File sharing is a fast growing computer addiction that allows users
files on the computer via the Internet. Although file sharing itself is not illegal, the sharing of specific content may be illegal (copyrighted material). Internet programs, e-mail, social networking sites, MP3 players, and USB devices are the most common methods used when sharing files. The dangerous part of file sharing is the convenience.
The files shared could install viruses, malicious programs (that can steal your identity or wreak havoc on your computer), create denial of service attacks which make the computer prone to additional attacks, etc. Prevention is simple: disable the file sharing feature on the computer, set the firewall and anti-virus software to update automatically, and refrain from downloading file sharing software. Another important step in prevention is to read the logs that are part of the firewall or antivirus software.
What is file sharing?
File sharing is a method for providing access to stored computer files to one or more other computer systems via a “network”. File sharing can be implemented in a variety of storage and distribution models. Very common models are the centralized server-based approach and the distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. File sharing allows users to share files (that are stored on their individual computers) to other users via Peer-to-peer (P2P) programs. Peer-to-peer programs allow users to freely share music, video, pictures by downloading a specific file sharing program. Even though P2P programs are popular, they introduce malicious programs that jeopardize the information on the computer.
Commonly used file sharing methods:
1. Internet programs (Napster, Kazaa, etc): downloading malicious software
2. E-mail: sending links within an e-mail to a malicious site
3. Social networking sites: providing links within a site, those links could be a trap
to send you to a malicious site
4. MP3 players: when transferring music from one device to another the music
could have a virus installed on one of the tracks.
5. USB devices: sharing your memory stick with another person, yours could have
a virus or malicious program installed.
File sharing is convenient, but most people do not realize the hidden dangers it possesses. The dangers of using it include: automatically installing viruses (without user’s knowledge) or malicious programs, and creating denial of service attacks which makes the computer prone to additional malicious programs. Another hidden danger is sharing/copying copyrighted material, which is illegal; sharing illegal material can result in significant fines or even jail time.
An example of the problems associated with sharing of copyrighted material is the case of the Record Industry versus Napster (music sharing site). File sharing is not illegal when the material being shared is not copyrighted, or where the appropriate royalties have been paid. The majority of file sharing sites now charge the user a fee to purchase a file and limit the number of times it may be duplicated. For example, some file sharing sites charge $1.00 for the file and the user may copy it twice. Then a license agreement (which is installed on the device) directs how long the file may stay on the device (for example, 6 months -1 year). File sharing sites are considered very dangerous because the files available for sharing may contain harmful programs that can infect a user’s computer. When shopping for a file sharing site ensure the user performs thorough research before installing any programs, because there is a possibility that the file can be a trojan and contain malicious content.
Prevention is the first step to ensure a user’s information/ computer does not become infected / corrupted. Some of the ways users can protect themselves from becoming infected with viruses and/or malicious programs include refraining from downloading file sharing software, or receiving files from friends. Set your firewall/ anti-virus to high and to automatically update, disable the file sharing feature on the computer, and block all file sharing sites from the computer. Following these tips will ensure the user’s computer is safe.
Even though file sharing is easy and convenient, it contains many hidden dangers that can cause serious damage. It is important to check out the site or files ahead of time. Ensure that that the file that is being downloaded is not copyrighted, and if it is, purchase it legally to avoid fines and possible jail time. When a user applies prevention measures it guarantees piece of mind that they are doing what they can to keep their computer safe.