If you download torrents, either on occasion or frequently, I highly recommend you take steps to protect yourself.
First, let us talk about your privacy. One of the best ways to protect your privacy is to use an anonymous VPN provider. A VPN creates a secure encrypted connection between your home computer to a computer in a data center. An encrypted connection alone does not make you anonymous, but it does prevent your ISP and other prying eyes from seeing what websites you are visiting and what data you may be downloading or uploading. Some of these VPN providers actually go a step further to promote privacy and anonymity by not keep logs of what you do. Additionally, some allow you to pay using anonymous methods such as paying by Bitcoin. Not all VPN providers provide this level of privacy, and if they don’t then they could hand over your information if requested. Finally, not all VPN providers are torrent friendly, and they will actively block or suspend your service if you use it for that.
All that being said, some providers do not keep logs, support anonymous payment methods, are torrent friendly, affordable, and support fast connection speeds. After a lot of research, benchmarking and testing, I have found Private Internet Access to be my favorite.
If you chose another provider, be sure to do your research and ensure they have a trusted reputation.
Many BitTorrent clients support blocklists. These are lists of known IP’s which may be tracking and reporting what you are downloading. Blocklists are by no means a real solution or a replacement for using a VPN. A recent report showed only 69% of entities tracking you were blocked using a blocklist. I recommend using a block list but be sure to use it in conjunction with a reputable anonymous VPN provider. iBlockList has a large list available and their premium lists are all available for $10 per year.
Clients & Mods
Using one BitTorrent client over another isn’t really going to make safer. Seeding (uploading) for extended periods of time can significantly increase your risk of someone tracking you and what you have. This one is a bit sensitive since the fundamentals of the bit torrent community rely on everyone sharing. However, the more and longer that you share files, the more people that can track that you have those files. If you are using an anonymous VPN then you may be more comfortable seeding/uploading. If you are not then I highly discourage any seeding at all of anything which could get you in trouble. If you are in a situation where you absolutely cannot use a VPN for whatever reason, then you may want to use a No Upload/Leech Mod which will prevent you from uploading. Be warned, using these mods on some trackers can get you blocked. Try to give back to the community and don’t use these mods unless you need to. You can find one for the most popular bit torrent clients here:
I recommend that you run a virtual machine for all your torrent downloading for a few reasons. First, most of the torrent websites are somewhat unsavory places. It is significantly more likely that you will encounter an ad which infects your computer with a virus or malware. Or perhaps something you download is embedded with a nasty unknown surprise. By running your bit torrent environment inside a VM you can add a layer of isolation from your primary computer system. Once you get your environment setup you can take a snapshot and can easy go back to a clean state should you need to. VirtualBox is an excellent free solution for running virtual machines.
As always, you should encrypt the virtual machine and ensure it is password protected.
Using a virtual machine you can also setup the network connection to only be active when the VPN is active. This way incase your VPN fails you don’t accidentally reveal your true IP.