There are a lot of benefits to being able to file share over peer to peer networks, but there are some inherent problems that come with peer to peer networks that results in risks to file sharers.
Let’s take a look at some of the problems with peer to peer networks:
There is no way to know if what you are downloading is really what the user says it is until you download it. This means you are at risk for poisoning attacks. Poisoning attacks are where file contents are different from the description, this is called “spoofing” and it can be simple jokes, or it can be potentially damaging, for example, it could be something pornographic.
Another part of this is not being able to test files until you download them. This means you could be victim to polluting attacks, which is where the user inserts “bad” chunks/packets into an otherwise valid file on the network. So you might get half a good file, and have a problem.
The other problem with peer to peer networks is that sometimes people use them with out contributing anything to them. This means high traffic, slower processing, and not as many resources as there should be.
Of course, one of the biggest problems with peer to peer networks that may result in risk to file sharers is that they are a prime location for attackers to insert viruses and infect people’s computers. If you use these networks, you may run into instances where downloaded or carried files may be infected with viruses or other malware.
Another issue is that sometimes when you join these networks, the network software itself may contain malware or spyware. This means third parties are gaining access to your information without your knowledge.
Also, with these attacks and problems comes the fact that many times these networks run very slowly or break completely due to those attacks.
Another important factor that contributes to peer to peer network problems that put file sharers at risk is the potential for inadvertently exposing personal information you would not wish to share. This can lead to identity attacks, or people stealing your identity because you accidentally share something or post something that reveals your identity.
Peer to peer networks serve millions of people, and with the sheer numbers of people, and the vast exposure of anything online you run into the above problems. The reason file sharers are at higher risk than the average internet user is that they are opening their computers up to their network, and are putting trust in a screen name of someone they do not know, or think they know, but not really. There are always risks when you use the internet, however, file sharing over peer to peer networks makes you more vulnerable.
If you want to protect yourself from some of the inherent problems with file sharing over peer to peer networks you can do the following things:
•Install and use an anti-virus program. Viruses are malicious code that are created to infiltrate and damage your computer. It is easy to get infected if you do not scan materials and protect yourself from predators and attackers on the web.
•Update your anti-virus program. Your anti-virus program is only as good as when you install it, and can only protect you from the viruses that were known at that time, so constantly update it so that as new viruses are made, your protection increases to protect yourself from those.
•Enable your firewall. If you have a computer that came with an operating system, chances are you have a firewall already installed on your computer. Turn it on!