illegal. The technology behind file sharing is completely within the boundaries of the law, but much of the material that is made available through torrents is copyrighted material.
The internet should be your playground, not a place where you’re afraid to download useful files. Torrents are a convenient way for you to quickly download useful material, but they’re not without their risks. Protect yourself by using a VPN, scanning for viruses, and being ever mindful of copyright laws.