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UK P2P Users Encrypting Their File Transfers

Posted: 08th Nov, 2007 By: MarkJ
Figures from a "large" unnamed UK ISP have revealed a surge in the number of people that encrypt their BitTorrent file sharing (P2P) traffic to disguise what they're doing. It's claimed that the use of encryption has increased from 4% one year ago to 40% today:

Matt Phillips, spokesman for UK record industry trade association the British Phonographic Institute, told The Reg: "Our internet investigations team, internet service providers and the police are well aware of encryption technology: it's been around for a long time and is commonplace in other areas of internet crime. It should come as no surprise that if people think they can hide illegal activity they will attempt to.

When encryption is used to cloak torrent traffic it tends to be to hide something, and attracts greater attention for that reason. If certain ISPs are experiencing disproportionately high volumes of encrypted torrent traffic we expect it is partly in response to a combination of effective ISP abuse teams the enforcement efforts of the police and industry.
"

However such methods aren't just used to disguise illegal activity, they can also be used to circumvent 'some' weaker traffic management systems imposed upon P2P usage by ISP's. The Register also carries a comment from PlusNet's director, Neil Armstrong:

"It isn't possible for us to tell if a customer is downloading a copyright file or not unless we specifically 'snoop' every packet on the customer's line.

We would obviously only do this where we have a proper request from the relevant legal authority to do so, and even then it is unlikely we would be able to see inside encrypted payloads.
"

It's understood that similar trends towards encrypted downloading have emerged on other networks too. However we must not forget that there can be legitimate security reasons for encrypting private P2P downloads too.
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