The Register Misunderstands BitTorrent Encryption

from the it's-about-throttling dept

The Register recently had a story about an explosion of encrypted BitTorrent traffic. They speculate that this is an attempt to evade the recording industry and law enforcement officials who are cracking down on illegal file sharing. But as TorrentFreak explains, El Reg is fundamentally misunderstanding the rationale for BitTorrent encryption. The whole point of BitTorrent is its ability to share files with complete strangers. Copyright holders can connect to BitTorrent swarms as easily as anyone else can, and encryption won't stop them from determining the IP addresses of the other swarm participants. Rather, the goal of BitTorrent encryption is to obfuscate BitTorrent traffic and thereby make it harder for ISPs to detect. This feature was added to a number BitTorrent clients after some ISPs started throttling BitTorrent connections to save bandwidth. The encrypted network connections are harder to identify as BitTorrent streams, and therefore are harder to block. But that brings up another puzzling thing about the Register story that TorrentFreak points out: since the whole point of BitTorrent encryption is to avoid identification as BitTorrent traffic, how does the Register know the traffic it's seeing is BitTorrent traffic and not something else? Of course, it's quite possible that a lot of BitTorrent users are making the mistake the Register did, wrongly assuming that using encryption will keep them safe from the prying eyes of the recording industry. It won't, but there might be users who use the encryption features hoping that it will.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    stephen, Nov 9th, 2007 @ 6:33pm

    demonoid

    in a somewhat related point, this message comes up when you go to torrent site demonoid.com:

    "The CRIA threatened the company renting the servers to us, and because of this it is not possible to keep the site online. Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks for your understanding."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    sancho, Nov 9th, 2007 @ 7:35pm

    Common misconception

    This is a very common misconception. People often tell me that they are safe from the media moguls ecause they use encrypted torrents. It's likely that the article is accurate (maybe even unintentionally.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Joseph J. Frazier, Nov 9th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    Anonymous Sources

    since the whole point of BitTorrent encryption is to avoid identification as BitTorrent traffic, how does the Register know the traffic it's seeing is BitTorrent traffic and not something else?
    The article claims that they got their information from some large unnamed ISP (that apparently supposedly has the ability to crack encrypted traffic at will). I have my doubts about uncorroborated news stories based on anonymous sources.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Nov 9th, 2007 @ 8:26pm

    Well, if they keep up with trying to shut it down - soon enough, it will...

    But it's not at all a surprise that a reporter doesn't clearly understand what they are talking about, hehe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2007 @ 2:30am

    Note the story starts with info from ISPs regarding Bit Torrent usage so it's clear that the point is stoppng Bit Torrent which tey so-far can't do if it is masked "The number of file-sharers disguising their BitTorrent activity with encryption is skyrocketing."

    Then just over halfway down the first page we get the RiAA connection and obviously they want to identify BitTorrent and throttle it "..Many ISPs, including BT here and Comcast in the US, have now deployed the kit to help throttle the amount of bandwidth consumed by P2P..."

    If you'd read the story properly you wouldn't be so confused/outraged. There's only a couple of comments in the whole article about DPI and inability to look inside encrypted packets which are confusing but that's probably just a bad edit rather than a "fundamental missunderstanding".

     

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  6.  

    I still say trust no one

    I don't believe anything is safe from "prying eyes" whether using encryption with BitTorrent or anything else. Does BitTorrent encryption really make it that much harder for ISP's to identify? Maybe, I really don't know for a fact but how can you possibly think that no one could be watching?

    I too view reporting from anonymous sources and nothing else a bit suspect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2007 @ 3:02am

    Re:

    If you'd read the story properly you wouldn't be so confused/outraged.
    If the author didn't write what they meant to then the fault lies with the author, not the reader. Which raises another question: How do you know the author didn't mean what they wrote? Are you the author in question?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    ScytheNoire, Nov 10th, 2007 @ 4:36am

    Learn to use technology

    Lee is correct that encryption is to avoid traffic being blocked or throttled down, although some ISP's are using overly agressive tactics that mess with traffic other than P2P programs. Not only that, but I know of companies that use P2P types of traffic to distribute their product. Many do so, legally, yet these draconian ISP's don't understand the value of P2P technology and it's legal uses.

    If someone wanted to block traffic from the MAFIAA (RIAA, MPAA and such organization), they would be using an IP Filter List (Google Bluetack).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2007 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re:

    The internet (and particularly email) is notorious for outrageous reactions which don't occur so much in person.
    If you want to understand it's better to take the same care online as you would take in person.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    temporarymania, Nov 10th, 2007 @ 5:20pm

    Re: Orlando

    People move to Orlando because of the close proximity to Disney World... Why try to read anything else into it?

    SARCHASM: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Nov 11th, 2007 @ 5:50am

    peer guardian

    google it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    some torrent user, Nov 11th, 2007 @ 9:03pm

    i miss torrentspy, then oink, then the pirate bay, and now demonoid.

    :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Hughe Fann, Nov 11th, 2007 @ 10:36pm

    Too bad...

    Its too bad that the RIAA, etc are driving out Bit Torrent, et al. it just gives foreign companies a chance to startup sites like this and take it away from US control. In the end its only RIAA, et al are the losers.

    With more and more servers being overseas, the US have given up control over all these sites to other people thereby having no more control.

    Great job in shooting yourself in your own foot!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2007 @ 11:56pm

    Re:

    i miss torrentspy, then oink, then the pirate bay, and now demonoid.

    News of The Pirate Bay's death has been greatly exaggerated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 5:16am

    Torrent Encryption

    Protocol Encryption is meant to hide P2P traffic ( not just BitTorrent) from ISPs that prefer to throttle traffic than increase their capacity. It has absolutely no impact on (in-)security, since all related packet data is left untouched.

    More on protocol encryption for BitTorrent can be found on
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitTorrent_protocol_encryption

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    akee bashee, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:29am

    Re: Too bad...

    Difficult to shoot oneself in somebody elses foot, doncha know??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    JS Beckerist (profile), Nov 12th, 2007 @ 9:57am

    Re: Common misconception

    The best way to keep yourself safe? It's still not 100% effective, but like a condom it's pretty damn close:

    Peer Guardian.

    That's right folks, look it up, download, install, update and USE it. It's the best way to avoid those prying eyes!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Jack Sparrow, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 10:14am

    Argh...

    HI mates!!!
    Amazing how some ones have the capacity of doing wrong statements. Hehehehehehe!

    All right, all right, they measure bittorrent traffic, where they cannot see anything else of a set of "scramble-out-of-sense-data" gi'me a breack!

    Well, I'm going now cos I must to send my letter to Santa and put my socks on the fireplace :)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Negative, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 9:11pm

    PG2

    PeerGuardian, although it is a useful tool, does about as much good as encryption . Yes, it blocks connection attempts from "bad" IPs, but when a company is based on anti-p2p, you can bet that they get all new IP addresses EVERYDAY to facilitate their evil practices. I see PG2 as an information tool rather than some kind of protection.
    And I use encryption not because I think Im pulling the wool over my ISPs eyes, but because I get better speeds because they throttle bittorent and it would be the day hell froze over that they could get away with blocking all encrypted traffic. Although, they would love it if that was the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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