There is cautious optimism that things in the BitTorrent world are looking more secure than ever before following the initially depressing news that The Pirate Bay will probably be sold off by August.
But what if OpenBitTorrent goes up in smoke? Administrators of other torrent sites already considered that possibility when they came together to create PublicBT, a ‘pirated’ version of OpenBitTorrent. The tracker is open to all, just like OpenBitTorrent.
So if The PirateBay closed tomorrow there are already two other sites available to do the tracking, but all good things come in threes.
The brand new Hidden Tracker has a homepage that looks very similar to those sported by the trackers above. It is an open tracker, just like the other pair but this one has an added layer of security.
Most file-sharers will be at least aware of the Tor network and the fact that it provides anonymity. Most BitTorrent users should also know by now never to use Tor for file-sharing – it is painfully slow and actually ruins the network for other people.
However, Tor has a neat trick up its sleeve known as ‘hidden services‘. Tor is able to provide anonymity to servers by offering Tor clients or relays which run specially configured software. In order to hide the IP address of a service (in this case, a BitTorrent tracker), they are accessed via the special Tor .onion pseudo TLD (top level domain). The Tor network sees .onion and routes data to and from the hidden service, completely anonymously.
Hidden Tracker is operated as a Tor hidden service and ideally the user would install Tor along with their regular torrent client in order to use it – it would be essential for correct processing of its announce hyperlink;
However, with a helping hand from the handy Tor2Web service, it’s possible to make a modification to the above URL and use Hidden Tracker even without Tor installed. Simply replace .onion with .tor2web.com, like so;
The owners of Hidden Tracker say they want to make an open but secure public BitTorrent tracker for the enjoyment of everyone but find the legal attacks tiresome, hence hiding their tracker with Tor:
“To protect the identities of the people and hosting service who run and maintain this tracker, we’ve used a Tor hidden service to conceal the IP address(es) of the server(s) that run the tracker. We hope that this will help to increase the reliability of this tracker for everyone.”
The website itself can be accessed via http://z6gw6skubmo2pj43.onion (with Tor installed) or via http://z6gw6skubmo2pj43.tor2web.com using the web.
All we need now is a few content-agnostic Imageshack-style sites where anyone can upload torrents and the replacement of The Pirate Bay will be more or less complete.
Completely painless, wasn’t it?
Update: The admin of Hidden Tracker emailed to say that they had to change the announce URL of the tracker. The article has been updated to reflect that. Additionally, he tells us that as tor2web caches pages for longer than is desirable, it is better to use Tor along with the .onion links on ‘young’ torrents.