Early reports from Torrent Freak state that, at least in the UK, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Comodo Secure DNS are actively blocking torrent sites like Pirate Bay, instead bringing up stern warnings about the site containing harmful programs.
Google and Mozilla claim that such sites may contain malicious programs that can lead to infection by a virus, malware, adware, ransomware or worse. Despite the warnings, users can apparently still access the site by clicking on “details” but most users will press the boxed highlighted default – Back to safety. (See graphic at the end of the article)
Despite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) they are wrong about these sites! They generally contain nothing but a searchable torrent index and do not store material on them. However, many are supported by advertising. Some advertisers have dubious pedigrees (porn, gambling, etc.) and clicking on those links can result in malicious programs being download.
For the uninitiated, torrenting is a system where content of almost any type (text, programs, apps, video and audio) is stored on multiple users' computers and these seed the feed to create a complete version – e.g. the download could comprise slices from one to thousands of computers in the “swarm.”
One of the more popular torrent downloaders, BitTorrent (note: opt out of any bloatware when installing) recommends, but it is not mandatory, that your computer to become part of the swarm – a quid pro quo. But the torrent tracker is easily removed after download to avoid this. Still, there appear to be enough global participants, presumably with unlimited upload allowances, to make it work.
Pirate Bay is a torrent indexing sites that allow user content to be shared and downloaded by a torrent program – it is quite legal to use such sites for legitimate uses.
Precautions for Torrent users
- Use a paid antivirus program. I recommend Norton Security, but there are many from Trend, McAfee, AVG, Kaspersky, and MalwareBytes, etc. The free versions often do not check download data streams and prevent malicious program execution.
- Use a Virtual Private Network client to anonymise your browsing. These can ensure privacy and encrypt data over the link. I recommend Private Internet Access (iTWire article here), but there are many to choose from.
- Install an advertisement and tracker blocker like Ghostery for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. There are also mobile versions for Android and iOS. There are many ad blockers.
- Perform regular hygiene checks after torrenting by cleaning Internet traces and caches. I strongly recommend the free Wise Disk Cleaner and Wise Registry Cleaner (note these are bundled with some reasonably benign bloatware that you can easily opt not to install). These programs will more effectively clean a Windows computer – select the most aggressive settings for maximum clean.
Disclaimer: iTWire does not condone copyright violation. The technology mentioned in this article is primarily to enable secure computing over the public Internet. It may also enable anonymous computing; download of copyright materials; and circumvention of various countries laws.