PeerBlock has become a popular option for torrenting. The free software claims to help protect your privacy when using a BitTorrent client. Unfortunately, PeerBlock does not offer a complete solution for anonymous downloads. On top of that, it may also reduce your speeds.
If you want to hide your downloading activity, examine the reasons why this software does not work and decide if you are willing to take risks. Besides that, you can also review the best PeerBlock alternatives to get the anonymity you’ve been looking for.
What is PeerBlock?
Originally, this software was created for Linux, as Peerguardian. A small group of developers created PeerBlock for Windows based on the Peerguardian code.
PeerBlock is an open source firewall that blocks packets coming or going from blacklisted IP addresses. Those IPs come from several blocklists, or blacklists, of known government agencies, monitoring groups, and malicious agents. The goal of the blocklists is to keep those groups from monitoring your torrenting activity.
The software runs on Windows computers and works with most BitTorrent clients. While the software is free, some of the blacklists require paid subscriptions. The free lists receive updates once per week, and the paid lists receive frequent updates.
After installing the software and configuring it, PeerBlock begins blocking peers with the IP addresses found in the blocklists.
Example of How PeerBlock Works
To better understand how PeerBlock works, here’s a scenario that shows the whole process. And, although this particular example is fictional, it is very similar to what really happens.
- Step 1 – An agency called “Alpha” is monitoring the activity of torrent users.
- Step 2 – “Alpha” was identified as a malicious entity.
- Step 3 – The IP of “Alpha” was added to a list of blocked IP addresses.
- Step 4 – PeerBlock users can now download this new list of blocked IPs and update their software. “Alpha’s” IP address is now being blocked.
Why Should You Avoid PeerBlock for Torrenting?
Blocking IPs from known government agencies, ad trackers, and malicious users may offer some protection when torrenting. But there are weaknesses and disadvantages in this method that compromise the anonymity of the users.
Monitoring Entities Can Change Their Own IP Address
The most obvious flaw of PeerBlock is the fact that these monitoring agencies will change their IP addresses when they realize they are now part of a PeerBlock list. This completely ruins the IP blocking method.
Let’s continue with our previous example, with the next steps of the whole process:
- Step 5 – The agency “Alpha” realizes that their IP address is in one PeerBlock list and it’s being blocked.
- Step 6 – “Alpha” changes to a new IP address and starts monitoring again. This new IP isn’t blocked yet.
- Step 7 – After some time, the new IP is identified as malicious and it also gets blocked.
- Step 8 – “Alpha” changes to another new IP again.
- Step 9 – And so on…
What you have to keep in mind is that it’s very easy to change an IP address. The groups that monitor torrenting activity can get around the software by masking their own IP addresses or simply obtaining a new one. By doing that, they can keep monitoring PeerBlock users without any problems.
Not All Monitoring Agencies Get Blocked
While the blocklists remove over 25% of IP addresses, it is not possible for the lists to block every monitoring agency or malicious user. The third parties that manage the blocklists do not have the ability to track every watchdog group or government. Some groups naturally get through the firewall.
Your IP and Activity Remain Exposed
By blocking governments and watchdog groups, you may assume that no one is watching. However, PeerBlock does not encrypt data or hide your IP address. Monitoring agencies that do not get blocked can still see your activity.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) also has access to your torrenting habits. All traffic routes through your ISP without any encryption. Your ISP can monitor everything you do, including the sites you visit and files you download through a BitTorrent client.
Blocking IP Addresses Reduces Peers
PeerBlock works by blocking IP addresses from third-party blocklists. Unfortunately, it blocks too many IP addresses. When downloading a file through BitTorrent, the speed depends on the number of peers in the swarm. The blocklists remove over 25% of the world’s IP addresses.
While the lists may get rid of IP addresses that you don’t want watching your activity, it also gets rid of IP addresses from legitimate peers. Blocking too many peers can result in significantly slower download speeds.
What Is the Best Alternative to PeerBlock?
As this IP blocker does not keep you safe when torrenting, you may want to explore PeerBlock alternatives, such as:
- VPN services
Alternative 1 – Virtual Private Network
A VPN helps you remain anonymous when torrenting (if you select the right VPN provider). Reliable VPN services offer no logging policies and tools that greatly increase your privacy. A Virtual Private Network performs in a completely different way than IP blockers, such as PeerBlock.
PeerBlock vs VPN
As you know, PeerBlock only blocks IP addresses. It doesn’t do anything to your own IP, like changing it or hiding it. When you start downloading a torrent, you will still be visible.
A VPN works the opposite way. It doesn’t do anything to other IPs, but it will change yours. Everyone who tries to follow you will see a fake IP address, located in a country of your choice. This is the best way to hide your identity.
Another advantage of the VPN is that it encrypts your Internet connection. That means that absolutely no one will see your activity, not even your Internet Service Provider. These are some examples of safe VPNs to download torrents:
Alternative 2 – Proxy Server
Proxies offer a more affordable option compared to VPNs, but the protection is not as solid. As with a VPN, a proxy allows you to connect to a BitTorrent swarm through an anonymous IP address. You can also use encryption to keep your activity hidden from your ISP.
The main difference is that the proxy will only encrypt one application, while the VPN will encrypt everything. For example, you could protect your BitTorrent client with a proxy, but the rest would be visible to everyone. That means that you would be browsing torrent sites unprotected, which is not the safest thing to do.
But it’s definitely a better option for torrenting than PeerBlock, or any other type of IP blocker software.
Alternative 3 – Seedbox
With VPNs and proxies, you still connect to a P2P network to download a torrent. A seedbox allows you to skip the BitTorrent software on your computer. Instead of connecting to a P2P network, you download files through an FTP client or your web browser.
Seedboxes are servers dedicated to downloading and seeding torrents. The people managing the seedboxes setup the servers in countries with limited or no data retention laws and do not keep logs of your activity. When you pay for a seedbox, you gain access to one of the dedicated servers. Using your share of the resources, you can freely download torrents.
Although this option is much safer than PeerBlock, the biggest drawback to a seedbox is that its only use is when you’re dealing with torrents.
You’ll also need to go through the added step of transferring the torrent download from the server to your computer. That means that the download is made two times. Finally, a seedbox will only function around existing servers and cannot handle different server locations.
Is it Safer to Use a VPN and PeerBlock Simultaneously?
If you are using a tool such as a VPN, then PeerBlock won’t give you any increased security. If your connection is being encrypted and the visible IP is not your real one, you don’t need to block external IP address.
A VPN alone is perfectly enough to provide you with anonymity. But you also have to keep in mind that there are many VPN providers, and they have different features. We recommend that you take your time selecting a VPN that allows torrenting in a safe way.
It’s Wise to Choose an Alternative to PeerBlock
PeerBlock is definitely a software made with good intentions, no doubts about that. But unfortunately, good intentions are not enough. Anyone trying to track your activity will be able to bypass the level of security offered by this IP Blocker.
It’s important to understand that PeerBlock provides one specific feature: it blocks IP addresses. However, you need a few additional security features to remain anonymous when torrenting.
The bottom line is that PeerBlock does not offer the features needed to keep your ISP (and others) from monitoring your BitTorrent usage. If you want to safely download torrent files, you should consider using a VPN, a proxy, or a seedbox. In our opinion, VPNs provide superior encryption and access to a wider selection of servers.