How To Download Files Anonymously
One click and the download of a file or a movie starts. Now it’s time to see what happens in the background, because surfing the web is much less anonymous than it looks in the browser. But why is anonymity on the net important at all?
The first argument in favour of anonymous downloads is often mentioned as state surveillance and related scandals. However, the state itself is committed to data protection on the Internet and promotes projects for anonymous surfing.
What Risks Do You Take If You Renounce Anonymity When Downloading?
In the following, we would like to show you the main risks you take if you do not download anonymously.
Not everything that is offered on the Internet is legal. But even if you only download legal things with BitTorrent, such as an installation DVD for the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, you can still be held responsible for copyright infringements in Germany. Downloading anonymously can save you such unnecessary trouble.
Who cares if you download a guide for emergencies or problem situations, for example? Even if it’s for a friend, nobody needs to know. You wouldn’t write sensitive information on a postcard.
In principle, the problem is that your data such as IP address, service provider, MAC address, etc. are visible to the operator. These can be easily assigned to you and you can create a user profile or worse, write warnings. So how can you protect yourself?
Which Operating System and Which Browser To Use For Anonymous Downloads?
In principle, anonymous downloading is possible with any operating system and browser. However, not all systems are equally suitable for this. Commercial operating systems such as Windows or MacOS open Internet connections by default, which are difficult to control. This happens, for example, to check for updates. The same applies to browsers like Firefox or Chrome.
With these programs, however, the update functionality can simply be switched off in the configuration. This is especially important if you are using services such as Tor to make your browser anonymous. Otherwise, your anonymity would be compromised if the update requests went out with or without Tor.
A better support for anonymous downloading than with Windows, MacOS or mobile operating systems like iOS and Android can be found with the system families GNU/Linux and BSD Unix. There are even special Linux distributions which are set up from the outset for anonymous surfing. You can install these on a USB stick and boot on your PC as an alternative to the normal operating system if you want to download anonymously.
Are Anonymous Downloads Possible With Private Browsing?
Some browsers offer special features for more anonymous browsing. On Google Chrome, for example, you can open web pages in an incognito window. The protection is that the browser deletes all cookies, session data and history as soon as you close the last incognito window.
Standing alone, it doesn’t do much, it just makes sure you don’t leave any traces of your activities in your browser. In conjunction with a VPN, however, it is a useful addition.
But private browsing is not more than deleting browser data. Your IP, MAC address etc. will continue to be transmitted.
Anonymous Downloads And The Do-Not-Track Header
In the configuration of your browser you will usually find another option which at least gives the impression that it protects your anonymity on the net. For Chrome, for example, it is called “Do Not Track”. When you turn it on, your browser sends additional information with each request, a so-called header, to the web server, telling it that you do not want tracking when you visit the site.
However, it is up to the web operator to decide whether or not to refrain from tracking, as the follow-up to the request is voluntary. The activation of the “Do Not Track” function is therefore practically useless. However, there is a method with which you can encrypt your web traffic.
Download The Solution For Anonymous Traffic: The Use Of A VPN
A VPN, a virtual private network, offers you true anonymity when downloading. This creates an encrypted connection from your network card to the VPN server, which forwards your web traffic as if it came from itself. Thus your identity remains hidden behind the VPN server. The setup is child’s play and can be completed with just a few clicks.
This VPN server can be located in Mexico, for example. If you now establish an encrypted connection via this server, the web server will look as if you are from Mexico. Your original IP address cannot be seen and at the same time you have access to content that is blocked in your country, such as Youtube videos blocked by GEMA. A VPN is therefore the ideal solution for anonymous downloading.
Is Tor An Alternative To Anonymous Downloading?
Tor is a system that hides your identity while surfing by guiding your traffic randomly through a maze of proxies. Each node only knows the immediately preceding and following node. Only the last node, the exit node, is visible to the requested web server.
By redirecting the connection several times, your anonymity with Tor is very well protected, but its use is slow. Since your page views become visible at the exit node so that it can forward them to the correct web server, the use of encryption is highly recommended.
A VPN is suitable for such an end-to-end encryption, since a changed IP address is used from the outset. The combination of Tor and VPN makes sense for you if you want an even greater degree of anonymity when downloading. However, it should be noted that the download speed in this configuration is significantly lower compared to the exclusive use of VPN.
In most cases it is therefore much more practical to use a VPN connection instead of Tor when downloading.
Are Downloads With The P2P Service “Torrent” Aonymous?
BitTorrent, or Torrent for short, is a file sharing protocol that is optimized for highly efficient, fast file transfer, but not for anonymity. Although it is a peer-to-peer solution, your torrent downloads are not anonymous by default. The tracker, which requires your torrent client to log in to download a file, passes your IP address to anyone who has the potential to share file fragments with you.
This includes systems known to spy out activity on torrent networks, for example to detect copyright infringement. Because of the way BitTorrent works, you can easily be suspected of illegal downloads and receive high-paying warnings if you don’t use the service anonymously.
Because a torrent splits every file into small parts, which every client that has downloaded it once makes available to other clients for download. This speeds up the downloads because the traffic is distributed to all systems in a so-called torrent swarm and the bandwidth can be used optimally. But it makes it harder to track who actually downloaded what file, so it’s easy to make false accusations.
Therefore, the use of a VPN in combination with Torrent is highly recommended, so that you can also download anonymously with this file sharing service.
There are even online services that are specialized in anonymous and secure torrenting, meaning they take care for all the security measures you would otherwise need to take care of by yourself. When using such a cloud torrent you don’t have to worry about anonymity, privacy and legal troubles – users can sign up anonymously on cloud torrent sites and just start torrenting anonymously without further effort. In this case you even don’t need to download and install an application, which is one of the many benefits of using a cloud torrent service.
Such all-in-one services for secure and anonymous torrenting are:
Or check out our complete list of the best cloud torrent services.
Conclusion For Anonymous Downloading
Although our browser already provides some options for secure browsing, they don’t help when it comes to anonymizing downloads. If you are using Firefox or Chrome, you should turn off the automatic update feature to prevent your data from being accidentally sent when encryption is not enabled.
The browser windows in which you surf in private mode are also useful for not providing the browser with data about user behavior. However, they are not sufficient to encrypt your data. Using the TOR browser can already be a solution if you want to download anonymously, but the download speeds are very low due to multiple redirects.
The only method that offers you end-to-end encryption, i.e. encryption from you to the web server, is a VPN. A VPN even ensures that files can be downloaded anonymously via Torrent. So you don’t have to worry about copyright warnings. The same applies to cloud torrent services, since they already have the encryption included alongside with other anonymity and security measures.
Protecting your data on the Internet is important and with a VPN it’s easy to do that. And especially for torrenting cloud torrent services are an excellent option to stay on the safe side without further effort. Thus nothing more stands in the way of anonymous downloading.