IP-blocker such as PeerBlock (and Peer Guardian) are a popular ‘solution’ for downloading torrents safely. Their (unwarranted) popularity is due almost entirely to the cost (free) rather than their effectiveness (minimal).
In fact, we believe that Peerblock does more harm than good while torrenting, and does almost nothing to improve your privacy. And reddit agrees with our assessment.
Why PeerBlock is basically useless:
- Blocklists are inefficient (block too many peers).
- Peerblock doesn’t block the right IP’s
- Peerblock doesn’t encrypt your torrents
- Peerblock doesn’t hide your IP address from connected peers
We’ll explain all of these weaknesses (and more) in this guide. You’ll also learn which tool is vastly superior for protecting privacy while torrenting.
What is Peerblock?
For those that aren’t familiar with Peerblock, here’s a quick introduction:
TLDR; Peerblock lets you block specific torrent peers based on their IP-address.
Peerblock is free software that is often used by p2p and bittorrent users for the intended purpose of making their downloads more ‘anonymous’ by blocking peer connections from certain IP addresses.
Peerblock allows users to choose from 3rd party ‘blocklists’ (some are free and some are available for purchase) which are essentially huge databases of IP addresses that will be blocked when Peerblock is activated.
In theory, this concept is intriguing. The idea is that if you can identify specific ‘undesirable’ IP addresses, which may be belong perhaps to malicious users, governments, or monitoring agencies who may sell bittorrent data to the highest bidder, you can block these connections, thereby making downloading torrents ‘safer.’
It turns out there are a number of problems with this approach:
#1: Peerblock blocks way too many peers
If you use the 3 most popular blocklists freely available for Peerguard, you would probably think that they would combine for a few thousand, maybe 10 thousand IP addresses blocked. In reality, just the top 3 blocklists combined list over 1.1 Billion IP addresses.
That’s over 25% of all available IPv4 addresses on earth!
Obviously not all of these peers (not even close to the majority) are actually malicious or undesirable. The result is that since you have far fewer peers to choose from, your download speeds may be much slower when using Peerblock.
#2: You can’t block all the Malicious IP-addresses
Peerblock lists are made by blocking IP ranges of different types. Some IP ranges belong to research institutions, some to the government, etc. The truth is though, that the only way to block every malicious peer is to block every single IP address on earth (then you’d have zero peers).
Anyone that is determined to monitor your torrent activity is not going to be deterred by the fact that their IP address got blocked. There are companies who’s entire income depends on their ability to log the IP addresses. It’s not as if they’ll go out of business just because their IP address got blocked.
The truth is it’s incredibly easy to change IP addresses.
By using a VPN service like IPvanish, a monitoring agency can have thousands of IP addresses available at a single click.
Even if you use a blocklist that blocks the IP ranges of popular VPN providers, a monitoring company could still create their own IP switching service by renting a VPS for under $10 a month. If their new IP’s get blocked, they can just move the entire system to a new server with a new set of IP addresses with relatively little trouble.
The bottom line is that it’s absolutely, positively impossible to block every IP address that monitors torrent activity.
#3: There’s no encryption
Even if Peerblock could theoretically block every malicious IP address, there’s one monitoring agency that it can’t block: Your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Since all of your internet traffic is routed through your ISP’s servers, they have full access to your data stream
In fact, your ISP can see what websites you browse, what protocols you’re using (like BitTorrent) and what files you’re downloading by using a technique known as deep packet inspection.
Some can even hijack your search history in Google and Bing.
There is a relatively simple solution to block deep packet inspection however:
If you encrypt your incoming/outgoing data by using a VPN (virtual private network) service, your ISP won’t be able to read or decrypt your data.
#4: Peerblock doesn’t actually hide your IP address
Your IP address is the only unique identifying information about you that appears in a bittorrent swarm. Your IP address is visible to peers in the swarm, and PeerBlock can’t do anything to hide or change it.
There are various services that allow you to use an anonymous IP address (one not directly associated with your internet connection) when downloading torrents. The two most popular options are: A VPN service or a torrent proxy service.
If you use an anonymization service like Private Internet Access VPN, the IP address they assign to you when you connect to the VPN server will be the one that is visible to torrent peers, not your real IP address.
And because Private Internet Access doesn’t keep any logs or records of your VPN activity, there are no records tying your anonymous IP address to your real one!
Even better, Private Internet Access includes both VPN and Proxy service at no additional charge for as low as $3.33/month!
Peerblock Alternative: Use a VPN
There are several available PeerBlock alternatives, all of which provide better privacy and performance.
The best choice for most users is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Unlike Peer Blockers, a VPN can provide the following benefits:
- End-to-end encryption
- Unblock torrent sites on restrictive networks
- A disposable IP address that doesn’t match your traceable real IP.
- Defeat throttling and speed up torrent downloads
Here are some VPN providers we recommend:
1: Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access really sets the standard by which all other anonymous VPN services are judged.
They were one of the original VPN’s do adopt a ‘no logs policy‘ and they have shown consistent commitment to protecting their users’ privacy.
PIA includes proxy service for free with your VPN purchase on all VPN plans. They offer unlimited speeds, 256-bit encryption (good) and pricing as low as $3.33/month!
NordVPN is the everything VPN. They’ve tried to offer every feature a user could want, package it with good software, and offer it at an affordable price.
With deals starting at $3.99/month, we thing NordVPN is a compelling value.
- Zero logs on all servers
- Over 50 VPN server locations
- Includes SOCKS5 proxy (torrent compatible)
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer
- Triple IP-leak protection
Read: our NordVPN review
More Information about Peerblock
You know our opinion on Peerblock, but if you don’t want to take our word for it, hear are a bunch of other opinions:
- Proposal to ban promoting Peerblock on Reddit r/torrents thread.
- Why blocking peers doesn’t work
- Forum users find it comical that Peerblock blocks 25% of IP addresses in existence.
Check out these VPN reviews:
And finally, if you’re not sure whether you should choose a VPN or a Proxy service for torrents. This article comparing the two should clear things up for you!