How can I protect myself from malware and copyright infringements when downloading torrents?

Julius June 6, 2011
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I own a Mac and I am concerned about the possible copyright infringements if when I use torrents. I was wondering what is the best way to protect myself not only with regards to copyright infringement, but also to the possible viruses. I am in a private torrenting community, but I always want to be on the careful side. Thank you for your help

  1. Christopher Royall
    June 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Julius,

    First to avoid copyright infringement, you must know the laws of the area you live in, AND, the laws the owner of the material lives in.  Since you did not include the area you live in, let's just assume it is an area that follows similar regulations as the US.  If the Author/Owner has a statement that is of public knowledge that states it to be free to all, no strings attached, then it is alright to download it.  There are actually many private artistic movies and music out there that is free to be shared with all.  Same goes with software, however, in the case of software, you can get it more safely through either their website, or at download.com (or similar shareware/freeware sites).  If on the other hand, you know that this is something that is sold on the public market, or strongly suspect it is, then yes, it is indeed a copyright infringement.

    As for the Virus issue -- in opposition to what was said in an earlier post, Mac's have become the newest targets now for Virus's, as Mac's are now getting to be just as popular as IBM/Compatibles.  ClamXav is an excellent and free anti-virus package that is available for MAC's and can be found at:  http://www.clamxav.com.  Personally, I would scan each and every torrent with it.  An even safer bet would be to place the torrent on to a removable media source, and scan it on a machine that is not used for anything except that purpose, however, many people do not have that resource available to them.Please note that the US has begun taking serious actions against people who are in copyright violation.  Not only against the companies, (such as torrent-finder.com), but also against it's users, and many individuals are now receiving hefty prison terms for this, along with fines that are thousands of dollars more than what the material could have purchased for to begin with.

  2. Anonymous
    June 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Torrents and p2p networks are not illegal by themselves. It is the material that gets transfered that is illegal. If a torrent or p2p network has copyright material on it, then under civil law it is the responsibility of the originator of the copyright material to take legal action against them (and most do). The problem is that a lot of these people will just back up shop and move somewhere else.

    some servers are not hosted in a single country so they dont know where they are?

    The problem resides in several areas. Laws regarding copyright infringement vary from country to country, so it is possible for tracker servers to be set up in certain nations. Secondly, it is extremely difficult for a government to control the internet, think about the uproar that would occur if the US government attempted to do that.

    This unauthorized copying and distribution constitutes copyright infringement
    under Section 106 of the U.S. Copyright Act . Depending upon the type of
    service ISP is providing to this IP address, it may have legal
    and/or equitable liability if it does not expeditiously remove or disable
    access to the motion picture(s) listed below, or if it fails to implement a
    policy that provides for termination of subscribers who are repeat infringers
    http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

    Digital technology allows perfect copies and easy distribution of some works. That makes it easier for people to make and get copies of songs or videogames, and more difficult for copyright holders (record companies, etc.) to control the works once they are released to the public. This new technology has changed the way content distributors relate with their customers, and law and business models are just trying to catch up.

    "Piracy" is slang for copyright infringment, usually used to describe the unlawful copying of software, videogames, movies or MP3s. Copyright law gives a creator of software, music, literature and other works a limited monopoly to reproduce or distribute in the created work. If you are accused of piracy, then someone is claiming that you have violated their copyright by copying part or all of their work without authorization, or have enabled other people to make such copies.

    BitTorrent offers software that allowws for peer-to-peer transfer of files, particularly videos and audio. However, users of this software who violate copyright laws may be liable. The way it usually works, in practice, is that the copyright owner asks / subpoenas the user’s ISP for the user’s IP address, then sends a “settlement offer” to the user. If the person does not “settle”, then the company may file a lawsuit in federal court. Many of these cases wind up being thrown out for various reasons including lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. A list of the IP addresses cited in the law suit is shown below.

    The law imposes criminal sanction for infringing activities conducted for commercial purposes, such as making infringing copies for sale or hire, or commercial dealings with such copies.The content decides the copyright infringement. The downloading itself is not infringement but the if the content is copyrighted then it would be considered an infringement.

  3. Jeffery Fabish
    June 7, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Hi Julius,

    I am going to address the malware issue first. Macintosh's fortunately are not a big target for malware [yet] as it is not a very popular operating system, however it is still a possibility. Also, on private torrent websites all torrents are usually scanned and staff before being released, so that adds a great deal of security...So with that being said there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from it.

    A.) Who is the uploader? Is he trusted?
    Odds are good a trusted uploader will have a specific title (on thepiratebay it's a VIP symbol) which signifies staff trusts this uploader not to intentionally harm users. This method is fallible (as his account could be hacked, etc.)

    B.) What do the comments say?
    If the torrent is fake or is malware, downloaders will usually warn other potential downloaders that the torrent is bad. So read the comments first. Beware, a lot of the time (not specifically on private torrent sites) competition will go to a users torrent and say bad things, just so people don't download. So only if the majority of people say it's bad, should you believe it.

    C.) Scan the download (all files) using a multi-engine scanner
    You can use VirusTotal http://virustotal.com/ or VirusJotti http://virusscan.jotti.org/en to scan your completed downloads (movies, executable, etc - scan them all). If it detects anything in the scan, research the infection as it may be a false positive (it's not actually malware, the scanner just believed it was)

    D.) Common sense
    Is it too good to be true? I doubt that "The Hangover 2 DVD RIP" is available before it's even out of theatres, so if it sounds too good to be true....It probably is. Wait and see, let a few users comment before you put your system in harms way. If the file is supposed to be a BluRay movie, and the file size is 13mb's, you can bet it's fake.

    Copyright infringement is a larger issue. The first thing you can do is ask yourself "Can I get this very same thing from the authors website?". If you can, it's most likely not infringing of any rights. In other cases, such as downloading a movie, it's common sense you're in violation. Different countries have different copyright laws though. What I download here I could be within perfect legal boundaries, but I were to download the very same thing where you're at, I could be fined or even jailed.

    You can use software such as Peerblock http://peerblock.com/ to force your computer to deny traffic from known hosts of spyware and anti-p2p facilities. This will greatly reduce your chances of "being caught" downloading copyrighted material. This software is not illegal to use as an ethical value as well and no one will know you are running it. Run Peerblock while you are downloading questionable material. Running peerblock reduces your risk of having your connection being snooped by AP2P industries by 12  to 70%, there are case studies online.

    You can also force your bittornet client to use encryption. In Bittorent and Utorrent go to Options, Preferences, "bittorent" and set "protocol encryption" to forced, and disallow legacy connections. To add extra security to your bittorent client, go to "connection" tab under preferences and check "randomize port each start".

    If you're feeling extra paranoid, you may use a VPN service which will reroute and encrypt your traffic.

    Blocklist case study:
    http://torrentfreak.com/do-p2p-blocklists-keep-you-safe/

    If you have any questions please reply!