A A
RSS

BTGuard Anonymizing Service: Is it worth it?

Mon, Mar 2, 2009

Tweet this!

Introduction

BTGuard is a paid proxy service intended for bittorrent users. For $6.95 a month you can use BTGuard to hide your IP address from other downloaders and bypass any traffic shaping your ISP performs to limit your bittorrent usage. I’ve given this service a try, with mixed results. Read on for more.

NOTE: I’ve had to disable comments on this post. I want to be completely clear: piracy is stealing. I have read many comments and opinions on this topic, from the intelligent to the misinformed to the disgusting. I refuse to get into a discussion about the ethics involved here, I just want to make it clear: if you are pirating media, you are stealing other people’s hard work, and it is wrong. That being said, please read on, and remember to use services such as this for legal and ethical activity.

How it works

BTGuard provides a Socks5 proxy, through which you pass your bittorrent (or other data) traffic before it goes out to other members of a bittorrent swarm. As a result, the tracker, as well as anyone else on that torrent, will see the BTGuard IP address rather than your own; your identity effectively stays hidden from the public.

When you register for a BTGuard account, you set a username and password, which you use to identify yourself to the proxy. This is called Socks5/A, or Socks5 with Authentication. Consequently, the service will only work with programs that support this proxy scheme; most bittorrent clients do, with the notable exception of Transmission (now the default client for Ubuntu Linux).

It is possible to use the proxy for more than just bittorrent traffic; but as of yet I have been unable to find a web browser with Socks5/A support. This includes Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, and Internet Explorer. However, any program that has support for this protocol should work, and the primary intention of the BTGuard service is for bittorrent anonymization.

In my tests, I used various clients, including Deluge, Azureus, and uTorrent (running via Wine).

BTGuard in action

Setup
Setting up your client to use BTGuard (after you have procured an account) is simple, and instructions are provided on the BTGuard website for the most popular clients. The only information you have to fill in the proxy address and port number, as well as your username and password. Once you configure your client to use the proxy, you’re good to go.

Speed and reliability
Unfortunately, the speed of the BTGuard service isn’t quite up to par. While my download cap from my ISP is quite high (I’ve often hit 2MB/s, sustained), when routed through BTGuard this falls to approximately 100KBps on average, with peaks around 300KBps and lows of 50KBps. These speeds are sure to disappoint serious downloaders with fast connections, but for someone who only occasionally grabs a file or two it may be acceptable.

Another problem with BTGuard is reliability; more than once I noticed my connection dropping entirely for short periods (about 30 seconds) before it would start up again. I ran all tests with several Linux ISO files downloading at once, so I can say with certainty that the strength of the bittorrent swarm was not the issue; this is also a problem I only encounter when using the BTGuard proxy service.

Overall, using BTGuard will most likely mean a slower, less reliable connection (at least for now, or until they upgrade their systems to meet with demand), and it’s something to consider before spending $7/month on the service.

Security through trust

One of the largest questions about BTGuard is simple: Can you trust them? When you use a proxy, you’re sending all your data through someone else’s servers; as a result, they can view and log everything you do. Unfortunately, there isn’t any readily-available information on exactly who is behind BTGuard. On their website they explicitly state that they do not keep any logs, but you have to take them at their word.

Using BTGuard to become anonymous changes your bittorrent security paradigm from “security through obscurity,” or becoming lost in the crowd, to “security through trust” of BTGuard’s systems. It’s up to the individual to decide whether or not they want to trust BTGuard.

Improving the BTGuard system

Speed

The number one thing BTGuard needs to do to improve their service is make it faster; 100KBps on average is simply too slow for bittorrent traffic. As more users sign up for the service, their “tubes” will become increasingly full, and individuals will see their download speed decrease; hopefully BTGuard will vigorously combat these growing pains and provide a faster service.

Security
BTGuard needs to make it clearer that you can trust their service. More legal information, more information about who exactly is running the service, and a better privacy policy are must-haves before many people will consider them trustworthy.

Pricing
Currently, the BTGuard service costs $6,95 a month, which I think is fair for what they provide (although speed remains an issue, and some people will likely be turned away from paying for a service as slow as it is now). However, there is no long-term pricing; you can sign up for one month, or a recurring monthly payment, but there is no price difference. A 12-month discount price, for example, would be a nice addition; perhaps $75 instead of the current $83.50.

Conclusion

BTGuard fills an important niche, and many bittorrent users will likely be willing to pay for such a service, but it’s currently plagued by some significant problems that will turn many potential users. If the company is able to increase available bandwidth, deal with its growing pains, and make themselves more trustworthy, it’s likely that BTGuard will become a powerful tool in the fight for privacy on the internet.

Disclaimer

Know the laws in your country and locality. I do not suggest, condone, or practice the violation of national or international copyright law. The BTGuard service explicitly forbids using the proxy to commit illegal activities, including copyright infringement. No laws were broken or copyrights infringed during the writing of this article or review of this service.

Like this post?

25 Responses to “BTGuard Anonymizing Service: Is it worth it?”

  1. CypherD says:

    This was a good article but doesn’t address the claim of ISP throttling. I have a 20g cap on my internet download before they shut me down, does this program not allow them to track that?

    • ^=^ says:

      From what research I’ve done, the answer to that question is no. Mind you, I have no personal experience, and the sources I have are not ironclad, but I think they’re trustworthy in this. basically the way these systems work is they convert the file packets into a different type of packet, and route them through a different IP. so nobody on the other end (other filesharers) has a clue what your real IP is. And since the file packets are converted to the standard web-page style packets, your ISP doesn’t know that you’re torrenting. But the files still download, there is still data flowing, and there’s no way to hide how much data is flowing. think of it like this: your torrent is like claude rains (the invisible man); the data stream is like a river he’s jumping into. clients like btguard can make him look like all the other water, but they can’t hide the fact that the volume of the river just rose.

    • Mike says:

      Hello cypherD,
      the amount you up or download will not be reduced or increased bt/gtguard will only reroute you traffic not decrease or incease it.

      best regards

    • david says:

      My guess is that the claim is complete bullshit, both in their ability to override your ISP’s throttling and removing your ISP’s ability to track your band-with usage… your ISP is still sending you the data that you are requesting… they will have records of AT LEAST how much data and from where (even if they are only able to see the proxy address).

      Hope this helps.

    • John says:

      NOTHING will allow you to bypass that.

      You download 20gb of information, you download 20gb of information. You will never be able to stop that short of exploiting or hacking their software.

      This will just trade 20gb of random connections to trackers and clients to 20gb of connections to their servers.

  2. Thomas says:

    Freecap should do the trick – socks5 authentication that is. It virtually works for any applications.

    … Haven’t been able to run in Windows 7 though, but works just fine with Windows XP.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Their customer support is garbage. I contacted them twice about problems I was having with their software and received no response.

  4. aurora says:

    ISP throttling is about resticting bandwidth, not about capping the amount of data. I personally tink, this service is no good. as said in the article – you have to trust your data transfer to a provider which is possibly located in a country that can force them to give up this data, even if they intended to be anonymous.

  5. Chad Swift says:

    So, not sure what you’re smokin, but I’ve been using btguard for about a year and have never had speed problems. I’m RIGHT NOW downloading at over 900 kB/s on a 2meg connection, and that’s after about 20 seconds after starting. so the speed has been great.

    Before using BTguard, I got cable shut off twice, in two months, from downloading movies. So I got btguard and haven’t gotten my third strike in over a year (not that I’ve been illegally downloading copyrighted movies). Money well spent.

    Oh, now I’m at 1.2 meg/sec…

    This is using wine and utorrent.

  6. expatjohn says:

    I used BTGuard and for the best part it appeared to work , and then one day i received the dreaded Email telling me i must remove said violation, after i complied i contacted BTGuard several times and at this time have not received a reply so i don’t think i shall waste anymore money on them .

  7. Iceman3233 says:

    Well I had been using it successfully for a year now but just got a notification from verizon on a movie I had downloaded didnt even seed and deleted right away cuz it was crap copy.

  8. RayBez says:

    In my experience, BTGuard is a SCAM!!!

    I also recently subscribed to BTGuard and have not been able to connect to their server once.

    I have not had any replies for support from BTGuard over the past 3 weeks (from day one).

    Paypal is not willing to refund the purchase and their reply states: “Our investigation into the following transaction is complete. As stated in our User Agreement, the claims process only applies to the delivery of goods. It does not apply to complaints about the attributes or quality of goods received. Therefore, we are unable to reverse this transaction or issue a refund.” So, no support from them either.

  9. melikeum says:

    I signed up for BTGuard over the weekend and so far I’m happy with it. It makes sense that it would slow the connection down a bit but on tests I’ve ran I get pretty consistent speeds, usually between 2mb-3mb/s.

    Has anyone else had negative experiences with BTGuard other than RayBez?

  10. gazzer16 says:

    If BTGuard on gives out a false IP address, wouldn’t it work the same way as the small aplications that you can get on the internet like “hide my ip”? I’m sure I have seen many more around like “Hide my IP”. I’ve never used BTGuard, but I was thinking of signing up for it, but now I’m not so sure.

  11. fishman says:

    I just signed up. cause my download speeds in the last 2-3 weeks are down big time.

    they dont tell u that only v 2.0 or utorrent is pre configured. so unless u know a lot about networks etc, just use v2.0 that comes with it. and forget about other version.

    my download speeds have multiplied by 5 ! so im a happy camper..

    fishman.

    trust them? who can u trust ?

  12. Doc says:

    Why anyone would use this I don’t know. It would be much safer and faster to use a seedbox with a reputable company in a country that does not consider uploading a crime (Canada does).

  13. This service could theoretically work; however, the realities behind how internet service is provided, cause this to be both illogical and impossible, not to mention impractical, for such a service to even exist in today’s society. I wrote up a quick post about this on my own blog as a result of seeing this company pop up – you might want to read what I have to say. I just made up the blog a few days ago and hopefully I’ll find the time to keep adding useful info in the future.

  14. SteveG says:

    Why even use a service like this that you have to pay for? A subscription to a seedbox provides a lot better value. The seedbox host does the downloading of the torrent for you as well as the seeding of your downloaded files – all completely separate from your computer or network. Then you download the files whenever you like directly to your computer without using torrenting at all. PLUS you can leave the file on the seed host, seeding to everyone else at massive speeds and thus you quickly achieve your goal in upload ratios.

  15. AledE says:

    The most shocking customer service I’ve ever received.

    I purchased the BTGuard service a week ago and couldn’t get it to work at all on my PC (Windows 7 – uTorrent). I emailed them asking for help and they were less than helpful.

    I’ve been hounding them for a refund for the past few days and have been sent the most unhelpful and downright rude emails I have ever received from a professional business.

    The last email they sent was an aggressive all-caps message telling me I “clearly hadn’t read their emails properly”. (All of their emails to this point had been nothing but half-assed, one-line replies).

    Seriously, stay away from BTGuard, their service doesn’t work, their attitude stinks and I’m sorry I trusted them with my money. I just hope I can get it back.

  16. Tyler says:

    You may not be able to hide how much you are downloading to your ISP, but using a VPN allows you to mask what you are downloading, so it’s good for people who have an ISP that throttles their P2P traffic. I was with Virgin internet here in Australia, and although you may get 3mbps speed, with P2P traffic, it’s reduced to 5kbps. Using a VPN, I was able to mask my traffic which allowed me to use bandwidth that is normally given to my connection. Never tried BTGuard though

  17. Seedbox says:

    For the same amount of money you can get yourself a fully functional seedbox with 1000 GB of transfer and 20 GB of space.

  18. Terry says:

    Their proxy is only secure when you use the optional Encryption package. I found that the encryption package kept closing all the time with out me knowing it leaving me unprotected.

    Although they now do offer a VPN service it is just as unreliable as the proxy service. Under Windows 7 I kept getting disconnected every 2 hours. I contacted their support 10 days ago but still have received no response.

    I switched to a VPN service out of Sweden that encrypts all ports, including those used by Bit Torrent, and am glad I did.

Weekly Poll

What's the best Linux distribution for desktops?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Search TechThrob

Advertisement