How users are being tracked on P2P networks

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 9, 2008
Updated • Dec 2, 2012
File Sharing, Security
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Have you ever asked yourself how it is possible that users are tracked over months in P2P networks although their IP address may be changing regularly because of dynamic IP addresses? We only hear reports about session based user identification. Session based means that shared files of this session are analyzed and recorded opposed to tracking a user over months.

Common sense tells us that the IP address is the major information needed to identify a user, but there are other information available to other users of P2P networks that can be used to track users even if the IP address changes. Those are, among other data the software and version used as well as the MAC address of the computer.

These two values are used to generate a hash that identifies the user even if the IP changes because the IP is not relevant for tracking users over a period of time. It is still recorded though with additional information like shared files, date and time, servers and all other information available as it is needed to identify the customer who has subscribed to the Internet in the end.

It could be that even more information are used to calculate the hash value. Everything that is not changed regularly could be possible. The hash value of a new user is then compared to a database table that contains the hash values of users that have been using the P2P network and linked if a match is found.

The option you have to overcome that form of user tracking? Changing your MAC address is probably the best option in this regard as software and version used is not really enough to identify a specific computer system or track a user over time unless it is an obscure version that no one else uses anymore.

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Comments

  1. Taomyn said on September 4, 2013 at 9:46 am
    Reply

    And for those looking for a decent alternative that’s free and free from ads plus other crap (though I would recommend donating), then try qBittorrent: http://www.qbittorrent.org/

  2. zondron said on September 4, 2013 at 10:10 am
    Reply

    Why not use the portable version of uTorrent?

    Just downlad the .exe from official website into a folder, create a text file in the same folder, rename the .txt file to settings.dat and start uTorrent. You can move the folder anywhere.

    1. Coyote said on September 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm
      Reply

      ^Exactly…. in fact I would recommend avoiding all versions over 2.0, the torrent portion of the program hardly changed, it’s all the ads, ratings, and possible tracking features that require all the additional installs.

      And this is why I never updated in a nutshell;

      “Ads
      More Ads (hit decline offer)
      Even more ads (hit decline)”

      Nope. I donated $25 several years ago to the utorrent crew.. possibly a decade… so I refuse to accept their reasoning for selling out so much.

      1. zondonr said on September 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm
        Reply

        You can turn off the ads.

  3. Paul said on September 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm
    Reply

    qBittorrent FTW!

  4. anon said on September 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm
    Reply

    Qbittorrent your way out of this piece of crap.

  5. Dukislav said on September 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm
    Reply

    +1 for Qbittorrent

  6. Blue.bsod said on September 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm
    Reply

    I’m a long long time user of Bitcomet now and forever. Never any ads, no offers, nothing to decline, no sell out… little used due to the complex nature they still scare people away with, but their new install is a simple one click solution that discovers all settings on its own except firewalls.

    They follow a simple idea…’share’… if you share you can possibly go faster than those who don’t share. You can even see connections* connected to you and of them who is sharing and who isn’t… then you can boot them / ban them or ignore them selectively ‘mwahahaha…’. We can set how much we share, with who, and how fast we share.

    *in my personal experience over 95% of Azures and uTorrent users do not share, I boot them.

    So those who believe Bitcomet is hard to understand, they haven’t been that since version 1.09a (current public release 1.35). Also Bitcomet installs a Firefox add-on to capture media from the temp directory. You can easily unload it using Firefox’s Add-on Options page.

    Bottomline, Bitcomet is faster and easier to install/use. Signing up as a registered user will allow you to join the ranks as a sharing user. The more you share, the faster you can possibly go.

  7. suc said on July 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm
    Reply

    utorrent installs itself in appdata folder so it can inject malware without the UAC consent. Don’t use utorrent because it’s unsafe!

  8. uTP said on December 8, 2015 at 10:47 am
    Reply

    The best last version of utorrent is 2.2.1 build 25534

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