Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can my ISP find out what I'm downloading?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: It depends...

The absolute answer is yes, if an ISP wants to, they can monitor pretty much everything you do. The only way to avoid this is to use encrypted protocols, like SSL, which you may have seen used on some web sites. This encrypts all the data so that neither the ISP or anyone else other than the site you're connecting to, can view the data. Unfortunately, eMule doesn't support encrypted transfers, so ISPs can snoop on what you're doing any time they want.

However, whether they will or not is another matter. The volume of data passing through their network makes it impractical to watch any one specific user unless they have a good reason to. Some ISPs are using hardware that performs DPI (Deep Packet Inspection), which is supposedly capable of looking into every packet that passes through their network. They mainly seem to use it to determine what the user is doing in general so that the software can then decide whether or not to throttle the connection.

The anti-piracy groups would like ISPs to start snooping on users for the purposes of stopping copyright infringement, but information on ISPs actually doing this is limited at best. AT&T announced a plan to do use DPI to filter copyrighted material, but I haven't heard anything more about it.

So, yes they CAN see what you're downloading, but they probably aren't looking.

By: Rekrul (

More info:
Deep packet inspection

Unlike eMule, most BT-clients do support encrypted transfers ...
BitTorrent protocol encryption

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