Sep 4, 2012

Downloading With BitTorrent? You're Being Monitored

big brother
big brother (Photo credit: Vince_Lamb)
In light of the recent busts of Demonoid admins, BitTorrent file sharing seems to have the spot light  on it's activities turned up a bit. Most recently a study was conducted by the University of Birmingham in the UK by a security researcher named Tom Chothia that found that copyright enforcement agencies are actively monitoring the top 100 torrents downloaded from some of the most popular torrent sites like The Pirate Bay.

What Tom and his colleagues did was setup a fake torrent server and found that anyone downloading data from their servers had their IP addresses logged within 3 hours by these copyright enforcement groups.

From NewScientist:

We only detected monitors in Top 100 torrents; this implies that copyright enforcement agencies are monitoring only the most popular content music and movie on public trackers," the team says in its presentation paper. "Almost everyone that shares popular films and music illegally will be connected to by a monitor and will have their IP address logged," says Chothia.  
Given the vast numbers of people whose IP addresses will have now been logged, the finding raises the question over what enforcement outfits now plan to do with their harvested data. Have they gathered a war chest of targets for future copyright infringement lawsuits? Or are they simply assessing the scale of the problem to make governments act? 
If it is for lawsuits, the standard of evidence may not be enough, says Chothia. "All the monitors connected to file sharers believed to be sharing illegal content. However, they did not actually collect any of the files being shared. So it is questionable whether the observed evidence of file-sharing would stand up in court."

If you want to prevent the "authorities" from tracking your downloads you might want to check out a VPN service, or a torrent anonymizer service like BTGuard. If you know of any other good ways to hide your IP while using BitTorrent, let us know in the comments.

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