Sharing files over peer to peer networks has many risks. Let’s take a look at the more common ones:
Malware and Spyware:
Some file-sharing software comes bundled with malware such as spyware, viruses, adware, or otherwise privacy-invasive software. Usually you are not aware of this, but the problem is that sometimes this unwanted software remains installed on the system even if the original file-sharing software is removed. Usually such software is very difficult to eliminate. However, it is not impossible, but if you do not know about it, how can you get rid of it?
Poor computer operation:
In many cases P2P networks install malware and spyware on your computer, as mentioned above, however besides the privacy issues of this such malware can interfere with the correct operation of web browsers, anti-virus software, anti-spyware and software firewalls. It can also lead to degraded performance on affected systems. So not only do you get compromised privacy and security, but a slower computer that does not run as well. Often times the sneaking extras that come with downloading file sharing programs hamper other programs ability to run.
Pornography and illegal materials:
Many P2P file-sharing systems are used to distribute adult pornography to children, child pornography to anyone, inflammatory literature, and illegal or “unpopular” material. This means if you do not know what networks are safe to use, you put yourself at risk for such downloads. Also, many times files being shared might be copyrighted, or be illegally obtained, such as pirated video. Just because you do not know how the items were obtained does not mean you are not liable if you download them. So, if you share with users you do not know, you put yourself at risk for being liable for pirating, breaking copyright laws, etc.
Obviously one of the biggest risks with file sharing is the exposure to and accidental installation of malicious code. When you use P2P applications, it is difficult, if not impossible, to verify that the source of the files is trustworthy. Many people who think it is fun to attack computer systems with viruses etc. use these P2P systems to spread malicious code. Attackers may incorporate spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, or worms into the files that they are sharing, and thus, if you download the files, your computer becomes infected. So, the only way to really protect yourself from this is to never download anything, but that sort of defeats the purpose. However, just be aware that even the best virus protection programs do not catch everything, so only download from trusted users.
Personal information compromised:
Many times using P2P networks inadvertently compromises personal information. It might be the information you enter into the profile, or it might be that files you are sharing open portals to your computer where personal information may be viewed. This is often a way that identity is stolen, so be careful about what information you enter, and what is accessible from your computer.
These are the common risks of file sharing over peer to peer networks. There are probably many other risks as well, however, these affect the most people. Protect yourself by having a good virus protection program installed, by enabling your firewall, and by being careful and selective about what you download and from whom.