Friday, May 23, 2008

P2P File Sharing - Be Careful!

Just about any teenage student who uses a computer knows how to use Peer to Peer software to share and download songs, movies, tv shows and software. They probably also know that it is illegal to distribute copyrighted material over the internet, whether or not they think it is wrong. This is also true of adults. Many adults know that it is illegal to share copyrighted material online, however, many still choose to do it. Channel 5 recently did a story that shows how the movie industry is tracking down people who are sharing movies illegally online. The video shows an interview with a UMASS Amherst administrator who says that 600 students this year have been reprimanded for having pirated copies of movies on their computers. While the initial punishment is basically a warning, if students are caught again they will have to pay a fine or risk being sued.

Not only do P2P programs put you in danger financially if you are illegally sharing copyrighted materials, but they can also put you in a cybersecurity danger. Check out this article from last month. A man was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing personal data off the computers of users using P2P software. He was able to get into their personal files and steal information from tax returns and bank statements. Think about some of the personal information you have in the files on your computer. Using P2P software may offer the opportunity for someone to gain access to those files. Another danger that you can face is downloading an Mp3 with a virus, trojan horse or other type of Malware that can infect and damage your computer.

Another recent example of P2P danger is a music file that infects the computers after it is downloaded. Yahoo Tech reports that an MP3 file that is being shared actually contains a trojan horse program that has attacked half a million computers in a week! It is a fake Mp3 file that actually tries to install malware on your computer which causes constant pop ups on the computer screen. Luckily, only 10 percent of the people who downloaded the file actually installed the malicious software.

OnGuard online has some helpful tips if you do choose to use a P2P file sharing program. Make sure that you set up the software to only share one certain folder, not your entire hard drive. You should also scan anything you download with updated security software to make sure it is clean. Just realize that even if you scan it, there is a chance that it may contain a virus that infects your computer.

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