Tuesday 18 April, 2017
You’ve probably at least heard of peer to peer (P2P) file sharing networks, if you haven’t used one yourself. They offer a free and convenient way to get music, games, movies and other content. But aside from the moral and legal ramifications, peer to peer file sharing is also dangerous. It can infect your computer with malware.
What Is P2P?
A peer to peer network uses a software program that you download to your computer. Once installed, you’re connected to the network. The program connects you to other users who have installed the software. Everyone on the network can freely share files and download each other’s files. There are many networks like this and the most famous is Napster.
However, these sites are not well moderated. A free and open network such as this without the protection of moderation creates a perfect situation for hackers that want to infect computers with malware.
How Hackers Attack P2P Networks
Hackers can create viruses, worms, Trojans and other malicious programs and then post them to P2P networks disguised as files. The file may have the title of a popular movie, album or video game. When you download the file to your computer, you install the malicious program and the hacker has access.
These malicious files can do all kinds of nasty things to your computer. A common attack is to erase your hard drive. Attacks in the past have sent pornographic messages or spam email to users’ friends and contacts. A malicious file could also install spyware that keeps track of what you do on your computer. Through this spyware, the hacker can gain valuable data such as personal information and passwords.
Sometimes you can spot a fake file on a P2P network. The name appears funny or it’s too small to be a whole album or movie. But many times you can’t. Peer to peer file sharing has been around for over a decade and hackers have had plenty of time and practice creating files that look legit.
Other P2P Risks
There are P2P risks other than hacking attacks. If you don’t configure your P2P software correctly, you may unknowingly put all of your hard drive’s files on the network so that anyone can get them. This can include multimedia files like your music and games, but could also include videos, photos and other files that are personal.
Some P2P networks ask you to open certain ports or lower firewalls in order to access their network. Even though the intent isn’t to compromise your computer, doing this makes your computer vulnerable to regular network attacks.
One final risk of P2P networks is that if you download a massive amount of data, it may result in a denial of service. Your network is overloaded with data traffic and no more will get through.
How to Use P2P File Sharing Safely
The only real protection is to not use P2P file sharing. If you want to listen to music for free, check it out on YouTube. Test games on game websites. P2P file sharing is free and easy but not worth the risks. You could also potentially face legal problems.