Bitthief, as the name already implies, is a bittorrent client that leeches from the community without giving something back to it. It basically reminds me of those leecher mods for emule that have been popular a few years ago. Bitthief accomplishes this by reducing the upload speed to 0. The developer of Bitthief, the Distributed Computing Group at ETH Zurich puts it this way:
"We developed a BitTorrent client that free rides on BitTorrent, that is, it downloads from BitTorrent swarms without contributing any resources itself which illustrated that the BitTorrent protocol currently fails to prevent uncooperative behavior as it does not provide any countermeasures against free riding clients."
It seems that Bitthief does not only prevent fair sharing but also spies on users that use the client. Torrentfreak notes that Bitthief is currently collecting "the torrent hash, total size of the download, the current version of the client, total number of pieces available, and the size of these pieces" which can be clearly linked to the users IP address making it very easy to identify all activity of a certain user.
According to the developers, the data is collected to measure the performance as part of the scientific project. Anyone thinking about Bitthief should be very cautious because of this as it is not clear if the data is really only being used for a scientific study.
No one knows at this time why the developers are collecting the data, and why there is no option to disable it, which should make everyone at least suspicious.
Another thing that users of the client should consider is that it is likely that it has been banned on many trackers, which would block all attempts to download files using it from those trackers.
Update: It appears that the data collection has been modified recently. It now transfers only information about "the time required to download files of different" sizes and not the other data, according to the project website. Still, it is probably better to use a program like uTorrent instead.
Bitthief is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. It is written in Java which means that you do need to have a recent Java Runtime Environment installed on your system to execute it.
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