Internet users who look to torrent sites like The Pirate Bay and Kat.Ph for their music and movie diversions are being forced, because of increased security measures, to hide their online activity, lest they risk legal action from copyright holders. While some users have opted to launch their own virtual private networks (VPN) or pay to have their Internet traffic redirected overseas, others have subscribed to the simple proxy service BT Guard.
People are most often caught pirating content with their IP address, which can be likened to an individual computer’s fingerprint. To download a torrent movie file, one links to seeds (who are hosting the file) and peers (who are downloading it simultaneously). Both peers and seeds are able to see one’s IP address and other details about the download location, such as the city.
The flawed strategy used by copyright enforcers of finding and suing torrent users based on their IP will now be joined by the six-strike policy, which allows Internet service providers to throttle a customer’s connection for using too much bandwidth (which would coincide with downloading large movie files).
This is where BT Guard comes in. The legal service simply re-routes one’s Internet traffic through a different IP address, making the true source nearly impossible to identify. A torrent proxy through BT Guard costs $6.95 per month (or $59.95 for 12 months), while BT Guard’s more elaborate VPN costs $9.95.
It’s quietly found favor with Internet users since being founded in 2008, capitalizing on a needed service. After installation a BT Guard customer can go to CheckMytorrentIP.com and download a test torrent. There, if everything is correct, someone downloading a file from New York should see their IP source listed somewhere in Canada or the Netherlands, foe example.
“At the time of the initial review, BTGuard was just a basic proxy service that you had to configure yourself. Now BTGuard is a cinch for anyone to use with our easy-to-install software. BTGuard also went through some serious bandwidth upgrades & optimization to provide the best possible reroute speeds,” a BT Guard founder told TorrentFreak.
The setup – best described by Lifehacker – is even easier, but at times BT Guard is too good to be true. Frustrated subscribers often to take to Twitter to complain about faulty service, and Reddit is populated with questions about dropped connections.
Tunneling a torrent through BT Guard also slows down the download, possibly from a minute-to-minute download to days. The Best VPN blog blamed the waiting game on overloaded servers.
Customer service questions often go unanswered, an especially frustrating problem for users trying to navigate the underground world of anonymous Internet traffic. One Reddit user described their frustration in a discussion forum on the subject.
“I can confirm this. I used their BitTorrent proxy for a while, then tried to upgrade to their VPN. They have no way to upgrade, or even cancel the proxy service so you can subscribe to the VPN, programmatically, you have to email them and have them do it manually,” the person wrote in January.
“I emailed for several weeks about this and got zero response, including my spam folder. Eventually the only way out was to stop payment. No way I was going to upgrade after that.”