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BitComet Banned From Growing Number of Private Trackers
December 11, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The advent of DHT (Distributed Hash Tables) has been a valuable asset to the BitTorrent community. Most newer BitTorrent clients now support this network layer, which boosts the efficiency of the already capable BitTorrent protocol.

The first BitTorrent client to establish a DHT layer was Azureus, followed by the official BitTorrent client. Although similar, the two DHT networks are not compatible. The DHT layer supported by the official client would be known as Mainline DHT network. Soon after, most BitTorrent clients would release versions with Mainline DHT support, such as the popular BitComet.

The DHT layer works by creating a virtual network on top of the BitTorrent protocol. Each node that participates in the DHT layer indexes a small portion of files on the network and helps with network communications. This works great for public trackers as it puts less of a burden on centralized server resources, helps distribute files more efficiently, and saves bandwidth. It’s an underappreciated quantum leap that has been overshadowed by more visible advances such as BitTorrent or eDonkey2000.

On the other side of this spectrum are private trackers. Private trackers are not looking to widely distribute their files. These communities are designed to only allow private sharing by locking each registered member’s account to an IP address - or if the individual has the correct passkey. In addition, a ‘private’ flag within the torrent file tells the BitTorrent client not to share on the DHT network.

However, many private tracker operators argue that BitComet does not honor the private flag. Instead, the torrent is shared on the DHT network and those who do not belong to the private tracker can freely leech off the resources of that community. That is the much simplified story many private trackers are telling.

Yet many are not so quick to blame BitComet. BitComet does share private torrents, but only when certain conditions are met. In order for BitComet to share torrents, the following must happen.

An individual (person "A") who belongs to a private tracker downloads a torrent. The torrent contains the necessary peer information (such as IP addresses) to initiate the swarm. Person "A" then uploads the private torrent to a public tracker such as Person "A's" IP address, along with private peers, are contained in the torrent file.

ivate tracker must be completely unreachable. Person "A" can achive this by simulating a site outage (for example, by altering the host file.) But for our purposes lets assume the private tracker is suffering a DoS attack and is unreachable for an extended period.

The BitComet client will eventually give up trying to reach the private tracker and enables the DHT network.

At this point, and only at this point, will outsiders be able to access the torrent shared over the DHT network. When the torrent is downloaded, the client will connect to the peers in the DHT network - providing the outsider cannot access the private tracker, and has DHT enabled.

Contrary to popular belief, the torrent file isn't freely shared on the DHT network. Only those who are identically configured can take advantage of the private torrent.

Never the less, this is highly frowned upon in private communities. To ensure sharing and save bandwidth, many trackers have tight download/upload ratio policies and enforce them strictly. Since the neither the DHT network nor BitComet have any concept of ratios, the torrent is traded freely. This situation has especially been a kick in the µTorrent for those donating to private trackers in return for higher status and more privileges.

The solution? Ban BitComet. Most of the leading private trackers such as ScT Torrent, UK Nova, and Midnight Torrents will not accept BitComet clients. Some trackers such as have recommended the use of other, private tracker friendly, clients.

“Unfortunately due to tracker security issues with BitComet 0.60 we will be banning this client to protect our users,” an announcement on said. “The ban will take effect at 13:00 GMT December 9th and will be effective until such time as the bug is fixed by the BitComet developers. This ban is NOT up for debate, do not make posts in the forums about it, they will be locked. As some of you may be aware several private trackers much like ours are banning the use of BitComet because of an issue with the client enabling DHT despite the existence of the 'private' flag.”

The banishment of BitComet has drawn mixed reviews. Some believe the security of private trackers is paramount and must be respected. Others cite that banning BitComet forces some users to loose advantage of its ‘end to end’ encryption. One of BitComet’s newest features, some contend ‘end to end’ encryption conceals BitTorrent traffic on throttled ISP’s like Shaw Cable. In addition, many have rediculed this decision because of the obscure set of conditions that must be met before unauthorized sharing takes place.

Whether BitComet will upgrade at this time is unclear. The developer of BitComment, "RnySmile", did not return requests for comment.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
BitTorrent :: BitTorrent Clients
BitTorrent :: Trackers/Indexers

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