If you want to protect yourself from the risks of file sharing over peer to peer networks there are two things you need to do:
1.Know what the risks are.
2.Know how to protect yourself against each risk individually
So, let’s discuss these two things:
What the risk is: malicious code.
Attackers will take advantage of the inherent problems with file sharing and install viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other kinds of malicious code into files so that when you download them you are infecting your computer.
How to protect yourself: Firewall and anti-virus software.
If you want to protect yourself from malicious code you need to install firewalls (or enable them if they are already installed). They protect damage from entering your computer in the first place. Then you also need to install virus scanners or anti-virus software that catches viruses that make it past your firewall, and eliminates them. Of course you need to constantly update your anti-virus software as it can only protect you from known viruses.
What the risk is: privacy risks
When you join a peer to peer network sometimes you have to enter personal information in a profile, etc. This can put you at risk. Most people know this so they enter something bogus, or they are very vague. However, there are other privacy risks as well. For example, you might post a picture of you standing in front of your house without realizing the address is showing. There are many inadvertent ways to expose personal information. These privacy risks can lead to identity theft, and other problems. Another problem is that with some peer to peer networks, when you share a file, it becomes available for anyone on the network to view. This means that you might send a tax document to your tax advisor, and all of the sudden the whole network has access to your tax ID number or social security number, without you knowing it.
How to protect yourself: Be smart, know what you are sharing and with whom.
The best way to protect yourself is to be somewhat defensive. This is how you can be smart about things. You have to look at what you are posting as if you were a predator, and ask yourself if it could be used to steal your identity or invade your privacy. Also, carefully read terms and conditions so that you know what happens to your files when you share them. Are you going to make your entire hard drive accessible? Or just that file? Can others view the file? Can you do anything to secure or protect the file? Find out before you start sharing.
What the risk is: slow computer and network
Sometimes malicious code, too many users, or other things like spyware and malware slow down the process of the computer or network, and can impede your ability to work quickly online.
How to protect yourself: uninstall spyware and malware, participate.
If people using the networks are taking and not giving this can mean high traffic and few resources, which leads to slower systems, so be a contributor. Also, if things are running slowly, run tests for spyware, malware, viruses, etc. and eliminate them.
What the risk is: spyware and malware
These can infect your computer through the files you share, or they can be installed by the network software, and then your information is shared with third parties without you knowing it.
How to protect yourself: Scan for it, eliminate it.
If you find spyware on your computer eliminate it immediately. Also, you will want to read the terms and conditions so you know if the network software is going to install any spyware on your computer, if they do, find another network.
What the risk is: legal risks
When people share files they do not always think about copyright laws. You can be sued, or have criminal charges brought against you for downloading or sharing copyrighted materials or pirated materials.
How to protect yourself: know the laws and what is copyrighted, and know who you are sharing with.
If you know what you can and can not share you will not run into this problem. If you know who you are sharing with, chances are you will be less likely to download something illegal accidentally.