The Security Risks of Peer to Peer File Sharing
One of the most exciting parts about having a broadband Internet connection is being able to swap files over the Internet. This is known as peer to peer file sharing (P2P), and you can download all sorts of files including music, films and books. Peer to peer file sharing gives users access to literally billions of files that can be downloaded with the simple click of the mouse. What’s more, almost every P2P network, in addition to most of their content, is available for free.
Security Risks of Peer To Peer File Sharing
While peer to peer file sharing is a lot of fun, there is a downside to it. In addition to dancing around legal issues, P2P is also fairly insecure. Spyware, viruses, and Trojan horses are just some of the threats that P2P users face. Read about some of these security risks below and learn what you’ll have to be wary of when venturing into the world of peer to peer file sharing.
Worms and Viruses
The biggest security threat that users of peer to peer file sharing face, comes from sharing files that have been infected by worms or viruses. Unfortunately, some users do not know that their files have been infected, and when they put up their collection for everybody to download, they put a large number of other users at risk. Some users intentionally infect files in order to harm other users’ computers. It’s also very difficult to spot infected files because they often carry file names of popular files in order to encourage users to download them. In fact, some viruses are specifically fabricated for P2P distribution, making it even harder to steer clear of them.
Even though many P2P clients claim that their services are free of charge, in reality, many of these clients subsidize their activities by secretly working with advertising firms that quietly track and analyze users’ behavior. This results in what are known as “targeted ads,” meaning ads that pop up and reflect the user’s actions and apparent interests. In addition to being annoying, these ads are generated by selling users’ private information to advertising companies, which many consider to be a violation of privacy rights.
Peer to peer file sharing users must also be aware of fake files, which are often used to try and trap copyright infringers. Sometimes, large movie and music production firms place seemingly authentic files on networks in order to catch users who are infringing on copyright laws. While most firms simply want to protect their product, there is also the potential for them to go a step further and actually sabotage the machines of these users.
Peer to peer file sharing is definitely one of the highlights of a broadband Internet connection, but users should use the networks with a good degree of caution and common sense.