Some ways you can remain anonymous during P2P is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), proxy server, or Cloud Torrent service. While these methods may be a little different from each other, the basic principle is the same – don’t let clients connect to your device directly.
P2P, or file sharing, may seem to be very simple. You click on a link and the file you want downloads to your device. Behind the scenes the process is a bit more complex and carries elements of risk – malware, copyright violations, ISP sanctions, and more.
Staying anonymous during P2P sessions is important and there are a number of ways you can do this:
1. Using a VPN (Best Method)
This is and always will be my first and main recommendation for safer P2P. You’ll notice I mentioned safe instead of anonymous here as that is exactly what a VPN can help you with – for many things, not just P2P.
When using a VPN you use an app or service to connect to one of their secure servers. These are often specially configured to offer those connecting to it the best in security and privacy. From there your request is forwarded to wherever it is intended to go.
Once a response comes from the site or service you use comes back, it heads along the same path – through the VPN server. This means that at no time is there any direct connection to your device.
In addition to this, any data passed along VPN communication lines and their servers is highly encrypted. Even if it were somehow intercepted, it cannot be read by other parties and is as useful as a lump of clay.
The only party who knows it’s you is the VPN server and as soon as you disconnect from it, all that information is usually gone. Reputable VPN servers mostly offer ‘no logs’ services, which means they keep no records of devices connecting, data transferred, or anything else.
Part of the reason why VPNs are my first choice is because they are very affordable, highly secure and anonymous, plus very flexible in utility. You’re paying a small price for a very useful tool.
2. Proxy Servers (Likely Free, But Risky)
Proxy servers are similar to VPNs in some ways. The process flow is in fact, practically identical – Your request heads to the proxy server and from there is routed to its destination. The key difference is that there are far more unofficial proxies than VPNs services.
They also operate with different principles. Where VPN services are intended to provide anonymity and security, proxy services are mainly only meant to temporarily mask an origin IP address.
If someone is truly trying to track you through your P2P activities, proxy servers will be of little help. There will still typically be a trail that leads back to your device.
To me, proxy servers don’t really associate closely with anonymity. They work to some extent but I really would rather be reassured of the fact rather than simply be a little but harder to track.
3. Cloud Torrent Services (Awesome But Expensive)
For P2P fans, Cloud Torrent Services are perhaps a dream come true. They act like Virtual Private Servers in some ways, allowing you to connect and use them to do your P2P download for you.
Once the P2P downloads are complete, you can either stream them (for movie files) directly for the server, or do a direct download from the Cloud service. Since these are mostly commercial services there are more notable pros and cons compared to proxy servers.
Although offering far more convenient and safe services compared to proxies, Cloud Torrent Services do not have the same level of focus on privacy and anonymity compared to VPNs. For example, their servers will keep records of your activities.
This means that with the right legal papers, they can be compelled to reveal the identities and activities of their customers. Another downside of Cloud Torrent services compared to the other two methods is cost. They are often much more expensive, especially given their limited use-case.
Even if I had the cash to throw around I would still opt for a VPN over this option. Simply put, it’s a lot of money for so little use. Unless, of course, you’re producing pirated copies of stuff for sale?
Personally, I love file sharing. You can find things so much more easily in some cases. At the same time I’m very aware of the risks associated with the activity, which is why I always use a VPN connection.
The main reason I do so is the feeling of security I get. Knowing that nobody is able to track my connection, spy on what I’m downloading, or even snark on me if they want to is simply so much more reassuring.