Electronic File Sharing Risks
What Is File Sharing?
Electronic file sharing has always been a prime target for hackers looking to hijack passwords and personal information. File sharing is the use of technology that allows Internet users to share files that are housed on their individual computers. P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing is a very common practice, one of the most recognizable ways to explain this is music sharing. Music sharing is the most common form of file sharing but the issue is that it puts you computer at risk of security failure. This puts the information on your device in jeopardy.
What risks does file-sharing technology introduce?
- Installation of malicious code. Attackers may incorporate spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, or worms into the files. When you download the files, your computer becomes infected which makes it nearly impossible to determine or verify the sources of these files as trustworthy!
- Exposure of sensitive or personal information. When using P2P, you are making it possible for others to access your personal information. Sometimes we provide personal information to what we believe to be a trusted person or organization. However, unauthorized people may be able to access your financial or medical data, personal document, or other personal information. Once information has been exposed to unauthorized people, it’s difficult to know how many people have accessed it.
- Susceptibility to attack – Most P2P applications ask 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 vulnerability that may exist in the P2P application. There are some P2P applications that can modify and penetrate firewalls themselves, without your knowledge.
- Denial of service – Downloading files causes a significant amount of traffic over the network. This activity may reduce the availability of certain programs on your computer or may limit your access to the Internet
- Prosecution – Files shared 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. However, attackers are continually writing new viruses, so it is important to keep your anti-virus software current
- 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. Some operating systems actually include a firewall, but you need to make sure it is enabled.