P2P Networks: Security Breaches and Other Dangers Exposed

Feb 23, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been notifying dozens of organizations around the country of possible security and personal identification breaches related to the use of peer to peer (P2P) file sharing networks. This is not the first time we’ve been warned about dangers lurking on the Internet, but this latest episode once again highlights the importance of our own vigilance and knowledge of the risks we all face online.

Peer to peer technology is a popular and useful mechanism to greatly enhance one’s online experience. But if not used properly, and without a serious dose of caution, users can find their personal information leaked all over cyberspace. When P2P software is not configured properly, for example, files that were not meant for sharing—like your bank accounts—end up getting passed around the web like the latest YouTube video; dire consequences such as identify theft can take place quickly.

On top of this comes the added danger of unwittingly doing something illegal. P2P networks are often used to download and proliferate pirated movies and music – an all-too-common activity that violates long-established copyright laws. Much as it’s a crime to walk into a store and take a CD or DVD off the shelves without paying, the swapping of illegally downloaded or copied songs or shows puts you on the wrong side of the law.

This recent action by the FTC sheds light on a prevailing problem for most folks using the Internet. In the comfortable and familiar settings of our homes or offices, users are often lulled into a false sense of security, not mindful that they are acting in a very public space – the Internet – where dark actors lurk, viruses are spread, and harmful things can happen.

This is why we must all remain alert, and vigilant, especially with our kids, and a reason why the FTC should be commended for its measures to warn and educate us all. It’s important that we all better understand the risks we face in the online environment, whether it is from online predators, or from P2P networks siphoning our personal information or involving us in illegal file-sharing schemes that can put users in legal jeopardy.

File sharing can be a very useful tool, but there are risks involved, especially from bad actors out there who profit from the illegal exchange of copyrighted works and by taking advantage of individuals who do not understand the risks involved.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but a lack of knowledge in and the misuse of technology can have severe consequences, as we are now seeing. The more folks are familiar with good practices, the safer they will be.

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