Guide to Safe Torrenting: Mac OsX

I guess this a little off-topic from the usual money-saving strategies, but lately I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who have received letters from their Japanese ISP with regards to having downloaded something illegal from the internet. I’m not going to get into the legalities of downloading movies and software here; let’s save that for another post. I would however like to show you exactly how you can protect yourself from ever getting a nasty letter threatening to cut off your internet if you don’t leave those torrents alone.

The Theory:

Firstly, let’s look at the reasons why you’re getting caught, and then I’ll show you exactly how to set up your torrent clients to make you safer:

1. You downloaded from an evil peer: Torrents are a peer-to-peer network – that means that rather than downloading from a central server, your file is coming from 1 or more other people on the internet (usually quite a few). Believe it or not, there are evil companies out there that are paid by the RIAA and movie corporations to infiltrate the peer-to-peer torrent network and pretend to have the movie you’re looking for. They advertise themselves on the torrent network, and then you when you connect to them and attempt to download the movie from their computer, they record your IP address. Then it’s just a simple case of sending a letter to your ISP saying “IP address x.x.x.x attempted to download movie X, here is the proof”, and your ISP takes it from there. This is the single biggest reason you will get caught. What can you do? Don’t worry. There are kind people on the internet (hackers) who make lists of these evil companies and all their evil computers, and it’s pretty simple to use these lists to make sure you don’t ever go near one of those evil computers. Essentially, we can set your computer up to automatically get a blacklist of evil peers every day, and that’ll make you 99% safer instantly.

2. Your ISP is spying on you: You have a constant stream of data coming in and out on your internet connection. Your ISP can of course look at this stream of data, and can tell pretty much what you’re doing. If you’re downloading a movie via torrents, they can tell – they might not be able to tell what movie it is, but they can tell that your downloading it via torrents. This isn’t usually a reason to worry, as most ISPs don’t go around spying on their customers for fun – but if you’re constantly streaming an above normal amount of data, then they’re going to want to know why. If they flag you and find out you’re downloading movies, or even hosting your own high traffic web-server, you’re likely to get a threatening letter.

3. Bandwidth limits: You may have a 100mbit connection, but that doesn’t mean you can use all of it all the time constantly. If everyone did that, your ISP would go broke in a second. That’s why many ISPs in Japan and America are implementing certain limits that when you go over them will either automatically cut off your connection or set off a red flag for further investigation somewhere. In America these limits are ridiculous – something like 20gb a month in some cases. Luckily, this is Japan and the limits are actually quite reasonable, but you should be aware of them. My own ISP for instance – “OCN” – has an upload limit of 20gb per day, which isn’t really a limit at all. However, they did send me a warning saying that if I went over that limit, they would be consequences.

Even if the worst happens, and you get a warning letter, you still have 2 chances left (in most cases), so don’t panic quite yet.

How To Protect Yourself: Mac OsX

I recommend and will be teaching you how to do these steps with a native OsX torrent client called Transmission. It’s the fastest and easiest to use in my opinion, and it has all the functionality we need to make you 99% secure in your torrent downloads.

Once you’re installed and set up your download directory, go ahead and open up the apps preference panel. If you’d prefer a visual guide to this, there’s an HD video below of myself explaining the steps involved.

1. Click on bandwidth tab. You’ll notice you can turn on a limit for both upload and download if you need to, but you’ll have to find out your own ISP limits. If you’re living in Japan, chances are you don’t have a limit but I would still recommend setting one so you don’t set off any alarms. As my own upload limit is 20gb/day, I have my upload speed set at 200k/s, which is more than enough. If you are constantly downloading then I would really suggest you turn on both an upload and download limit, or you may find yourself racking up terabytes of bandwidth (at which point, it is pretty much non-profitable for your ISP to keep providing you with internet).

2. Click on peers tab. On the part that says “encryption”, check both boxes for “prefer encrypted peers” *and* “ignore un-encrypted peers”, all your torrent traffic will be unidentifiable by your ISP. Your outgoing traffic is automatically encrypted by Transmission, but by setting these you will ensure everything coming in is too.

3. On the bottom of the same tab it says “blocklist”. You’ll need to download a list of bad IPs before you can turn this on, so go ahead and click on “update” button. It may take a few minutes. Then enable the other two checkboxes for “block bad IPs” and “update weekly”.

Congratulations, you’re now safe! Happy torrenting, and good job on choosing OsX!

If you’re using windows and you’d like a video walkthrough too, let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together. The steps are basically the same, but Windows requires some extra software to do the bad-peer blocking so it gets a little more complicated.

26 thoughts on “Guide to Safe Torrenting: Mac OsX

  1. Wonderful post! I’d been hearing about the holes in using torrents recently due to the Pirate Bay scandal. I’ve also heard other technologies are being developed that are encrypted to circumvent this sort of thing happening.

    One thing you didn’t touch on was how to encrypt your own (Mac) connection. I am a new Mac user, so have no firewall or anti virus (d o I need them)? How can I encrypt my own connection?

    Also, what program(s) did you use/recommend to screencast. I want to make some screencasts myself ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mikeโ€™s latest blog post is…Japanese Newspaper Headlines

  2. Thanks man. Will have to look up about those holes, haven’t heard anything myself.

    As for encrypting your own connection, with regards to torrents if you follow all the steps in the screencast it will all be set up.

    The default is set to only encrypt your traffic if the other peer supports it, but by setting it up like I show, *every* torrent connection will be forced encryption or will simply be refused… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Screencast was made with a program called iShowUHD, and seems to be fairly easy. I can even add a video of myself in the top right if I wanted too! Only thing it had problems with was when I launched parallels and all hell broke loose, requiring a restart to get a functioning computer back…

  3. Thanks for the reply. Do you use the Pro or normal version of the program? Any free programs that do the same?

    Also, did I miss something in my interpretation of ‘prefer encrypted peers’? That doesn’t mean that your own connected is encrypted, only that you only connect to people with encrypted connections (which could include those agencies out to track people).

    Mikeโ€™s latest blog post is…Japanese Newspaper Headlines

  4. You need to set prefer encrypted AND ignore unencrypted peers – and with that alone youre right it could still connect to evil computers, which is why you need to turn on the blocklist too~

    I *think* im using the pro version, but I just had a quick go on a java web based one here and it seems to work alright.

  5. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    I followed your video perfectly, but the issue I’m having was not that. It’s that, in my mind, just by connecting to a computer with an encrypted connection and ignoring computers without encrypted connections, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your own connection is encrypted.

    What I didn’t realise was that Transmission claims to actually encrypt one’s own connection (from the help file):

    “Transmission encrypts the connections it makes with other peers when necessary, using the RC4 cipher. The implementation is compatible with other clients such as Azureus and ยตTorrent. It is always enabled, however you can set Transmission (Preferences >> Peers) to prefer encrypted peers or to ignore unencrypted peers completely.

    Note that the latter option may make Transmission unconnectable in some swarms. The encryption feature does not mean your session is secure or anonymous, it is merely a way to avoid the traffic shaping measures some ISPs have implemented.”

    Now I understand why you were more confident about the encryption. Perhaps you should make a note that Transmission actually encrypts one’s own connection. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Mikeโ€™s latest blog post is…Japanese Newspaper Headlines

  6. Thanks for the great post. I was just wondering, your steps above (which I’ve followed, thanks) make it more difficult to jump on a bad peer and allow people to detect what is actually being downloaded… however if you do happen to slip through the cracks, I assume your IP address is still fully exposed? So is there a way to mask your IP address also?

  7. Sorry for the late reply Chris. If you’re living in a horrible country and you wish to get that extra last 1% protection, you need a VPN service and you generally have to pay.

    If you dont know, by using a VPN essentially you’re creating a connection between yourself and another computer, and using the other computers internet connection to download the torrents – and more importantly, the records of your IP address are not kept on that computer.

    The best providers that I can tell are:

    http://www.torrentfreedom.com/

    http://blacklogic.com/

    But, let it be known that I dont use these services. Certainly in Japan, there is no need whatsoever.

  8. Just wanted to mention that myluckybids.com is selling iPhones and macs for crazy cheap prices, it’s an acutions website. I got mine for $54…..Thank me for the head up!

  9. Hi there, I just found your site through this post and I will study it laboriously since i just touched ground in Japan.
    Thanks for all the work!

  10. Hey man. I would love to see a guide for this on Windows. I don’t own a Mac and am much more comfortable on PCs running Windows XP. Thanks.

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  12. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  13. Hey there! Whatever happened to your other site? Tokyobit? I used to visit it often and then I had some computer trouble that required me to get a new computer (Finding an English computer in this area of Japan was harder than I had first thought!) and now it seems to have disappeared. ๐Ÿ™

  14. HI,
    Thank for the sharing information about Torrenting mac osx. this post is help for the those person who using torrenting mac osx service.

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