Published on September 13th, 2019 | by Bibhuranjan0
How secure are P2P Networks for Downloads?
“I’ll just Torrent this” is probably an expression that you have come across sometime. Using P2P networks (a.k.a Torrents) is a very popular practice and done by millions of people around the world. These platforms are often free and mostly ad-supported by their respective hosts, although it may vary. Very large scale torrent operations like PirateBay are often seen at the front of legal disputes regarding support of piracy of trademarked content. But the face of the matter is that, these hosts have little to no control over what get’s listed for downloads on the main website. Furthermore, torrents are not just about piracy as legitimate content is also uploaded on these sites which aren’t easily found on Search Engines.
This guide to attempt to dispel some of the myths and concerns over downloading things via P2P networks and also explore how secure are these platforms when it comes to issues over privacy, security and legitimacy.
A Little Background on P2P Networks
If you are wondering how Torrents works then here is the basic explanation:
P2P networks are laid out in a manner such that there is often no need for a central server to distribute the contents. What Does that mean?
A basic P2P network requires just Four things to get started –
1. A Computer
2. A Fast Internet Connection
3. A P2P Distribution Software like uTorrent.
4. The File that needs distributing
In essence, any computer can be set up as a P2P host initially provided that these requirements are met. The magic happens when multiple computers that download the file from the host computer start distributing (Seeding) the file to newer hosts. That negates the requirement for a centralized server to handle downloads, since each of the nodes distributing (Seeding) the file in the network is effectively “A Server” that’s contributing a part of the file for downloading to the new download host. Hence you see a list of Peers/Seeders in your native Torrent client when you download using P2P networks. Here is another very simple explanation of the same thing.
Concerns Over P2P Downloading
Over the years P2P networks have been at assault from major publishers, studios and artists for distributing illegal content. There is this famous documentary from people of The Pirate Bay over a lawsuit charged against them and we highly recommend watching it to get an idea on the matter.
In a nutshell, they were charged of promoting piracy and causing loses of millions of dollars to big Media corporations, most of them based in the USA. That brings us to the topic of this article, i.e for the most part these allegations are mostly true. Most popular P2P networks are indeed responsible for distributing pirated or modified content like Games, Music, Movies, TV Shows etc which is a major cause for losses of big Media corporations as well as small upstarts that do not have big money. Game piracy is especially a major loss derivative, standing at a staggering $130+ Billion dollars loss in revenue.
Piracy aside, there is also the fact that major torrent destinations are also a gateway to all sorts of Malware. There are a lot of sources that conclude that Torrents distributed malware affects above 20 Million PC’s (including MAC’s) every month and there doesn’t seem to be an end to this. Unfortunately this is something that is well known to the people behind creating these malware and piracy along with its counter measures has gotten smarter.
So Are Torrents Safe along with its Platforms?
The short answer is a relative Yes. Using P2P networks to download stuff is fine and wont go away anytime soon. The Torrent hosts or platforms themselves are safe although most of them will mine for your data if you ever visited one and possibly be infested with annoying popups and ads. That being said, the bulk of the concern comes from the uploaders at these Torrenting sites. Many of whom are purposefully involved in Torrent Poisoning. So if you absolutely have to use these networks, do so at your own peril. While the Web Domain of the Torrenting site might be safe, the risk is in downloading the contents from the 3rd party uploaders.
In any case, make sure to use a VPN while downloading torrents, so that the information leak is minimal and invest in a decent Internet Security Suite that can safeguard against these malware. Even your basic Windows Defender is a very good defense against these malware, provided that it is updated regularly.