How Tribler aims to improve the privacy of Bittorrent users

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 4, 2014

Direct connections between users are used by the Bittorrent protocol by default. This means that whenever you load a torrent in a client like uTorrent, seeders and users downloading the torrent as well connect to your device directly to transfer data.

Once you start to receive data your device is being used to deliver these parts to other users who download the torrent as well.

The core problem with direct connections is that it is dead easy to trace users. Some companies use this to track downloaders and seeders of torrents as there is no anonymity involved in the process.

Anyone involved in the process can log IP addresses of users downloading or uploading data, and use reverse IP look up scripts to get information about the Internet Service Provider  that maintains the IP address.

Certain services and techniques have been created to protect users from that. There are proxies that users can make use of for example. A proxy sits between the user device and the other device so that traffic flows through it.

A log file would show the IP address of the proxy and not that of the user device. This means that a trace would reveal information about the company that maintains the proxy. It is still possible to trace users back under certain circumstances, for instance if the proxy company cooperates with companies or the authorities to log users or if it did log users in first place.

A second issue here is that a compromised proxy would render the privacy benefits useless.

Tribler attempts to improve the privacy of Bittorrent users by using proxy layers instead of single proxies. One of the core benefits of this approach is that it is not necessary to trust a single proxy server anymore:

  • The seeder connects to the first proxy, and the data that is transmitted here is encrypted.
  • The second proxy sits between the first and third, and will encrypt the data as well.
  • The third proxy is the only one that connects to your device directly. It is also connected to the second proxy.

One of the issues with the system is that the seeder is still unprotected. Tribler plans to change that by using similar proxy chains to improve seeder privacy as well.

Interested users can run a test download in the client currently that uses the layers of proxies for the downloading.

tribler anonymity test

According to the team, the anonymity layer for downloaders is expected to be released this Fall.

Another interesting feature of Tribler is the fact that its search is powered by peer to peer connections and not a central server that is used to index data and return search results.

How fast will it be?

While the test download should allow for speeds of 1.5 Megabyte for downloaders, it did not cross the 81 KB/s mark during a test on a Windows 7 Pro system with a fast 50 Mbit connection.

Closing Words

It needs to be noted that users are not fully anonymous when they use the client this Fall after the anonymity update is made available. While downloads are covered, all users are automatically uploading parts of files they download to other users as well, and this is not anonymized currently.

In addition, it is unclear who is operating the server infrastructure. Since the project is funded by the European Union, it could very well be that it is operating its own server infrastructure.

Now You: What is your take on this? Will you use it if it works?

How Tribler aims to improve the privacy of Bittorrent users
Article Name
How Tribler aims to improve the privacy of Bittorrent users
Tribler is a free open source Bittorrent client that will improve user privacy this fall by implementing a system that is similar to the anonymity network Tor.

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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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