College 101: Don’t Torrent in Your Dorm Room.
Most colleges have blazingly fast network speeds. What most people do not realize, however, is that by using the on-campus network, you are also signing up for many more restrictions and monitoring than you may be used to. Each university sets its own rules for internet usage.
They may block certain activities such as torrenting as well as restrict websites and even actively monitor your IP connection history. Here are the steps you can take to protect your privacy and digital safety while also finding ways to get the content you want.
Step 1: Check Your University Internet Restrictions
Who actually reads these lengthy terms and conditions when you download an app or agree to cookies or something like that? Nobody wants to go through pages and pages of tiny, boring text. But this is one of the few times it is critical that you do. The good news is that you do not have to read everything.
Instead, depending on where you’re viewing the network terms, either use your web browser’s Find on Page feature or copy and paste the document into an MS Word or other application. Search for these key terms:
- Data Collection
- VPN (Virtual Private Network)
What you want to do is gather an idea about your university’s specific policies in these key areas as well as potential punishments for violating the user agreement. Most universities have a three-strike policy, but you don’t want to be permanently banned from the network or face other consequences. If they specifically mention torrenting, this is a clear sign you should stay away from it here.
Step 2: Check Your VPN
Some institutions have built-in measures that prevent the use of VPNs or proxies. If your college doesn’t, or you have a high-quality VPN, then you need to check how well your VPN is functioning and its settings. From the start, you need to make sure the VPN is always running and that it features a “kill switch” which automatically disconnects the computer in case you are disconnected from the VPN server.
You can also take advantage of masking your connection by using a VPN on an Android phone. Connect to your campus network through a VPN on your phone. From here, you can either use a mobile torrenting app or connect your computer to the internet via your phone. This is a great way to always ensure your privacy no matter where you connect to the internet.
Step 3: The Bandwidth Problem
This is where you are most likely going to run into problems depending on how savvy your university is. Even if you have a great VPN and know the ins and outs of how to maintain your privacy and access the internet without restrictions through your campus network, you’ll still have the problem of bandwidth monitoring.
P2P file sharing has a distinct bandwidth pattern that campus networks can recognize. Not only that, even if you have encrypted and anonymized your connection, the admins/programs will recognize the traffic pattern of the account assigned to you. A great example is Stanford’s P2P warning, which states, “If you received a traffic advisory message, it’s because the network traffic patterns from your computer suggested that it may be generating a high volume of peer-to-peer file sharing traffic.”
Your university won’t automatically shut you down or even punish you, but this is a sign that you’ve been flagged for more specific monitoring of your network activities. If you receive this message, consider it a friendly warning to stop torrenting before your school takes more serious measures.
So What’s the Best Option?
Honestly, it’s just not worth it to torrent if you are” living on campus. The potential punishment far outweighs any benefits that you receive from torrenting. Even if you do manage to bypass all the network restrictions and even the problem of bandwidth monitoring, you’re likely going to end up with painfully slow downloads and a lot of hassle.
Maintaining your privacy and protecting your data is still essential. On large networks, there are all kinds of potential phishing, malware and other types of attacks. So, you need to use a VPN that has servers close to your location to protect yourself.
When it comes to content, there are so many options out there. Get a group of friends together and pool some money to purchase memberships to services like Netflix, Apple Music, Spotify, and so on. Besides, as a student, you’ll have access to your campus media library. DVDs may be a bit old school, but your school likely has a catalog of at least a few thousand. Not only that, you can use Interlibrary Loan to request titles from other schools that you probably can’t even find online.
Finally, take advantage of your student discount. As an adult, it’s the only one you’ll get. You can use it for all sorts of things from software to hardware and even some subscription services. You may even be able to get programs like MS Word and Adobe Photoshop free through your school.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your privacy and freedom online while at school especially when you have super fast network speeds at your disposal. However, resist the urge to torrent. It’s simply not worth it. Instead, use your campus media libraries and student discounts to access the content you’re looking for while using a VPN for what it is designed for—protecting your connection from potential threats. By following these key tips, you’ll be able to protect your privacy and data security while at school and make sure you don’t lose your university network privileges for four years or more!
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