BitThief is a free and easy to use riding BitTorrent client, meaning that it will download from BitTorrent swarms without contributing any resources itself.
As such it proved that the BitTorrent protocol fails to prevent uncooperative behavior as it does not provide any countermeasures against free riding clients.
BitThief is an ongoing research project of the Distributed Computing Group at ETH Zurich. This project studies selfish behavior in distributed systems, and in particular in peer-to-peer filesharing systems.
The lack of incentives to contribute resources potentially results in a total collapse of a peer-to-peer system, implying that it is essential for a completely decentralized system to incorporate protocols that ensure a fair sharing of resources.
WARNING: As BitThief is a scientific project, it requires measurements of the performance of its exploits. For that purpose, the client occasionally transmits data to the project's webserver. The transmitted data merely contains information about the time required to download files of different size. In particular, only a hash of the info hash is transmitted, which means that it is not feasible to determine what has actually been downloaded. However, it is advised not to download any copyrighted material.