Torrent Sites Ban VPN Users
By Paul Liu
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015
As per a recent report published by TorrentFreak, several torrenting websites will now ban or block VPN users. Apparently, the operators of bittorrenting websites were forced to take this drastic step after it came to their attention that many popular VPN services were being used by anti-piracy groups to track copyright violations, issue DMCA notices and crack down on file sharing activities in general. Speaking to TorrentFreak, the operator of a popular torrenting website even admitted that they have put a blanket ban on IP ranges of popular VPN services.
These days VPN services are not only being used by those who want to secure their privacy on the internet but also by people who want to remain anonymous while indulging in questionable activities like sharing/downloading of copyrighted content via Peer to Peer sharing. To cater to the demands of the file sharing community, many VPN services providers have deployed dedicated servers which allow sharing and downloading of movies, TV shows, music and software through bittorrenting. Such P2P friendly servers are usually located in Sweden, Netherlands, Romania and Russia since these countries do not have strict copyright protection or mandatory data logging laws.
The issue came to light after several people tweeted that they were unable to access at least two bittorrenting websites while connected to a VPN service. When TorrentFreak investigated the matter, it became clear that the sites in question were not actually down; they were simply not loading when people were using privacy services to access them. This was further confirmed when the TorrentFreak staff was able to access the said websites with their real IPs and even via public proxies. This strange behavior on the part of popular torrenting services fueled suspicion that their operators were deliberately blocking VPN users.
When TorrentFreak contacted the operators of the said websites, one of them agreed to talk to them on the condition of anonymity. The operator disclosed that the IP addresses of popular VPN services were being used for DMCA crawling by the copyright owners as well as entities like MPAA and RIAA. He also disclosed that he was forced to blocked IP ranges of several VPN providers to prevent anti-piracy bots from crawling his website. He revealed that it is not difficult to spot such bots since they bombard torrenting websites with massive number of requests with the same IP range. The operator also said that most DMCA crawlers were using rented dedicated servers and commercial VPN services. He even cautioned that such operations were being directed through IPs of VPN users without them being aware of these activities.
The news is indeed a big setback for torrent lovers who rely on popular VPN services to mask their bittorrenting sessions. By blocking IP pools of popular VPN service providers, bittorrenting service providers and trackers are not only preventing massive number of people from accessing their sites, they are essentially preventing them from sharing and downloading files. IP blocks usually don’t last a long time so such measures are unlikely to deter users from getting access to their favorite content. Torrent lovers are also likely to switch to lesser known VPN services in order to escape such roadblocks.