TU Delft enhances BitTorrent security through user anonymity

Researchers at the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering have embarked on the first public test of their anonymous BitTorrent software.

Developed over the past nine years as an open source, peer-to-peer file-sharing program, Tribler is considered to be the only truly decentralized BitTorrent client, allowing users to add and share new content even if all torrent sites were shut down. With over one million users and three generations of PhD students testing their algorithms in the last decade, the client continously improves upon the original BitTorrent protocol created in 2001.

“Having systems where millions of people collaborate and self-organize is still mostly uncharted scientific territory, so it is of great interest to the university,” says Parallel and Distributed Systems Associate Professor and Tribler founder Johan Pouwelse. While working on a user-generated music encyclopedia 15 years ago, Pouwelse experienced first-hand the power of large-scale collaboration prior to the launch of Wikipedia. After evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing systems for a number of years, he then went on to establish Tribler in 2005.

“We aim to have a better understanding of self-organizing systems with unbounded scalability,” Pouwelse explains. “We focus on video distribution because this is the dominating traffic type on the internet.”

One major issue Tribler has focused on is the protection of user privacy. Without a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy, all downloads can be traced back to a single internet connection. Tribler hopes to remedy the problem with a built-in Tor (anonymity) network, whereby users help hide each other’s IP addresses through encrypted proxies.

According to Pouwelse, the protection of user privacy is an issue that immediately needs to be addressed. “Any sense of privacy is an illusion in the post-9/11 world,” the founder claims. “We need to reclaim privacy and find an alternative way to organize society.” Systems such as Tribler strive to do just that. 

Editor Redactie

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.