Disclaimer: The author of this article does not advocate copyright infringement, although he believes that its abolition would result in a creative and artistic utopia.
For many, their first experience with torrenting is something of an eye-opener about the power of the Internet. Having heard of ThePirateBay through schoolyard whispers, they quickly installed a sketchy torrent app (now with additional crypto miners) and immediately downloaded the latest 1080p.h265.HDRip from spider man 3. Unlike centralized sources that host such files on their own servers, peer-to-peer file-sharing networks are inherently difficult to shut down, despite being targeted by large media conglomerates seeking to enforce their proprietary rights. intellectual for decades.
A particularly insidious tactic employed by ‘copyright trolls’ today is to pressure intermediaries in any network, such as internet service providers, to monitor user activity on their behalf. It’s not uncommon these days to hear of movie and video game publishers uploading a marked copy of their own media to public trackers, like ThePirateBay, and collecting the IP addresses of those who download it. Within a couple of weeks, a cease and desist letter, or worst case scenario, legal proceedings, appears at your house. Even if these corporations don’t resort to harassing pirates, it’s quite easy to extract a list of IP addresses from existing torrents by monitoring the ‘peers’ of a file at any given time.
To demonstrate just how simple this detective work can be, the ‘I Know What You Download’ website actively tracks peers to a list of 1.5 million torrents and makes their records publicly available online. All you need to do is search for an IP address to find the full history of your torrent activity. Of course, the first thing I did when I discovered this resource was log on to campus WiFi and snoop around what USyd students (and potentially staff) were streaming in the background while sitting in class or studying in the library. The results, while not entirely surprising, should set off some alarm bells about the digital OPSEC of your average USyd attendee.
It’s mostly porn. Overwhelmingly, the activity showed that the vast majority of torrent traffic through the USyd campus network was for large HD porn videos, sometimes up to 10GB in size. In fact, the website realized that USyd’s IP address downloads so much porn that it even automatically categorizes the network with the label ‘I like porn’. As to why anyone would want to have several 10 GB porn videos on their hard drive and choose to download them through the University network, I can’t say. Other categories that saw significant traffic were video games, with someone downloading a full 50GB repack of far away 6 last week, and auteur films like the Criterion Collection edition of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire walk with me.
Am I trying to be a copyright monger by pointing all this out? Absolutely not, although I do think that pirating Ubisoft games is a waste of anyone’s bandwidth, even the University’s. But I must imagine that this type of activity, which is so easily detectable by an external source, would be even simpler for the University’s technology department. Also, while the website I visited was unable to decipher the ID numbers of the individual students responsible for downloading each torrent, I understand that this would also be a trivial challenge for the University.
However, if you simply must find a way to download strictly legal files for completely open and (I repeat) strictly legal purposes, it might be time to learn some privacy practices to ward off the prying eyes of network administrators. First, find what you need on online archive sites or blogs, such as archive.org. Despite being centralized, these websites are ironically much more difficult for administrators to identify specific downloaders, unless they are forced to publish their logs, if they keep them at all. For even more security, consider tunneling through a VPN or even using Tor Browser. While administrators will be able to see spikes in traffic or the fact that you are using Tor, the encryption offered by these pathways means that it will be almost impossible to decipher the content of the data being transmitted. Additionally, you can redirect the actual torrent download outside of a network by investing in a seedbox, which is a high-bandwidth remote server accessible via SSH FTP. Finally, you can even choose to investigate the very mysterious world of private torrent trackers (which this author knows nothing about).
Stay safe out there, USyd.