November 1, 2010

Facts about P2P file sharing: Know the risks

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is a convenient way to share public-domain music, audio, images, documents, and software programs over the Internet.

Using P2P, you can store files on your computer and go online to search for and share files with others using the same software; programs such as BitTorrent, Morpheus, Kazaa, LimeWire, and iMesh, among many others.

It's a good idea to understand and anticipate the risks of P2P file sharing before you download your first file.

Risk #1: Exposing your computer to unwanted software

Shared files can contain security risks such as viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software. A file that appears legitimate could be a virus in disguise. Unwary file sharers can download beneficial software that incorporates undisclosed spyware with it.

You can help prevent these dangers by following these steps:

Risk #2: Breaking copyright laws

Reputable P2P software is legal to use, but if you choose to do so, it's important to understand and differentiate between copyrighted and public domain material and to share responsibly.

When in doubt about a given file, it's best not to share or download it.

Tips for file sharing more safely
  • Monitor family P2P use and don't assume that using an Internet filter will protect your family from accessing or downloading unwanted or illegal material.
Because most Internet filters cannot block P2P file sharing, it's important to set guidelines and ensure that all family members are educated about illegal file sharing.
  • Treat all downloaded files with suspicion and use updated industry standard antivirus software to scan each new file before you click it. Set your antivirus software to automatically scan your hard disk on a regular basis, or do it manually yourself.
  • Delete any pirated material found on a family computer, digital audio player, CD-ROM disc, or other storage device and consider disabling the P2P software's downloading option or blocking outside access to the program by changing your computer's Internet firewall settings.
  • Learn all you can about your P2P software and be very careful about which files you make available to others. Most P2P shared files are typically stored in a single folder on your computer (often named "Shared Files").
  • Do not store copies of copyrighted files that you have legally purchased, such as songs from a CD or a licensed retail music site in your P2P file-sharing folder.
  • Back up important files on an external storage device or a CD-ROM disc before sharing or downloading files.


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