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Sometimes when I'm downloading free and open source software via bit-torrent I like to hide who I am to mix things up a bit. It's probably more secure too. How does one do that? I can't imagine it's easy.

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who are you trying to hide your identity from... this may sound like asking the obvious, but depending on whether it is 'everyone you are communicating with' or 'specific people you do not want to know who is grabbing stuff' the answer is either 'impossible' or 'almost impossible' – jerryjvl Jul 25 '09 at 1:19
Downloading "free and open source software"... ya right. – Isaac Waller Jul 25 '09 at 4:36
You can't hide your IP address. Otherwise the program won't know where to send the file to. – setatakahashi Jul 25 '09 at 7:16
@Isaac: it seems improbable, but the question and its' answers still have general merit tho... I wonder if he took proper precautions hiding his IP address from SuperUser before posting that question? ;) – jerryjvl Jul 25 '09 at 7:38
The reason why he's downloading X has nothing to do with the answer to the question. – LawrenceC Sep 11 '12 at 21:11
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Tor is not created for routing large amounts of data.

Now hiding your IP while downloading free software is generally speaking a good idea. There are a lot of organizations out there monitoring the sharers of software that is free to distribute by license. Also we have a long list of people that are charged and convicted for sharing free open source software.

What you need is VPN service that allows sharing of free open source over its network and taking your privacy seriously. The things that you want to look for are no logs, and location in a country other than the one you are resident of. In case some authorities have interest of your sharing of the last debian iso files, they will have much harder time subpoenaing the VPN provider and using the latest techniques of rubber hose cryptoanalysis on your traffic.

A good resource for the providers is that torrentfreak article

With a VPN provider you will be ensured that your efforts of obtaining and distributing free open source software will be free from interference of external forces.

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You cannot hide your IP address from everyone... as soon as you are downloading a piece of data from someone, that someone will be able to find out who you are, because the IP address is what they need to be able to send you the data (it's your 'address' on the internet).

As a direct result, you can try to hide your 'identity' from specific people or organisations, but there is never going to be any guarantees that you may not have the misfortune of connecting to them directly, at which point the torrent software will provide them with your address for the data to be sent to.

There are a number of tools that try to 'hide' from copyright organisations by using a blacklist of IP addresses that the software will not be allowed to ask data from. Note that this is not a foolproof solution, because it is only as good as the blacklist is (and as soon as they register a new IP address, it's not perfect any more).

Other solutions involve anonymising software, or new torrent protocols that use encryption and passing data along multiple people in a network. These are typically collaborative tools where you have to do some of the passing along for others to be allowed to use them for the same. This slows downloads down tremendously, and ultimately someone has to connect to the actual source of the data, which may be the person you are hiding from, and it could be you doing the connecting for someone else... this is again not fool-proof.

As you can see, there exist no perfect solutions, because in all cases at some point somebody has to talk to the person that has the data, and at that point they must expose their IP to that person.

If you are this worried about hiding, then really... don't download things you want to keep secret. "Just say No"

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Very nice, comprehensive answer. – Jeffrey Jul 25 '09 at 1:34
Not quite technically correct, as passing through a proxy, or TOR will generally hide you, but using bittorrent over such is frowned upon or infeasible. – Paul McMillan Jul 25 '09 at 8:42
@Paul: I was trying to be as general as possible, since I've never really looked at TOR (or any other anonymizing technology) specifically. More trying to make the point that ultimately someone needs to request that information. Also note that 'Peer Guardian' will generally hide you, but neither solution is perfect at doing so. – jerryjvl Jul 25 '09 at 9:56

PeerGuardian 2 doesn't exactly "hide" your IP, but this does blacklist known government agencies, snoopers, spoofers, etc. while you are using P2P torrents. It should offer the protection you're looking for.

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This is probably as close as you should try to get to anonymity... – jerryjvl Jul 25 '09 at 1:39
This is so funny that it makes me cry. Peerguardian is a joke because nothing stops the stalkers to download its blacklist and use another IPs to stalk from. – vtest Aug 19 '10 at 3:39
@vtest If someone really wants to find you, they will. Most of the time, all you really have to do is be harder to get to than "the other guy". Burglers are more likely to rob a house without locks or alarms, but that doesn't mean they couldn't rob one with the extra security. Using a tool like PeerGuardian should keep you off any radar screens. Once you're under "investigation", it's already too late. – Jeffrey Aug 27 '10 at 19:58
and your logic fails again. Burglars are more likely to rob a house with locks and alarms, because if you've got nothing valuable to protect, you wouldn't install an alarm. Thanks for making me cry again. – vtest Aug 27 '10 at 21:43
@vtest I don't believe your last statement could be any more wrong. On topic, however, the people who most people would be "hiding" from while file-sharing are not looking for anything valuable. The simply want a list of names of people they can sue. – Jeffrey Sep 2 '10 at 16:52

What about Tor?

It'll probably work if you use Gnutella to share files (Limewire, Frostwire, etc.) I doubt it would work with BitTorrent though.

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I posted this as an answer earlier and deleted it because of the comments I got, one of which was " Under etiquette... it's not officially on the site, but unofficially nobody likes it when people do it, because it uses too much of everyone's bandwidth... that is also why it blocks the default torrent ports to try and discourage this behaviour". Another linked to – jtbandes Jul 25 '09 at 5:48
I read some more about it, and it seems it is considered acceptable to route tracker-traffic through TOR since it is relatively small compared to the file sizes... but this obviously does not protect you from exposing your IP to the person you get the actual data from, which seems to be the point of what is being asked here. ;) – jerryjvl Jul 25 '09 at 9:58
@jerryjvl: Look here: The last person passing the data can manipulate or capture the data if it is not encrypted though. – Henri Watson Jul 25 '09 at 15:34

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