11 September 2012
One of the main reasons why torrent downloads are dreaded by users who are not familiar enough with this environment are fake torrent downloads. And their concern is not based on any internet myth or the usual demonisation of downloads by anti-piracy associations, but in actual figures revealed by a group of researchers in a study about fake torrents in The Pirate Bay, who also provided a solution enabling to verify the legitimacy of torrents, known as TorrentGuard.
While any user should know some techniques to identify fake torrents, they are quite of a problem. At the lowest scale of risk, even an apparently innocent content like a children movie titled Pocahontas may end up being Pocahontaxxx. But, in the harshest cases, we may face a malicious file trying to steal our money instead of the pdf e-book about saving whales that we were actually looking for. Motivated by this situation, a team of researchers decided to analyze the phenomenon in The PirateBay, and reached some interesting conclusions.
The (surprising?) findings from the research have further reinforced the perception about the insecurity of the downloads available from the most popular tracker. Since 1 out of 3 torrents turned out to be fake. With an estimated volume of 250 million users a month, BitTorrent has become a haven that scammers, spammers, black hat hackers and other lammers in the network find suitable to upload all that content that should immediately be filtered out from the trackers. The data from the current research were collected over a 2-weeks period during which almost 30,000 torrents were collected in The PirateBay, 12,000 of which turned out to be fake.
Data about torrent users and fake content
Since the ability to track torrents is highly dependent from the users’ feedback, and users are not usually very cooperative (by reporting a torrent as fake, for instance), the number of fake torrents tends to grow. To help alleviate this situation, researchers have also created a web application known as TorrentGuard, enabling to test torrents before they are downloaded, and available as a Vuze plugin. The application works by using the torrent, hash or magnet link and pasting it into TorrentGuard’s web site. By refreshing the page, the torrent will be verified.
TorrentGuard is a partial solution to fake torrents
As an interesting result from the research, it was found that 99% of fake torrents are used for profit purposes through malware, or by redirecting users to web sites. It was also found that only 20 publishers are responsible for 90% of the malware in sites like The PirateBay, and they are being subject to tracking to report their behaviour. Let’s hope that TorrentGuard turns out to be a good choice to verify the legitimacy of torrents.
Official web site: TorrentGuard