BitTorrent for Babbys
Learn how to Kopimi!
Learn how I didn't
Do you all remember that visual novel about a dying guy who wants to bang a bunch of crips before he runs into a plane and dies? It was called Katawa Shoujo, and though this is a simplification (this isn't the place for reviews, damn it!), it happens to be one of the best things I've ever read, and changed my worldview in multiple ways - not just in the compassion front, but also in the emotional and mental fronts, too, and to get a hat trick like that deserves to be celebrated. Also, it manages to include porn without being gratuitous or out-of-context. That's a force of nature, baby.
So the novel is available for download through BitTorrent, and because I was a complete dumbass just a few years ago (hey, we've all been there. a Big Mac don't look the part either), I had no idea what to do with a torrent file. I ended up going onto this incredibly shady torrent site Googling "bittorrent client" and I got this horrific green client (sorry) with these massive red buttons, and text that was rendered as poorly as the iPhone emoji, and which barely worked whenever you wanted it to. It wasn't even one of the top ten clients, and not even one of the shitty ones like Vuze. It might as well have been a Bitcoin miner in disguise (like the #1 client in the world), or a Chinese botnet for government propaganda (like the crack for MGSV).
So even if you disregard the entirety of this advice because you're so badass you can Internet without me holding your hand, don't make the mistake of installing a Bitcoin miner like uTorrent. What you want to do is instead install a secure BitTorent client, a VPN service that lets you anonymise your traffic, and take some really easy steps to make sure you don't get letters from your ISP wondering why you were downloading Life is Strange and why you have no taste. Thanks for that, Square Enix. I didn't even enjoy the game and your lawyers still gave me shit for it.
But if you do have half a brain like that Pina Colata song was saying, I'll teach you all about the ways to make that happen. It's just like sex education - you don't have to listen to me, but you'll get pregnant if you fuck it up. You'll give birth to a beautiful copyright notice, and it'll grow up to be a letter from the FBI wondering why you're downloading f/yo_facials.mp4 at work. So slap that condom on so you don't ruin some hairdos, and let's learn how to download some feels.
Precursor: is it illegal?
If you have to ask, you're a pussy. Also no. The idea that BitTorrent is illegal comes from a long and storied history of online piracy, the history of which media companies will use to intimidate "legal" users of BitTorrent to not install the client, a history that the people who made the bloody thing have to waste time fighting instead of spreading all the great things it can do.
I'm sick of justifying piracy to people, so I'll let Switzerland do it for me. The only people who are against piracy are the people who are in it to make money and nothing else. They don't give a single damn about their work, because if they do, they would allow their fans to download their work regardless of societal status, which is something that torrents can do. See also The Grey Album and the shitstorm it caused.
Also note that most of these things can only work if you have an active torrent, which is the file you use to download the content through the BitTorrent protocol, and a lot of seeders, which are people who are uploading the file, as opposed to "leechers", people who download content without uploading anything. Leechers are generally blocked from torrent trackers, a tracker being something which finds peers, and peers being the amount of seeders and leechers in the swarm, and the swarm being a collection of BitTorrent users accessing a file. The conditions for a good torrent are a lot of seeders compared to leechers, though even a single seeder can let you download a file all the way to the end. With no peers and no seeders, a file won't download, and the less peers their are, the slower a file will download. So don't expect it to be a miracle program.
A list of the great things BitTorrent can do:
Give you any piece of media from any source for free. This prospect alone is what gives it its massive popularity, and is why we should keep it alive.
Download files faster than what a web server can give you, upwards of gigabytes per second, though this is a theoretical speed and actual averages range from 500KB to 10MB per second.
Can pause downloads at any time, meaning you don't have to keep a web browser open to download your stuff, as well as giving you the liberty to decide when exactly you want to download files.
Provide more security because nobody is the source of any one file and thus tracking individuals users over BitTorrent is much harder. In fact, most threats from copyright trolls come from taking lists of IP addresses from whoever is downloading a particular torrent, even if it's a fucking printer.
Gives your downloads more privacy by supporting end-to-end encryption and proxy services, which together makes it very difficult to detect if somebody is downloading content that copyright trolls don't like, which is important seeing as BitTorrent automatically shows all the IP addresses of anybody downloading a torrent.
Allows you to selectively decide which files to download, which is great if you want to redownload an anime series or something, and is also good for getting rid of all the junk files that pirates like to include with their torrents, including movie trailers and "Torrent-Downloaded-From-ExtraTorrent.cc-South.Park.S19E06.INTERNAL.HDTV.x264-FUM[ettv].txt"
Can handle arbitrary file sizes and download them really quickly, meaning they're great for 500-gigabyte collections of porn. I knew a guy who had two terabytes of anime on his hard drive. Thanks, BitTorrent!
Reduce the strain of server owners by allowing them to release large files through torrents, shifting the bandwidth from a single source to a decentralised network of users. This reduces costs and allows them to only have to give out a fifty kilobyte torrent file to their users instead of an eight gigabyte TV series, for instance. Needless to say, that's a massive difference that pays for itself on the first download.
Lets you watch the content that's already being downloaded instead of having to wait for it to be downloaded all the way, which is useful if one song from an album is at 100% and the rest are at 40%, because then you can listen to and copy that song without waiting for the rest to be done. Also, watching anime that's being downloaded is like watching a Real Nigga Hours slideshow.
Alright, now that you know that it's really fucking cool, let me tell you about how to actually work the thing.
Cool Guide to BitTorrent Clients
You only need one, and that's qBittorrent. All of the other clients are either closed-source (a big mistake for a program that could put people in jail), it supports proxies and end-to-end encryption, comes with a built-in "privacy mode" that cleans some of your tracks (but is by no means exhaustive), isn't banned from public trackers like Vuze and Bitcomet (Ruse and Bitvomit), and comes with a lot of options that you're going to need. It's like uTorrent, only better, because it doesn't shove advertisements for horny Russian singles in your client.
Every other decent client has some flaw that stops it from being useful in daily life. Deluge completely ignores proxies and won't even warn you that's the case (thanks for giving me false privacy hopes for months, assholes). Transmission is a bitch to set up on Windows and hasn't been verified by third-parties as secure on that platform. I haven't tried Halite, though it hasn't been listed by Wikipedia anywhere, and has gone completely unnoticed except for the /g/ wiki, so try at your own risk.
Also, if you use uTorrent, I can assume that you're pretty new to BitTorrent, seeing as it's babby's first client made by a company that only wants to sell advertisements from the tens of millions of ignorants who use it. It is developed by the for-profit BitTorrent company (despite its name, does next to nothing to support popular use of BitTorrent, as its against many of the philosophies that its heaviest users support), and is used as one of their biggest sources of revenue. Compare this with the non-profit Tor project, and you can see why Tor is more trusted with the convicts. Note: please don't think that you should torrent over Tor. It's a horrible idea on multiple fronts, including speed, efficiency, and privacy.
Set up the client
So you installed qBittorrent, eh? Very wise choice. I didn't even have anything to do with it, myself. Now that you have this client, what are you going to do with it? Get some torrents? Why, that's how you get raided, silly! You have to make it more secure by adjusting some things in the settings.
The VPN squeeze
The first thing you need to do, if you haven't already, is get a VPN service to cover your traces. It costs money, but it's the quickest and most secure way to cover your tracks online. Why? Because it encrypts all of your data so that nobody can read it, not even the NSA (we hope), and it masks your IP address so that nobody can know for sure what it is, making it much harder to track you and correlate your web activity to you. There are a great deal of topics to talk about with VPNs (and so I'll only go over the basics), but NordVPN is one of the cheapest and best, and it has tutorials for pretty much anything you need. If you can get ten dollars and pay for a month, you can use that month to privately download all of your stuff for the next few years, so it's worth the cost.
So after getting the VPN, choose a server that your provider has (any decent service will have a list of servers), and then select one from a "torrent-friendly" country (one which rarely prosecutes pirates / has laws allowing for certain aspects of file sharing) like Switzerland, the Netherlands (nine eyes country), Sweden (fourteen eyes country), Spain (fourteen eyes country), Canada (five eyes country), and Mexico, as well as any poorer foreign countries such as in Africa that are unlikely to care that people are downloading stuff online (see this blog article for why that is).
And you must note, however, that a VPN only works so long as you enable DNS link protection (look on their website to find out how), as malicious DNS servers will log your IP address, and that you remember to turn it on and connect to it. You should also enable a "kill-switch" in your VPN client that will shut off qBittorrent and your web browser the instant your connection drops, preventing any accidental IP address reveal. If you follow these simple steps, then your web traffic is pretty well private (and not anonymous, as it can technically be connected to you as a result of concentrated efforts) so far as BitTorrent is concerned. It's not 100% private as far as regular browsing is concerned, so do your research (hot tip: use Tor whenever you can, except on BitTorrent).
So how do we link up our VPN server to our BitTorrent client? Just take the server you selected, plug it into the "host" field in "proxy server" settings under "connection" (or whatever client you wanted to use, you absolute madman!), then set your port to whatever your VPN provider suggests you use (look on their website) You'll want to use SOCKS5, the most secure proxy protocol, as the others can be easily cracked by any kid with a laptop. Then check off "Use proxy for peer connections" (so your peers don't spy on you), "disable connections not supported by proxies" (so malicious trackers don't spy on you), and make sure "use proxy only for torrents" is unchecked, otherwise it will your VPN's IP address when it needs to access the Internet for some other reason, which is either a major or minor security breach depending on whether or not you kept your VPN on. Then check off "use authentication" and enter your VPN username and password. The password is unencrypted, but if a cop ever gets access to your PC files, you already lost the security game.
Encrypt your ishiid
Let's bite the bullet and not nurture false dreams. The encryption used in the BitTorrent protocol is incredibly weak, meaning it can be broken easily and therefore isn't a secure way to hide your data, because it's possible to discover that you're using BitTorrent with just a little bit of effort.
This is not to say that encryption does nothing. Encryption in BitTorrent obscures the downloaded data so it makes it hard for your ISP and some random asshole on public wifi to see that you're using BitTorrent. The sudden spike in download traffic might be a tip-off, but they would have to actually notice something was up with your connection before they take a look at your traffic. So this form of encryption can be seen as lying down under a white bedsheet on a blanket of snow.
But it's better than leaving it out in the clear. So under "BitTorrent", go to "Privacy", and under "encryption mode" select "require encryption", so that absolutely everything gets encrypted. Like I said, don't rely on BitTorrent encryption, because it's easy to tear the cardboard off and leave you bare-faced.
If your VPN server is secure, it should encrypt all the data in an uncrackable (we hope! all we can do is hope!) form, even such that your ISP can't see it, as one of the main features of a VPN is hiding traffic from your ISP. If they keep only the bare minimum amount of logs, then cops won't be able to access the data if they subpoena (especially with Swiss VPNs, because those fuckers will give foreigners jack shit to work with), and if they use the OpenVPN protocol, then they'll only get 15 minutes worth of data if they crack the encryption, which would be a massive waste of time on their part. So a VPN is one of the most effective solutions you can have compared to anything else.
(hot tip: most mainstream sites have no idea which services and protocols are actually secure. your safest bets are probably privacytools.io, Wikipedia for security details, bestvpn.com, and the IVPN privacy guides. remember to click as many links as seem interesting to you, as you can never have too much specialised knowledge!)
While you're in this menu, you might as well enable "anonymous mode", which barely does anything by itself (it most certainly doesn't make you anonymous, or even slightly less detectable), but it's used with a proxy server to make sure that absolutely no loose connections get sent out to the wild, as well as some minor data cleaning which makes it harder for network snoops to gather data from. So you can consider it an assurance that you're connected securely, because if you're not, then absolutely nothing will download for you, even on the most popular of torrents.
Block it! Block all of it!
A torrent blocklist is a bit like dollar store birth control - you can't be sure if it's effective, but it's better than nothing. What a blocklist does is prevent certain IP addresses from connecting to your computer over BitTorrent or the Internet or whatever, like a specialised IP address. These IPs could come from piracy watchdog groups, snooping universities, security companies, malicious users, known botnets, and malware domains, providing you some security not just on BitTorrent, but on every Internet connected application.
If a BitTorrent user has a blocklist installed, and the program sees that it's on a list of blocked domains, then the program won't allow the connection to go through, meaning they won't be able to see your IP address or your network information or what you're downloading, making you more secure against malicious outfits. It's not foolproof, because snoopers will constantly spoof their IP address so they don't get blocked, but it's an easy security feature that protects you from those who don't care enough to get smart with their obscurity. It also won't protect you against a random legitimate user who's curious enough to look up your IP address, so that's why you want a VPN service to hide that.
69% of malicious users are blocked by an extensive blocklist, with just under a third getting loose. 69% is a number that makes a huge difference when it comes to security, as having something that protects 69% more than nothing is something you'd be a sucker to give up. In video games, a community will flip out whenever a weapon is given 10% more damage or whatever silly thing they're on about. If it was given 69% more damage, then they'd probably just quit out of pity.
So to use these, just install Peerblock (please ignore the users who type like they're nine and suggest you get Netflix). It will then give you over a billion IP addresses which will be blocked, and it's statistically likely that at least some of them will work, so there's no need for me to harp on any more about its effectiveness. It won't update the lists automatically, so if you need to update them just reinstall the program to get a new list.
Alright, that's enough healthy paranoia. At this point your BitTorrent client is unsnoopable by 99% of all sources (security is never about being 100% effective - it's about getting as close to that percentile as possible, as the best in the world can still theoretically get access to your data), especially if you're only using it to download legal things like a complete bore. But now that you're ready to graduate from the elephant orphanage and go into the dusty deserts of Kenya, why not download that novel you were always meaning to? Just go onto any popular pirate site like Kickass or Pirate Bay and download whatever's popular, and that will give you a certain way to download a torrent file.
You have two options when downloading a torrent: you can either get the torrent file, labeled with the .torrent suffix (and not .torrent.exe you cheeky buggers), or you can get a magnet file. A torrent file, saved to your computer, allows you to choose which files you want to download, as well as providing an easy link you can share to get people to download a torrent, but you'll have to securely erase the torrent file to get rid of any evidence. A magnet link is something you can drag and drop to your client to download the content without needing to download any other torrent files to your PC, so you only need to share the link for a download. They're practically identical other than that.
When the torrent appears in your client, that means it's prepared to download. It will take a little while for it to find peers to connect to, and after that, the download speed will depend on how many people are seeding the content to you, as well as your connection speed. If there are no seeders, the content won't download at all. The great thing about BitTorrent is that if even one seeder appears, you can download all the files they have, so keep it in your client and pray for a good day. Leechers don't take away download speed from seeders, but if you see a peer and you're not getting any downloads, they're a leecher.
Then once the content is finished downloading, you can either remove it from the client and stop uploading the content, making you a leech (but don't select "delete content from hard disk", because that will delete your file! only delete the torrent listing), or you can keep it and upload some of the file, making you a seeder. While leeching makes it theoretically more secure because you don't have the file in your client and you're not uploading any extra data that can be snooped on, seeding keeps the torrent network alive, so pick your poison. Note that you'll automatically seed some content while you're downloading it, so don't feel too bad about that. If you disable this feature, you'll be banned from public trackers and you'll never find peers.
So now that you have the content, what are you going to do with it to make sure you don't get caught with it? Silly nerd, if you knew, you wouldn't be reading this guide!
Destroying the evidence
While you have the content, you need to make sure it's secure while you're not using it (if you haven't already enabled full hard drive encryption). So when you have it in your possession, take a few simple steps (without going into much detail at all, that's for a future article) on how to protect it from snoopers.
Encrypt the files using 7zip and a strong password. This is best for files you only access once and then forget about, like videos and books. It's not at all good for video games (where you need to constantly access the files) or music (decrypting it every time you want to play it is a hassle), because the performance and practicality hits of doing so outweigh the benefits of security. Also remember to "encrypt file names" so that cops can't even gleam what the evidence is.
Rename the files so that they aren't so bloody obvious as to their purpose. It's a minor form of security through obscurity, but it becomes less suspicious to find a file that isn't titled "Warcraft.2016.TC.x264.AAC-ETRG.mp4". Just rename it to "Warcraft" or something, or even something entirely unrelated if you know what the underlying file is.
Convert the files to another format so that it becomes harder to fingerprint the file with the original pirated source. Use fre:ac for audio, and HandBrake for video (you're pretty much screwed when it comes to other forms of media). The codec you use doesn't matter, but let's just say that .ogg (Vorbis) is black magic and has a quality at filesizes it has no business being at. It reduced a 600MB album down to 67MB, and it sounds exactly the same with my headphones. Either there's something wrong with my hearing, or Vorbis is gooooood. You may even want to edit the file so it's slightly different / suited to your tastes, such as using a video editor like Avidemux. Remember though, if a cop gets access to your files, you've lost the security game.
Now that you're no longer a babby, you're free to use BitTorrent to download whatever you like, so long as enough people are seeding the files. Keep in mind though, that no solutions are completely effective, just very very close to being effective. Security and privacy changes all the time based on new tech developments, so always remember to read up on what's new and in the moment.
Also, if you're reading this years into the future, I pray I'll be living in a stone palace with a bunch of stuffed toys. If I'm not, then why the fuck not? I hope my e-mail still works by then, because to lose contact with everybody I know in a disconnected world would be a very poor decision.
Also, the Katawa Shoujo torrent has no peers. Good work! Now I have to take my bum ass over to the direct download page and then leech off your servers. Oh, well. Maybe Hisao will finally get laid.
It's all free for you - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on June 8, 2016!
Har, Har, Har! Burn those boats and fight harder!