Some VPN providers are adding the Split Tunneling feature to their software, which can be useful in a few situations. But what about Torrenting? Is this tool an advantage when it comes to downloading torrent files anonymously? The opinions are divided, and we decided to go deep and see if there are any risks.
What is VPN Split Tunneling
First of all, let’s briefly define the split tunneling feature included in some VPNs. In simple words, this tool allows you to select the programs that will run through the VPN. That way, only those applications will be encrypted. The remaining applications will connect directly to the Internet.
It’s easy to see that this feature can be handy for some users who want to keep their real IP address while using some programs. And, at the same time, an encrypted connection with a different IP for other apps.
Is Split Tunneling Safe for Torrenting?
Naturally, one of the most popular uses of split tunneling is the download of torrents. In other words, many users hide their BitTorrent traffic through the VPN, while having a regular connection for the remaining programs.
In our opinion, split tunneling can reduce privacy and compromise your anonymity. As we always say, you should always have your entire connection protected, not just a few apps. And this advice is even more valid if one of the things you are doing is torrenting.
Other Apps May Give Your Torrent Activity Away
The general view on this feature is: “As long as my torrent activity is encrypted, I am safe“. But it’s not exactly like that anymore.
Many times, users encrypt their BitTorrent software and leave everything else unprotected.
You need to keep in mind that, when using a VPN, your Internet Service Provider cannot see your activity or your downloaded data. This happens because the VPN encrypts your traffic. But there’s one thing they can see, which is the amount of downloaded data.
And there’s no problem if they know how much you’ve downloaded. But if you are using a VPN to download torrents exclusively, they will see the unprotected online activity from other apps, like your browser. That way, they could see the pages you visited and have a clue of what you were doing.
Eric is downloading a Torrent file, which is 4.37 GB. He is using split tunneling and selected only uTorrent to be encrypted by the VPN. He didn’t include any other apps in the split tunneling tool, which means he uses his real IP for those, with no encryption.
On that day, Eric’s ISP did a check on his activity. In their analysis, they couldn’t see what he downloaded, because the VPN protected it. But they had access to the pages he visited, because Eric didn’t encrypt his browser.
The ISP saw that Eric visited a torrent website, and one of the pages he visited corresponds to a 4.37 GB file. As we mentioned before, they can’t see which data was downloaded, but they can see its size. They would put two and two together and conclude that Eric was downloading that file. And, although the size of the file alone is not proof of anything, Eric is drawing attention to himself.
The goal of a VPN is to hide your activity. But if one of its tools can give a hint of what you are doing, it can result in compromising your anonymity. That’s how we see split tunneling; it sounds like a helpful feature, but it can also be a “false friend“, especially for torrenting.
If there is a situation where you need your real IP, then simply don’t download torrents simultaneously. In that case, turn the VPN off and use your real IP. If your issue is the VPN affecting your speed, meaning you use split tunneling to keep some apps running fast, then maybe it’s time to get a faster VPN provider.
In our opinion, the thing to remember is that if you are going to use a VPN, use it properly and encrypt everything.