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I have recently received a message on my computer stating that my Internet Service Provider has been monitoring my traffic and have recorded me downloading several torrents that they have marked as illegal. If I download any more torrents, they are going to shut down my Internet access, which I desperately need.

I have spoken to those who are representatives of my ISP and I have explained this situation. The torrents I download are not illegal at all. The contents are artwork that has been submitted online for all to see. I find these artwork albums and download them in bulk.

I have done nothing wrong, yet they still threaten to shut off my Internet if I download any more torrents.

If I click a magnet link say for example on The Pirate Bay while using the Tor Browser, will that data be monitored by my Internet provider?


Edit: To everyone who has given me advice thank you so much. I have made sure the people that I have talked to are representatives of my ISP. I just called them an admin because I didn't know what else to call them. I don't know too much about my ISP except it's my college's who unfortunately still wont budge on my issue. I guess I'm just going to have to change my ISP... Anyway, if there's any other info I could give you to help me I'd be more than willing. Thank you for all of your help!

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That question may not be permitted in here. You'll probably find that out in a few minutes. –  Austin ''Danger'' Powers Feb 24 '13 at 19:53
    
@d-man: Actually, we should give this question the benefit of the doubt. It's not clearly illegal, even though it refers to Tor Browser and The Pirate Bay. –  Deltik Feb 24 '13 at 19:54
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Agreed. 99% of torrents usage might be for illegal things, but there are also legitimate uses. E.g. several games update themselves via the torrent protocol. (For which it is perfect). Some distributions such as FreeBSD offer their legals isos via torrent. Etc etc. –  Hennes Feb 24 '13 at 20:00
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Arrrr me hearties. A question for the swashbuckling high seas to be sure! Ye've been boarded! Ok, well it's hard to know without knowing more about the content and its source- I can't comment about whether the original creator minds his stuff is now on P2P. Regardless, if you are "seeding" for weeks and weeks after finishing a download, that will certainly increase your risk of getting these friendly letters from your ISP. Apparently they target the people sharing ("seeders") the most because there are fewer of them, making it a more effective way to disrupt the P2P network. –  Austin ''Danger'' Powers Feb 24 '13 at 20:07
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Unless you configure your Bit Torrent application to use a proxy it won't. If you have not been downloading illegal files contact your ISP about the false positive. If you have been downloading illegal files stop doing so. –  Ramhound Feb 24 '13 at 20:07

5 Answers 5

Answering Your Question

I can answer your question, but if you would like details, I would have to know who your ISP (Internet service provider) is.

Tor Browser, simply put, is a repackaging of Mozilla Firefox configured for the Tor SOCKS5 proxy and maximum anonymity. When you click a magnet link, Tor Browser should warn you that an external application would open.

The external application is your BitTorrent client (Vuze, uTorrent, Transmission, etc.), which is probably not configured to use Tor. Your ISP can still see that you are downloading torrents.


More Grave Concerns?

When you wrote,

I have recently received a message on my computer

and

I have spoken to those who claim to be the admins

something seemed amiss to me. Did you mean that you received an email? If ISPs are to notify you that you are violating their terms of service, they ought to notify you reliably.

If you received a popup on your computer, then more than likely, a virus is tricking you into thinking that your ISP is going to terminate your Internet service.

You should know who your Internet service provider is, so you should also know how they send you notifications about their service. If you received an email, check the sender for authenticity. A fake email can be identified by lots of misspellings, a suspicious "From:" field, low quality JPEG images, mysterious links, etc.

Furthermore, I've never heard of people who work for ISPs call themselves "admins". Every time I call AT&T or Time Warner Cable, they connect me to "representatives". That's another suspicious hint.

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+1 for mentioning the different connections. @OP: Note that the tor documentation also has something to say about using tor and torrents. Using a VPN might be a more preferred solution. –  Hennes Feb 24 '13 at 20:01
    
To everyone who has given me advice thank you so much. I have made sure the people that I have talked to are representatives of my ISP I just called them an admin because I didn't know what else to call them. I don't know too much about my Isp except its my college's who unfortunately still wont budge on my issue. I guess I'm just going to have to change my isp....Anyway if there's any other info I could give you to help me Id be more than willing. Thank you for all of your help! –  TEAC Feb 24 '13 at 21:57

It really doesn't matter if you use a proxy service like Tor or a VPN. All traffic still needs to go through your ISP at some point. If you're using a VPN, your ISP has to forward the packets to the VPN that you're sending, or in the other direction.

As far as my knowledge goes, there really isn't a good way to hide from your ISP. I would go with what @Deltik was saying and make sure it is not a virus. If it really is your ISP I would look up their policy and see if they are allowed to monitor your traffic, or see if there is an ISP that respects privacy a bit more.

If you aren't doing anything illegal, you could also try emailing them back and telling them you are not doing anything illegal, it's inappropriate to see torrent usage and assume piracy. Lots of small businesses use torrents to minimize the cost of hosting files. Lots of open-source initiatives push you to use torrents to download their stuff.

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Sure it needs to go trough the ISP, but while using a proxy or VPN the packets are encrypted and the ISP can't know the content. This is one of the most important use and of course it matters. –  Sven Feb 24 '13 at 21:59
    
I thought the packets were sent to the VPN unencrypted, where they are then encrypted and then sent to the site or whatever you're trying to access. Am I mistaken? Though I wasn't really considering them checking the content, what I thought was important was the way torrents work where you're getting small pieces from multiple sources that tends to get flagged by ISPs, would that not still be a problem? –  akand074 Feb 24 '13 at 22:20
    
Apparently I can't edit my post, but now that I think about it if the traffic is all coming through your VPN, then they would be coming through one source and hence not flag that you are using torrents from multiple sources. So if the content is actually encrypted (and they're incapable of decrypting it), then a VPN could help mask at least how you're downloading from your ISP. –  akand074 Feb 24 '13 at 22:30

Is it allowed?

My Internet Service Provider has been monitoring my traffic and have recorded me downloading several torrents that they have marked as illegal.

Since you are apparently using BitTorrent to download and upload stuff with the copyright holder's permission, it's unlikely that they actually marked these torrents as illegal. Instead, they can probably see that your incoming and outgoing traffic uses the BitTorrent protocol, and based on that fact only they claim you have been downloading illegal content1.

You should look into your ISP's terms of use: are you allowed to use the BitTorrent protocol on their network?

1) The content is (probably) not illegal, the Torrent files or magnet links are also not illegal. Instead, it is one's actions that would illegal (distributing copyrighted content without explicit consent from the copyright holders).

BitTorrent over Tor

I don't know of any BitTorrent clients that can stream their data over the Tor network, so by default it will not work. Also, BitTorrent over Tor isn't a good idea.

To be clear: there is no relationship between Tor and BitTorrent, despite the similarity in their names.

Encrypting traffic

Since you are not the only one whose BitTorrent traffic is monitored, throttled, inhibited or blocked, most BitTorrent clients (including µTorrent) allow you to encrypt the protocol header:

The goal is to prevent internet service providers and other network administrators from blocking or disrupting bittorrent traffic connections that span between the receiver of a tracker response and any peer IP-port appearing in that tracker response.
BitTorrent.org

However, this is not fool proof: it does not make you anonymous, it will not hide your IP or the torrents you are downloading from everyone. Given enough determination, your ISP can still identify your BitTorrent traffic (as explained here).

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ISP's send warnings AFTER they have received complaints from the copyright owners of whatever it may be you are downloading. As far as I know, your ISP doesn't care or doesn't have the resources to monitor all of your traffic. At least, this is how it works with my ISP. You receive an email that describes who the complainant is, and the consequences of future ongoing complaints. Maybe because your ISP is your university, they have some way of monitoring everything you download, but I would think they would just block access to the torrent sites in the first place if they didn't want you to engage in file-sharing....whole thing sounds odd. Funny that a university would be so keen on restricting access to information.

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I believe that you misread the OP. The statement wasn’t that his (her?) ISP was the college; the statement was that the ISP was the college’s; i.e., the OP is somehow piggy-backed on the college’s service. Sadly, institutions often act to protect themselves, rather than their people. It’s not surprising that the administration would decline to battle the ISP on TEAC’s behalf. Regarding ISP warnings; see my answer. –  Scott Mar 16 '13 at 1:14

I cannot answer your explicit question about the “magnet link”, but I may be able to shed some light on the general, implied question.  There’s something new called the “Copyright Alert System (CAS)”, wherein ISPs are taking a proactive role in deterring piracy.  See articles on Bloomberg Businessweek, the BBC, Wikipedia, and Ars Technica.  But these references (and this article on InfoWorld) say that they aren’t supposed to cut off your Internet access altogether, or at least not right away, and there is supposed to be appeal process (they call it a “challenge” process), so I don’t understand why the ISP would refuse to listen to your explanation.  (Did they happen to mention a $35 fee?)  Good luck!

P.S. The bad news is that switching ISPs quite probably won’t help.

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