Tip of the month Feb 2017 – What is file sharing?

What is file sharing?

File sharing is a technology that allows users to share files that are stored on their computers. Peer-to-peer (P2P) applications like those sharing music files are the most common forms of file-sharing technology. However P2P applications introduce security risks that may put your information or your computer in danger.

What risks does file-sharing technology introduce?

  • Installation of malicious code - When you use P2P applications it is difficult to verify that the source of the files is trustworthy. Attackers may incorporate spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, or worms into the files.
  • Exposure of sensitive or personal information - By using P2P applications you may be giving other users access to personal information. Whether it's because certain directories are accessible or because you provide personal information to what you believe to be a trusted person, unauthorized people may be able to access your financial or medical data, personal documents or sensitive corporate information.
  • Susceptibility to attack - Some P2P applications may ask you to open certain ports on your firewall to transmit the files. However opening some of these ports may give attackers access to your computer or enable them to attack your computer by taking advantage of any vulnerabilities that may exist in the P2P application.
  • Denial of service - Downloading files causes a significant amount of traffic over the network.
  • Prosecution - Files shared through P2P applications may include pirated software, copyrighted material, or pornography. If you download these, even unknowingly, you may be faced with fines or other legal action. If your computer is on a company network and exposes customer information, both you and your company may be liable.

How can you minimize these risks?

The best way to eliminate these risks is to avoid using P2P applications. However, if you choose to use this technology, you can follow some good security practices to minimize your risk:

  • use and maintain anti-virus software - Anti-virus software recognizes and protects your computer against most known viruses.
  • install or enable a firewall - Firewalls may be able to prevent some types of infection by blocking malicious traffic before it can enter your computer.

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