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  • BitTorrent Users: You’re Being Watched
Technology Articles > Software > Security & Privacy > BitTorrent Users: You’re Being Watched

File sharing. Some are behind it while others are very much against it. If you happen to be a BitTorrent user, you may think that swapping files isn’t a big deal. After all, file sharing has been going on for a long time now. You may also have rejected the notion that anyone cares enough to watch what you’re doing online. Well, someone does care. Someone cares so much that it only takes a few hours for that someone to see exactly what you’re doing every time you connect to BitTorrent or start sharing files.

Why You’re Being Watched

Someone, somewhere, is losing money on that file you just swapped. That person (or large and angry groups of many people) wants their money back. Since any previous file sharing threats didn’t deter BitTorrent users, some heavy monitoring has begun. A few researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. decided to record just how often and how long file sharers are watched. The information that these researchers have gathered may shock you.

On average, it only takes approximately three hours to track a BitTorrent user’s IP address. It has also been discovered that people who use sites like The Pirate Bay have been under watch for many years now. But, it seems, the way that “the watchers” are collecting information is not sufficient. Well, not sufficient enough to use in court, anyway. So, that’s why people who use BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay aren’t ever held accountable for swapping files. Then again, all of this might change in the near future.

Block Lists Don’t Work

Some BitTorrent users attempt to add well-known monitors to “block lists.” As you might imagine, these lists block those will known IP addresses from entering file-sharing sites. There is a way around the block lists, however. Some very large companies and governments can effectively disguise an IP address by using a third party host. When this occurs, those pre-arranged block lists do not detect these monitors.

The U.K researchers have determined that some of the biggest monitors include government agencies, security companies, law enforcement, and massive companies. Additional details were not disclosed or were not discovered. So, what does all of this mean for anyone who shares files without a care or thought in the world?

Simply that information detailing who uses file-sharing sites, when these people logged onto those sites, how many files were shared, and various other details are collected and stored. Right now, it’s unclear how these details will be used or if they will be used against sharing individuals. It does seem relatively certain, however, that these types of stats will eventually be used against those who share files the most. In other words, know that you are being watched, that security is not as secure as it may seem, and that there may come a time when that harmless swapping of files turns into a lawsuit. For now, continue sharing files at your own risk and peril. It could be a long way off, but someone out there is collecting information for good reason.