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BitTorrent Blocklists Don't Work, New Research Shows

Posted by: , 13:00 AEST, Thu September 6, 2012

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BitTorrent block lists may still allow as many as a third of anti-piracy monitors to spy on your torrenting habits, a new research paper finds
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Image/Photo Credit: dantekgeek @ Flickr, CC

For BitTorrent users worried about their downloading privacy, especially when they're downloading things they really shouldn't be downloading, blocklist software, many of them are free, seems to offer an easy and transparent solution. But according to research conducted by the University of Birmingham, and published in a new paper titled "The Unbearable Lightness of Monitoring: Direct Monitoring in BitTorrent," blocklists may only be giving users a false sense of security.

Because BitTorrent is a public sharing method, anti-piracy agencies are able to easily record a list of IP addresses that connects to a monitored stream. Blocklist software work by preventing connections from addresses of known monitoring agencies, thus preventing the downloader's own IP address from being monitored.

But the new research paper found that, for example, the popular i-Blocklist software only blocks out up to 69% of the addresses of suspected BitTorrent monitors.

"Our direct monitoring analysis produced 593 peers (out of 856) that appear in subnets listed in the Anti-Infringement list. In addition, our analysis identifies 263 peers that, albeit displaying the same behaviour as monitoring peers do not currently appear in blocklists," the paper stated.

This shows that, out of the 60 torrents that the researchers looked at, nearly a third of potential monitoring peers may have been overlooked by the blocking software.

As such, the only completely safe way to download from BitTorrent without being spied upon would be to employ the services of a VPN, although not all take privacy as seriously as others.


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