Recent talks about our college blocking P2P made me wonder if the problem is genuine.
It is. Simply stated, don't download copyright infringing material from P2P networks.
If you are interested in wasting at least 5 minutes of your time, read on.
A few days earlier, mostly between November 10 and November 16, the college administration started getting emails from IP-Echelon on behalf of Warner Bros. warning the institute against download of Copyright Infringing material downloads. Some clueless, innocent person, sitting in their underpants, enjoying the free internet the college provides decided to download Interstellar and Into the Storm using BitTorrent.
Image courtesy - Cyanide and Happyness #2898
That's when everything went wrong. I read the emails that the institute received, which we will discuss later.
For those who don't know what IP-Echelon is (this included me a few hours earlier,) it is an Australian company that monitors copyright infringement for various high-profile content creating clients of its. They usually drop around in P2P shares and track IPs seeding or leeching files. They also do some trade secret sorcery to identify people who download copyright infringing material. Then they warn them (which most people ignore,) then sue them, and then earn a lot of money.
Are they bad? IMO, they are just doing their business. All the evil lies in their clients who put huge amount of money to track down people to sue (subjected to different thought processes. I as a proponent of everything Free and Open Source, would see them as evil.)
A lot of technical jargon ahead, so keep your calm.
The emails specified our public IP as the offender in these cases. Of course no one knows who downloaded the movies (I DID NOT.) I believe the college authorities have enough resources to track down the person who downloaded them in the first place, but that would be an insane wastage of huge amount of time, man-power considering that the damage has already been made. So, they adopted the easiest route possible. Block all the URIs containing 'torrent' as a keyword. This caused quite a pain in the process of research I did for writing this article. But everything is justified on the institute's behalf. No one wants to put themselves in trouble.
Is the block justified? I would argue that it is. Most of the college population is ignorant enough to take any of it seriously. Protocols, VPNs, Tunnels are rocket science for the vast majority (they don't need it anyway). So, the action is reasonable for the greater good.
So, I researched. While there are many ways to circumvent this (mentioned below,) I would NOT recommend any Tom-Dick-And-Harry to try them and put themselves in trouble, and curse me later. TRY THEM AT HOME, NOT IN THE COLLEGE.
- Simply don't download any copyright infringing material from the P2P networks. Films being the biggest factor in aid of surveillance. Music the other. Don't download these two and you are good to go. BitTorrent is a spectacular thing to use.
- Use a VPN to shadow your tracing information. This is one of the fool-proof methods to avoid spying and surveillance. This also does not bring any harm to the college or you. The worst you can expect is to get your VPN account suspended by your provider. That's it. No, I will not tell you how to use a VPN.
- Use your neighbours Wi-Fi. This can be difficult to realize in the college, so just ignore it. Read the above two.
Earlier last day, I wondered if enabling Encryption in the BitTorrent clients could be one of the methods to safety. I tried using encrypted stream for downloading torrents and it is working (should warn the college people :p) I advised a few people to do so as well.
Well, I was wrong. As it turns out, enabling Encryption of streams only obfuscates your traffic and does not actually encrypt the data that is being shared. Your IP information is revealed eventually. To put in a nutshell, you are as good with Encryption enabled as you are with it turned off. Why it is there is not the point of this article.
Of course there are many tools out there that can prevent spying to a certain extent, but in the end they are prone to very simple workarounds. An interesting read can be found here: http://alumni.cs.ucr.edu/~anirban/Anir-networking07.pdf
This document describes some of the simple techniques one can use to evade being caught to a great level.
Now you decide if you want to have the awesome internet we have in college, or download a couple of movies that raise more of such emails and cause all of it to be blocked. I would suggest a few preliminary actions you can take to save youself, the college and its internet from any issues.
- Do not download pirated content at all. Shed some bucks if you are dying to watch something. Use Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix or so. Flipkart too have started e-deliveries.
- Be very cautious in downloading pirated content related to the big players in the market, in this case Warner Bros.
- Use only trusted and verified uploaders such as YIFY, Pimp003 and a few others for they strip most of the identifying information related with a torrent using their own swarms and allowing filtered leeching. The torrents in question were from not from either of the two uploaders.
- Use trusted websites like Kickass.to or ThePirateBay only for downloading torrents. Most of them are available on these two.
I believe this should be enough for a sane person to keep control on the content they consume illegally.
[EDIT] The original post URI contained 'torrents' :p