Is uTorrent Safe? – Security Gladiators
Is uTorrent safe? In our experience, the answer to this question may not be as straightforward as you may think.
Let’s take a look at what constitutes safety and whether or not torrent clients like uTorrent can really protect your privacy and security.
‘Is uTorrent Safe’ Is Not the Right Question You Should Be AskingWhat Are the Disadvantages of Torrenting? Simple Ways to Make uTorrent Safe
‘Is uTorrent Safe’ Is Not the Right Question You Should Be Asking
The question should not be, “Is uTorrent safe? ” Instead, we should ask, “How safe can it be? ” In other words, whether or not uTorrent is safe depends entirely on how you use it.
You have to choose how safe you want uTorrent to be.
Ultimately, uTorrent is nothing but a torrent client that helps you download files of all types from the internet if you have the right. torrent file with you.
So how can you be proactive about staying safe while using uTorrent? You can start by encrypting your hard drive.
While downloading files, you should also try to remove all the torrent trackers in your list of trackers (accessible by right-clicking the file that’s being downloaded, then going to the tracker list and deleting all the items from the list with the backspace key).
This is important: We also always recommend using a VPN service to enhance your privacy while you’re downloading files on the internet. We’ll get more into that later.
In itself, uTorrent—as a P2P software program—is safe. You will not get any spyware or malware from installing uTorrent on your computer if you downloaded the program from the company’s official website. If there’s a threat to your computer or your data, then it does not come from uTorrent.
However, this doesn’t mean there’s no threat at all. uTorrent may not want to infect your computer with malware, but there are plenty of actors in the torrenting chain who do. Since uTorrent is a torrent client, it opens the door for ill-intentioned users who are bent on hacking others in the torrenting ecosystem.
Let’s discuss some of the risks that are always present when you’re downloading torrents.
DISCLAIMER: Security Gladiators in no way encourages or condones any kind of copyright violation or circumvention of restrictions. That includes torrenting or downloading illegal content. Torrenting is a great way to access and share all kinds of content on the internet and there are plenty of opportunities there to engage in legal and safe online torrenting. You need to do your own research to see if these services and torrents are legal in your own country. We suggest to always use a VPN while torrenting.
What Are the Disadvantages of Torrenting?
The first problem with using uTorrent is that you can accidentally download files that are infected with viruses.
Warning: Hackers have gained the experience to now know that the easiest way to get a virus to a given user’s computer is to inject it into a torrent file.
And since the user is willingly accepting to download the file themselves the virus gets installed on the system in question with ease. Hackers then proceed to gain access to your computer, get in control of your data, encrypt your hard drive and then demand a ransom payment before you can get your data back. This is the ransomware model.
The second problem regards the legality of torrenting. Many torrents are movies and TV shows that are protected under copyright laws.
Now, if you live in a country where regulatory agencies monitor internet users to see what they’re downloading on the internet, then that could get you in trouble.
In the U. S., you may receive a DMCA notice, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
The third problem deals with internet service providers, which are just as likely to spy on you as any given hacker group. With that said, it is also true that different internet service providers take different positions on torrenting and torrent clients.
Some ban it, some are mildly strict with its use, while others allow it as much as the user wants. Some internet service providers will simply cancel your contract with them if they find out you’re using a torrent client to download copyrighted content on the internet.
Internet service providers are also known to collect data on their customers and then sell that data to third parties such as advertising firms.
Government agencies, copyright groups and internet marketing agencies all want to get their hands on your data, and internet service providers are the last entity that you should expect to stand up to them and protect it.
This is why you should always use a VPN (short for Virtual Private Network) while downloading torrent files to ensure that no government agency or internet service provider can see what you’re doing.
The key advantage of using a VPN service is that it encrypts the tunnel through which data enters and exits your internet connection.
So even if your internet service provider can decrypt the tunnel, it still would not be able to decrypt your data. Essentially, a VPN provides double security for your data. More on that below.
Simple Ways to Make uTorrent Safe
The simplest way to make uTorrent safe is to use software that protects your privacy and anonymity. The best tool to do this is a VPN service. Click here to learn more about the best VPN service providers for torrenting. We’ve also put together a ranking of top VPN services. We also have a list of VPNs best for µtorrent.
Secondly, make sure you only download files from sources that are trustworthy. You can go to Reddit and other forums to read about the most reliable torrent sites, then make a decision based on your research. Or click here to read our roundup of the best torrent sites.
Thirdly, use a good antivirus software application so that even if you mistakenly download a virus, you have a tool that can notify you about it.
And finally, have a firewall in place to block malware well before it reaches your data. Almost all operating systems have some sort of firewall. Check to make sure it’s enabled. You can also get personal firewall software for an extra layer of protection.
What is Torrenting? Is it Safe? Is it illegal? Will you be caught?
Looking to find out more about torrenting? We explain exactly what torrenting is, how to torrent safely, and what to do if you get caught.
@pabischoff UPDATED: April 8, 2021
Three questions I’m often asked are: Is torrenting safe, is torrenting legal, and what happens if I get caught? This post answers those questions and looks at the methods torrenters use to stay safe and anonymous.
What is Torrenting?
Torrenting is the act of downloading and uploading files through the BitTorrent network. Instead of downloading files to a central server, torrenting involves downloading files from other users’ devices on the network. Conversely, users upload files from their own devices for other users to download.
Torrenting is the most popular form of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing, and it requires torrent management software to connect to the BitTorrent network. Such software can be downloaded for free for a number of different devices.
Everyone downloading or uploading the same file is called a peer, and collectively they are known as a swarm. Because of how BitTorrent works, a peer can download a file from several other users at once, or upload a file to multiple other users simultaneously.
Torrenting is often associated with piracy because it’s frequently used to share files that are protected by copyright, including movies, games, music, and software. However, torrenting has many legitimate uses as well, such as lessening the load on centralized servers by distributing the hosting burden among users.
Torrenting safety and legality: In short
Is torrenting legal or illegal? Torrenting itself isn’t illegal, but downloading unsanctioned copyrighted material is. It’s not always immediately apparent which content is legal to torrent and which isn’t. Some fall in a gray area, so you may find yourself unwittingly on the wrong side of the law.
Your internet service provider (ISP) and copyright trolls monitoring the BitTorrent network can take action if they catch you illegally torrenting. This can range from a warning letter and throttling (slowing down) of your internet connection speeds to legal action – although the latter is increasingly rare.
Digital privacy-conscious torrenters will use VPN services, or virtual private networks, to keep their internet activity hidden from their ISP. With a wide range of applications, some VPNs are better suited for torrenting than others. If you want to keep your ISP from snooping on your activity, choose a VPN connection that: a) doesn’t keep a log of your activity, b) isn’t based in a country where the legal system can be used to demand customer records, and c) is fast enough that it won’t slow entire downloads. We’ve rounded up the providers that fit these criteria and others in our list of the best torrenting VPN services.
How to torrent safely
It is relatively simple to torrent safely and keep your online activity private. Note that while a VPN for torrenting will keep your activity private and safe from prying eyes you may still be susceptible to malware from some public torrent sites. Follow these 5 steps to torrent privately with a VPN.
Here’s how to torrent safely:
Download and install a VPN matching the criteria mentioned above. We recommend NordVPN.
Enable your VPN’s kill switch, if it has one.
Connect to a VPN server, preferably in a P2P-friendly country
Once the connection is established, open your torrent client and start downloading as usual
Your online activity is now encrypted by your VPN
WANT TO TRY THE TOP VPN RISK FREE? NordVPN is offering a fully-featured risk-free 30-day trial if you sign up at this page. You can use our #1 VPN for torrenting with no restrictions for a full month—great if you want to try its P2P-optimized servers first-hand.
There are no hidden terms—just contact support within 30 days if you decide NordVPN isn’t right for you and you’ll receive a full refund. Start your NordVPN trial here.
Torrenting without a VPN
Torrenting without a VPN means your internet service provider (ISP) can see your online activity including the sites you visit and the content you view. In certain countries, including the US, ISPs are allowed to share this information with third parties including intellectual property owners. A VPN will keep your online activity private from your ISP.
Is uTorrent safe?
uTorrent is the official torrent client from the creators of the BitTorrent protocol. It is proprietary—not open source—software maintained by a legal US company. Like BitTorrent, the uTorrent software itself is legal, although it can be used for digital piracy. The official uTorrent is free of malware and can be used safely and privately in combination with a VPN. It does not, however, prevent users from downloading malicious files that can infect their device.
The BitTorrent protocol rose to become the most popular medium for peer-to-peer file sharing in the world after the demise of centralized services like Napster and Limewire. Unlike those services, torrenting is almost completely decentralized save for the trackers that allow users to search and download torrent files and magnet links. Torrent files and magnet links are used to find other users on the network who host the desired file or files but do not actually host those files for downloading.
Is BitTorrent safe and legal?
The BitTorrent protocol is not in itself illegal or unsafe. It is just the means to share any type of file, and plenty of legal torrenting services do exist. The most popular torrent trackers, such as ThePirateBay and KickassTorrents, however, operate in a legal grey area, offering users free access to copyrighted content. Sharing and downloading copyrighted content by BitTorrent, or other means, is illegal in many countries and can be unsafe since sites including KickassTorrents have been shown to host malware.
These trackers would argue that they simply find and organize information that is already out there, and they do not illegally host any copyrighted content on their own servers. Just like the BitTorrent protocol itself, they are the means to an end. Not everyone is convinced. Major trackers have come under heavy legal scrutiny from content creators and distributors who argue the trackers enable and encourage theft.
The blame ultimately shifts to the users, the millions of individuals who host files on their personal computers, downloading and uploading movies, games, software, music, ebooks, and more. Users connected to the same tracker are called peers, and they fall into two categories. A leech uses a torrent file or magnet link to download the file from other users on the network who already have the file. These users who already have the file are called seeds. When a leech is finished downloading a file (or even just part of a file), he or she becomes a seed, allowing other leeches to download the file from his or her computer. As a general rule, it’s considered proper pirate etiquette to seed as much as you leech.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright law or restrictions. Please consider the law, victims, and risks of copyright piracy before downloading copyrighted material without permission.
Legally speaking, seeding and leeching copyrighted material fall into different criminal categories. Think of it like buying illegal drugs: purchasing the drugs for personal use is definitely a crime, but a relatively minor one. Turning around and selling those drugs to others is a much more serious offense. Finding the original source of the drugs, or in this case the HD rip of the new Avengers movie, would be the best case scenario for law enforcement, but that isn’t always possible. The trackers act as the shady back alley marketplaces where all of these transactions go down, but they don’t personally handle any of the drugs.
What happens if you are caught torrenting?
The prosecution of torrent users has been sporadic. The chances of actually going to court or having to pay a settlement are pretty slim, but the penalties can be extremely high. The frequency of copyright holders suing torrenters for copyright infringement peaked in the late 2000s. Copyright pirates were sued for wildly disproportionate amounts of money, and most settled out of court.
These public scare tactics shone poorly on the recording and movie industries because they were portrayed as petty millionaires bullying poor college students. Direct lawsuits are much less common these days, but the campaign against torrenters is far from over.
Now the job of going after individual copyright pirates has been outsourced to a growing number of small businesses known as copyright trolls. These companies locate torrenters who illegally download copyrighted content through their real IP addresses. They then approach the copyright owners and sign a deal that lets them take legal action on their behalf. Others are hired directly by Hollywood production companies to sniff out pirates.
With legal leverage and a list of names, the copyright trolls then go after torrenters via mail, email, or even by going door to door and handing out settlement letters. These letters are not legally binding documents or injunctions. Copyright trolls use intimidation, fear, and shame to make torrenters pay without ever going to court. A common tactic is to threaten to sue for over $100, 000 but only ask for $3, 000 or so in the settlement. That makes the $3, 000 look like a good deal, but going to court is costly and risky for them, so don’t give in if you receive such a letter.
What to do if you receive a settlement letter
The most common way to receive a settlement letter is through your internet provider. A copyright troll will go through the court system to subpoena your ISP and force it to email customers with a legal threat and hand over personal details.
According to US law, an IP address is not a person. If you were contacted through your ISP, chances are that’s because the copyright troll doesn’t know your actual identity yet. If the letter doesn’t contain any identifying information on you, keep it that way and do nothing. Your case could be dismissed before the date that your ISP is set to reveal your personal details to the troll. If you respond and identify yourself, that gives the troll a more direct means of targeting you.
This is a game of probability for copyright trolls. If they send out 1, 000 threatening emails and 50 people reply, they only need a handful to actually cough up money to make it worth their time. Chances are it’s more cost effective for them to move on to the next swarm of torrenters than pursue the remaining 950 people.
If things escalate and you decide to take action, lawyer up. Here’s a list of attorneys compiled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that specialize in these sorts of cases.
Depending on your ISP, it may take actions against you on its own behalf. That could mean throttling your internet connection or threatening to hand over personal details to a copyright troll. Why does your ISP even care? Because torrenting takes up a lot of bandwidth, and that bandwidth costs ISPs money. On top of that, an ISP could be receiving kickbacks from content owners and their associates.
How to protect yourself
To avoid any legal ramifications, it’s best to simply not torrent. However, if you insist on torrenting, take the time to protect your online privacy and keep copyright trolls at bay.
Use a VPN when torrenting
The best way to torrent safely is by using a VPN. A VPN accomplishes two things: first, it re-routes all your internet traffic through a server in a location of your choosing, which changes your real IP address to one used by hundreds or thousands of other people (assuming your VPN uses shared IP addresses, which most do). This adds a significant layer of anonymity and makes it much more difficult for anyone to track you. Second, a VPN encrypts all your torrent traffic before it leaves your computer. That means your ISP cannot monitor your internet activity, nor can anyone else. And because all your traffic heads to the VPN server first, ISPs can’t even tell where it’s going.
Using a quality VPN is key; don’t settle for a “free” service or VPNs that log your activity, cap your bandwidth and data, or don’t provide sufficient DNS leak protection. Not all VPNs tolerate torrenting. You can check out our list of the best VPNs for torrenting here, which are services with fast download speeds and a focus on online privacy, security and anonymity like NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN among others.
If you don’t want to pay for a VPN, you might be considering Tor. Tor is similar to a VPN in that it routes your traffic through several volunteer “nodes” while encrypting traffic. We recommend a VPN over Tor for a couple reasons. First, Tor is slow, and usually best for simple browsing and other low-bandwidth activity. Second, connecting to Tor could actually draw more attention from your ISP and law enforcement, as it’s a well-known tool for hackers and criminals.
Another popular app among torrenters is Peerblock. Peerblock is a desktop firewall with a regularly updated blacklist of IP addresses. These IP addresses belong to entities that try to track your activity online, especially on peer-to-peer networks. Unfortunately, the blacklist is only updated once upon installation. After that, users must pay to keep them updated. Even if you’re willing to pay, it’s unlikely that the blacklist could contain every possible IP address for copyright trolls, universities, and law enforcement. A copyright troll just needs to connect to the swarm–all the devices connected to a single torrent–with an IP that isn’t on that blacklist to get your IP address.
Instead of torrenting, another alternative is Usenet. Usenet is a paid service-usually between $10 and $20 per month–where you download files from centralized servers instead of a network of peers. Usenet downloads are much, much faster; often as fast as your ISP can handle. Usenet is more private as well. The connections take place between you and the provider’s network of servers, and the best providers offer an SSL-encrypted connection. Some even throw in VPNs for good measure. Torrents, on the other hand, require that you share at least some identifying information to connect to the tracker and peers.
Finally, downloading a Usenet file doesn’t mean you have to seed it for other internet users afterward. Legally, this makes you less of a target because you’re not supplying strangers with copyrighted content, at the same time consuming fewer computer resources and internet bandwidth.
Usenet providers make files available for a certain number of days. How many depends on the provider, but the standard is 1, 200 days after the original posting. Until that time is up, users have full access to that file. Torrents only stay up as long as people seed the file.
We’ve rounded up some of the best Usenet providers here.
Public vs private trackers
A “tracker” is like a search engine that indexes files on the BitTorrent network. Trackers can be private or public, and the former usually requires an invitation from an existing member.
ThePirateBay, KickassTorrents, and Demonoid are all examples of public trackers. Anyone can just go to their respective websites and search without logging in or requiring any sort of authentication. Likewise, anyone can upload files for others to download. These uploads are not moderated, so users must judge whether a download is safe and accurate based on comments and the reputation of the uploader.
Private trackers are more exclusive both in terms of who can upload and who can download within a group. They vary wildly in terms of content and quality, but many members of private trackers attest that they have higher quality files, faster downloads, longer retention, and an overall more consistent and safe experience.
The law views private trackers the same as public trackers. Internet piracy is piracy whether you do it in public or within a private group.
Streaming vs torrenting
Many people have moved away from downloading entire files through BitTorrent and opt instead to stream video content either on their web browsers or through customized programs like Kodi. When it comes to safety and the law, what’s the difference?
Legally speaking, you’re probably still breaking the law when you stream illegal content from a pirated source. However, this depends largely on your country. In the UK, it’s outright illegal. In India, a court ruled that it is absolutely not illegal. In the US, it’s still a grey area, as there’s been no precedent of anyone being convicted for copyright piracy after streaming copyrighted video content from an unsanctioned source.
Those who upload the videos without compensating or asking permission from the copyright holder do so illegally. That’s pretty much standard no matter where you are.
Not only do laws tend to be more lenient toward streaming content, but it’s also more difficult for copyright trolls and law enforcement to catch users in the act. When you download a torrent, you can see the IP addresses of everyone else you’re uploading to or downloading from. But streaming transmits a video directly from a website to your device, with no third parties involved.
Don’t get too comfortable, however, as there are still risks. The website could be logging IP addresses or other information about its users, which it could then hand over to law enforcement or a copyright troll. Your ISP could monitor your activity and see that you are watching pirated content. These are risks that can be mitigated by connecting to a reputable VPN.
When it comes to security, streaming video carries just as many risks as torrenting. Websites that stream pirated content tend to be chock full of intrusive ads, malware, and phishing threats. Kodi users are subject to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and other threats from the add-ons they download.
As a rule of thumb, avoid downloading movies that were released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the past 60 days, especially big-hit blockbusters. That’s when movies make the vast majority of their post-box office money, after which their income significantly drops off. Copyright holders will put most of their anti-piracy resources into going after torrenters of new releases to minimize the financial damage. The same goes for TV series, shows and video games.
Users of Popcorn Time, the free movie-streaming app, should tread just as carefully as torrenters. Many Popcorn Time users don’t realize that the app actually streams directly from torrents and will even seed a file so it is uploaded to other users. All the risks associated with Popcorn Time apply in equal measure to torrenting.
Choose your torrents wisely. The most popular torrents on ThePirateBay and KickassTorrents are probably the ones being most closely monitored by copyright trolls. However, don’t pick totally unpopular ones either. Read through the comments section, where users often run virus scans on torrent downloads and post the results. They will also give you a general review of the quality.
Even if the comments are positive, run your own virus scans as well. Ideally, use multiple antivirus programs to run an array of scans, as each of their virus libraries can differ. Not all antivirus programs play nice with each other, however, so mixing two or more must be done with care. We recommend Bitdefender to scan all downloads before opening. This is especially important when downloading games and software, which are often “cracked” by the uploader. Cracks make it easier to bypass DRM schemes that validate content with the publisher, but they also make it easier to distribute hidden malware, spyware, and viruses. Check out Comparitech’s antivirus reviews section here.
Why did BitTorrent install adware on my computer? BitTorrent is a network and protocol used to share files, so BitTorrent itself cannot install adware on your computer.
However, the programs used to connect to the BitTorrent network and download files, called torrent managers or torrent clients, can and often do come with adware. The files you download can also contain malware and adware.
Stick to reputable torrent managers and, if prompted, refuse any offers to install additional software alongside them. These additional programs are often adware.
Likewise, be sure to only download and upload torrents you downloading a shared torrent from Google drive illegal? If you’re downloading something from Google Drive, then it’s not a torrent. It’s just a download. The file might have originally been downloaded through BitTorrent, then uploaded to Google Drive where others can download it.
Semantics aside, if the content of the file is protected by copyright, then yes, it is illegal to download pirated files from Google I just download a torrent from a public place? Most torrenters use public trackers to find and download files through BitTorrent. So in that sense, yes, you can download a torrent from a public place provided you have a torrent client installed on your device.
The files themselves are downloaded from other BitTorrent users who have downloaded the file and are now uploading it to fellow users.
Private trackers are also available and are often safer, but typically require an invitation from an existing I go to jail for torrenting? It depends on the circumstances, but no, it’s highly doubtful you would go to jail for torrenting. Most lawsuits regarding torrenting are civil suits, not criminal ones, so if a penalty is levied, it’s usually a fine or some other monetary compensation.
That being said, it also depends on what country you’re in, what you torrent, and whether you also seeded the file so it could be downloaded by other users. Check your local laws and are the risks of torrenting music? The music recording industry has, on occasion, aggressively targeted torrenters who engaged in music piracy. These days, litigation is mostly done by copyright trolls who target torrenters on behalf of recording studios. They’ll send out settlement letters demanding hundreds or even thousands of dollars to torrenters whom they can identify. They usually go through internet service providers to contact torrenters. Your ISP could throw you under the bus, and that’s not a gamble we recommend taking. By using a VPN, you can greatly reduce the risk of being identified by a copyright troll.
Can You Get a Virus From Downloading Torrents? – Flixed
Computer viruses can spread in many different ways, including via torrent files. In fact, many popular torrent sites are absolutely littered with malware.
In the past, if you were careful about what you clicked or downloaded you could avoid getting infected. But today, even the simple act of viewing a malicious advertisement can result in a full-blown computer virus infection. Because torrent website rarely screen their advertisers, “malvertisement” virus attacks are becoming increasingly common.
Fortunately, there are simple yet effective countermeasures you can deploy to protect your computer and keep it safe from attack. Read on to learn more about the most dangerous computer viruses and find out what you can do to protect yourself against infected torrents.
Computer viruses in a nutshell
The term “computer virus” is the umbrella phrase that’s used to describe any type of unwanted program that harms your system.
In many ways, computer viruses resemble human viruses. There are many different types of computer viruses, and each type uses a different set of tactics to infiltrate your system.
Aggressive vs. stealthy viruses
Just because your computer seems healthy doesn’t mean that it isn’t infected. Some computer viruses are obvious, but others are sneaky. For example, “keylogger” viruses remain hidden and run in the background as you type. They record your usernames and passwords and periodically send your data to a server.
Keyloggers monitor and record everything you type into your keyboard
Other aggressive types of viruses– like the WannaCry virus that infected over a quarter of a million computers in May of 2017— are designed to lock users out of their computers and collect money in the form of “ransom” fees.
Here are the 2 major ways that a virus can get onto your system while you torrent.
Transmission method #1: Malvertisements
Malvertisements are banner ads and other types of advertisements that spread and distribute virus files. In certain cases simply looking at a malvertisement is sometimes all you have to do to catch a virus from it (keep reading for details).
Technically, any website can carry a malvertisement. Malvertisements have been identified on Google Ads and other reputable ad programs. But because torrent sites usually don’t screen their advertisers very well, you are much more likely to encounter a malvertisement while visiting a torrent site.
The Pirate Bay malvertisements
The Pirate Bay logo
In May of 2016, security experts identified a malvertisement on The Pirate Bay. The malicious advertiser that posted the ad was using the popular torrent site to transmit “exploit kits” to its visitors.
Tip: An exploit kit is software that automatically identifies weak spots. Hackers use data gleaned from exploit kits to attack internet users.
After the hackers used the exploit kit to identify computers that were vulnerable, they then infected them with the Cerber “ransomware” virus. The Cerber virus is similar to the WannaCry virus that recently made headlines for locking down thousands of computers all over the world.
The Cerber ransomware virus is reeling in big profits for its creators. The developers behind Cerber have created a multi-million dollar affiliate program. Anyone willing to pay the Cerber developers a portion of the money they make from ransoms can use it on any website on the internet.
One of the most dangerous things about malvertisements is the fact that you often don’t even have to click anything to get the virus.
“The interesting thing about infections delivered through malvertising is that it does not require any user action (like clicking) to compromise the system and it does not exploit any vulnerabilities on the website or the server it is hosted from. ” – Symantec official blog
Malvertisements are becoming increasingly popular because they provide an easy way for hackers to quickly infect millions of website visitors. According to ZDNet, malvertisements infect 12 million computers every month.
Transmission method #2: Downloads
Infected downloads are another serious threat that you should be aware of when you download torrent files.
Hackers often use popular software to transmit viruses. They embed the infected code into the software’s installer. Then, when you install the infected program the virus gets copied to your system.
Hackers often use “crackers” or “KeyGens” to break a piece of software’s copyright protection system. Sometimes, these tools are simply there to help downloaders crack unlicensed software. However, these same tools can often be viruses in disguise.
Identifying sketchy torrents
Here are a few simple steps you can take to avoid downloading infected torrent files.
Step #1: Check the release group
When torrents first became popular in the early 2000s, it was very hard to know what you were getting before you downloaded it. But over the years, torrent uploaders have organized into tightly-knit associations.
Today’s most popular torrents are released by highly systematic warez groups. Warez groups compete with each other to see who can put out the best content. They even attach brand names to their releases. For example, you may run across releases from the well-known warez group known as YIFY if you search for movies on Pirate Bay.
Step #2: Check the format
In addition to recognizable brand names, content that is released as official warez follows a detailed set of standards, including uniform file name conventions. Content that contains malware or does not follow warez standards gets “nuked”— or in other words, labeled as bad and taken out of circulation.
Step #3: Check the comments section
Comments can provide a clue about the quality of a file. If the comments are left by real users, they can be helpful in sorting out the good torrents from the bad. However, beware of fake comments left by “sockpuppet” accounts. Sockpuppet accounts are fake online identities used by hackers to entice downloaders into downloading viruses.
Not everyone on the internet is who they claim to be.
Usually it’s easy to spot praise left by a sockpuppet account. Most torrent sites award badges to trusted contributors. For example, trusted Pirate Bay commentators have green, pink or blue skulls next to their user names.
Step #4: Stick to well known torrent sites
Before you download a torrent from a site, look at it closely. There are many copycat torrent sites out there that are not what they seem to be. Check the site’s URL to make sure that it is legit before you proceed. Certain viruses are capable of hijacking random websites in order to create pages of files that seem to be torrents, but are in fact malware.
Step #5: Avoid unpopular torrents
Just because a torrent isn’t popular doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe. But if hundreds of people are participating in the torrent swarm, the odds are definitely in your favor. Torrents that contain malware tend to get weeded out pretty fast by moderators. For example, Pirate Bay relies on about a dozen or so experienced moderators.
Virus protection fundamentals
If you have a good anti-virus program and download security patches as soon as they come out, you’ll have a better chance of staying safe from viruses.
Tip #1: Install anti-virus software
The best way to defend against viruses when you torrent is by using anti-virus software. Anti-virus software runs in the background when you use your computer, scanning every file you open. There are several great anti-virus programs that are completely free, so there is really no excuse to not install one.
If your anti-virus program detects a virus, it will quarantine and remove any malicious code it finds. Good anti-virus programs can also perform periodic deep scans, which are useful for detecting any dormant viruses or viruses that may have somehow slipped through the cracks.
Free anti-virus software suites
According to PCMag, Avast and AVG are the two best free anti-virus programs out there right now. Both programs can identify viruses “heuristically, ” by using behavioral data to spot code that seems as though it may have been designed to damage or hijack your computer. Additionally, both Avast and AVG can run both real-time and on-demand virus scans.
The best premium anti-malware software suite for torrenters
We think Malwarebytes is a great security choice for torrenters because it’s specifically designed to block the kinds of attacks that torrenters encounter. Malwarebytes employs four independent modules (anti-malware, anti-ransomware, anti-exploit, and malicious website protection) to block and remove malicious code. Malwarebytes is not free, but it is fairly cheap and you can try it out for 14 days before you hit the paywall.
Some legitimate tools that come with torrent files will set off false alarms when you try to use them. However, common sense will often reveal whether or not the tool you downloaded contains a virus. If the torrent is popular and has good reviews from trusted accounts, odds are high that the tool is legitimate.
If you still aren’t sure that you can trust the tool you downloaded, try reaching out to the developer of the tool for confirmation. Many developers that create torrenting tools are surprisingly easy to reach. Additionally, there is a free online tool called VirusTotal that you can use to scan suspicious files and websites. VirusTotal can compare a file against 40 different virus databases. If the file only triggers one database, odds are high that it’s just a false positive.
Tip #2: Keep all your software up-to-date
Unfortunately, most software programs and operating systems are designed with functionality in mind– not security. Most security bugs don’t cause any obvious problems. Yet, hackers can exploit them and use them to gain access to your computer.
One good example of how hackers can use software bugs to gain control of consumer computers is the hacking tool known as EternalBlue. EternalBlue was originally developed by the NSA, but the hacker group called the Shadow Brokers released it to the general public in April of 2017. As a result, now every hacker on the planet can use it.
EternalBlue takes advantage of a bug in the Windows networking protocol known as SMB (Server Message Block). People around the world use SMB-based Windows networks every day to do ordinary things like print out documents and share files.
If you have an old version of SMB, a hacker can use EternalBlue to take over your computer. But if you have downloaded the latest Windows security updates for SMB, your computer will be protected from EternalBlue.
Up-to-date computers are hard to hack
Security experts work diligently to find and fix security bugs before hackers can identify them and take advantage. According to the makers of Symantec Norton, ordinary software updates are actually very effective at stopping computer viruses.
“It’s perhaps a sweet irony that the very medium used for virus proliferation and other threats is also a delivery mechanism for anti-threat technology. But the reality is security firms can use the Internet just as effectively as hackers. ” – Symantec norton blog
The makers of popular software programs like Windows and Google Chrome also work around the clock to make life harder for hackers. So, be sure to download new security patches as soon as you possibly can after they come out.
Windows security patches
On Windows, you can use Windows Update to get the latest security patches automatically. Alternatively, you can download the patches manually via the official Windows website.
MacOS security patches
If you have a Mac, you can use Apple’s Mac Store program to download daily security updates. Like Microsoft, Apple also has a convenient list of download links for security updates on its official site.
Notable computer viruses
The viruses listed below have been making headlines lately. Here’s a quick overview of how these infamous viruses work and what you can do if your computer gets infected with them.
The Cerber virus is a ransomware virus. It encrypts your files, and then provides a Tor Browser ransom payment link.
Tip: The Tor Browser allows access to the “Deep Web, ” which is a totally anonymous part of the internet that’s often frequented by drug dealers and other criminals.
If your computer gets infected with Cerber, all the files on your computer will get locked inside of container files labeled with the extension.
Typical Cerber ransom fees start at around 1 bitcoin. However, the amount goes up the longer you wait. Unfortunately, many people who pay the ransom never receive the link that allows them to unlock their files.
What to do if you get the Cerber virus
Removing the Cerber virus itself is easy. Kaspersky, Symantec, AVG or any other major anti-virus software suite can get rid of it. The hard part is decrypting the encrypted Cerber files that the virus leaves behind.
Paying the ransom is not a good idea because the money encourages the hackers, and there’s no guarantee that paying up will actually decrypt your files. A better alternative to forking over bitcoin and hoping for the best is the No More Ransom website. The No More Ransom project is a coalition of law enforcement and IT security experts that work together to create free anti-ransomware tools.
The WannaCry virus has the same modus operandi as Cerber: it locks down computers and encrypts all of their files.
Fortunately, an anonymous 22-year-old researcher from the UK has found a “kill switch” for WannaCry. He discovered that whoever created the WannaCry designed it to turn off in the event that it could reach a nonexistent website with a nonsensical name. After finding the name of the website in WannaCry’s code, he registered the site and turned it on. WannaCry attacks stopped immediately.
WannaCry isn’t over yet
A version of WannaCry that lacks the “kill switch” weakness mentioned above is still floating around on the web: UiWix. UiWix exploits the same Windows weakness that WannaCry took advantage of, only it’s sneakier and harder to disable. Additionally, the anonymous researcher that stopped WannaCry has said that attacks against the website used to disable the virus could potentially bring WannaCry back to life.
What to do if you get the WannaCry/UiWix virus
Like Cerber, the problem with WannaCry/UiWix is not removing the virus itself. Any good anti-virus software suite can get rid of it. The difficulty with it lies in decrypting the actual files that the virus affects.
Fortunately, there’s a quick fix for WannaCry victims running Windows XP to Windows 7: WannaKiwi. WannaKiwi is a tool that uses prime numbers to break WannaCry’s encryption. to learn more about WannaKiwi, read this article from “white hat” hacker Matt Suiche.
Sathurbot is subtle compared to WannaCry and Cerber. Instead of locking down individual computers and forcing their users to pay ransoms, Sathurbot allows you to continue using your computer normally. But in the background, it runs a program that attempts to break into WordPress websites.
The Sathurbot virus uses torrent networks to replicate itself, so if you like to download torrents you may be at risk. Sathurbot is especially dangerous because it allows hackers to install additional viruses on your device.
What to do if you get the Sathurbot virus
Fortunately, the major anti-virus software makers have already caught on to the Sathurbot virus. All you need to do is run your anti-virus program and follow its instructions to remove it from your computer.
With so many dangerous viruses floating around on the web, it’s more important than ever before to pay attention to internet security fundamentals. If you use an anti-virus program to protect yourself while you torrent and keep all your software up-to-date, you’ll most likely be able to avoid getting infected. But if you put off the updates for another day and neglect to use an anti-virus program when you download torrents, you’re giving hackers the opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerabilities.
Frequently Asked Questions about utorrent security
Is uTorrent secure?
Like BitTorrent, the uTorrent software itself is legal, although it can be used for digital piracy. The official uTorrent is free of malware and can be used safely and privately in combination with a VPN. It does not, however, prevent users from downloading malicious files that can infect their device.Apr 8, 2021
Can you get viruses from uTorrent?
Computer viruses can spread in many different ways, including via torrent files. In fact, many popular torrent sites are absolutely littered with malware. In the past, if you were careful about what you clicked or downloaded you could avoid getting infected.Jul 9, 2017
Is uTorrent Safe 2021?
No, it won’t. Using software like u Torrent is not illegal. It’s digital piracy that is illegal.