Torrenting – the practice of downloading files in portions from multiple users – has long been seen as a more anonymous way of thieving data for free. Many of us have done it, or at least know someone that has or still does this. It’s rather naughty, of course, but no one knows you’re doing it, right?
Wrong. “I Know What You Download” (IKWYD), a new website claiming to be able to follow your online paper trail, may give some torrenters pause for thought, as it seems to be able to reveal the entire torrenting history of any specific Internet connection.
First, some background. Every Internet connection has something called an IP address. This digital watermark reveals not only what that Internet connection is and who owns it, but it also pinpoints your specific location. In this way, it’s like a unique virtual fingerprint.
Your IP address is hard to conceal. If you’re not using any form of anonymous browsing, or perhaps any type of VPN server designed to cover up your geographic location, your IP address is available for anyone else to see.
IKWYD takes this IP address and uses it to search through your online history of torrenting. Not only that, but you can see what everyone you know has been downloading via this method too, assuming you can get hold of their IP address.
Remember, torrenting means that you are connecting with multiple torrenters at the same time. You are constantly exchanging data – many IP addresses are involved every single time something is downloaded or uploaded. This relatively simple site shows you how that connection can easily betray you if someone wants to find out what you’ve been doing online.
The site also boasts a feature that allows people to send an innocuous-looking URL to friends. If they click on it, it activates a tracer on the site that allows them – and you – to keep a record of their future torrenting downloads. Very sneaky indeed.
As pointed out by The Independent, it is unclear who runs the site or what the objectives or motivation behind IKWYD actually are. The first language of IKWYD does not appear to be English though, and there is a Russian language option, suggesting its creators may originate from that particular nation – one embroiled in an international hacking row as of late.
We would advise that you use caution for now until things become clearer. Either way, this is all a reminder that once something is online, it’s “written in ink” and is very difficult to erase. That especially goes for information collected by large online organizations like Google or Facebook, so watch your step, dear readers.