Security Risks of Peer to Peer File Sharing

Users of peer to peer file-sharing systems face many of the same security risks as other Internet users. However, file sharing adds an extra dimension to these concerns due to the quantity and frequency of files traded, and the relatively unsophisticated user base. This is not to insult anyone, but most people trading files on peer to peer networks are teens and children trading YouTube videos and music files. This is an open invitation for a predator to take advantage of their ignorance.

So, to protect themselves from security risks, peer to peer users must take care to only run programs from sources that they trust, and should be careful to check for viruses. They should safeguard their computer from attack when online by using anti-virus software and firewalls.

So what security risks are there? Security risks include: viruses, online attacks, self help attacks.

Let’s discuss these:

Viruses — This is probably the biggest security risk. Why? Well, because peer-to-peer file sharing networks enable files to be transferred among millions of computers, and let’s face it, most of these are owned and operated by total strangers. This means with how much they are traded, and the number of computers using them, the chances of these files carrying worms and malicious software like viruses is extremely high. Obviously peer to peer networks are not the only way to get viruses, but it still is important to protect yourself when using these networks by using up to date virus software.

Online Attacks — This is another big problem. How it works is that when peer-to-peer networks identify shared files to millions of users, they also identify the location of a user’s computer. It is possible through this to target that computer’s IP address (Internet Protocol address) with attempts to gain access. Online attackers can use peer to peer networks with ease, not because this situation is unique to P2P networks, but because peer-to-peer file sharing networks search millions of computers, they can provide access to millions of IP addresses. This means that it is more appealing to an attacker than the exchange of a single IP address as what happens in typical Internet use.

Self-Help Attacks — This is a unique and troubling security risk that is hard to protect yourself from. It is a new form of security threat. What is it? It is called self-help, and it is used by copyright holders who are concerned about infringement on file-trading networks. The practice of putting bogus copies of copyrighted work out is legal, and is done in order to try and catch people who are downloading copyrighted information. However, because the bogus copy does not interfere with system operation it has been deemed legal. However, it does pose a security issue. If you store a file like this, you essentially give the copyright holder access to your computer, and your identity. The problem is distinguishing between copyright holders who intend to protect themselves, and those that want to do damage.

So, as you can see these three thing are real security risks of using peer to peer networks for file sharing. You can protect yourself 100% only by not using peer to peer networks. Otherwise, your best options for avoiding such risks are only sharing with users you know, and installing and enabling virus protection software and a firewall.

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Security Risks of Peer to Peer File Sharing." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 19 Jan. 2008. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. < >.

About This Page

By . Originally published January 19, 2008. Last modified January 19, 2008.

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