P2P File Sharing: Ignorance is Not Bliss

Especially if you are younger than age 40 or so, you may be familiar with the concept of peer-to-peer, or P2P file sharing. When done legally and properly, P2P file sharing can be a fun, convenient way of sharing files with friends and acquaintances down the block or around the world. However, many people download files illegally. If you’re tempted to do the same, you should be aware that doing so is not only illegal, it is wrong, and it places your computer at risk. Instead, follow the tips listed below to protect your computer and practice safe P2P file sharing.

What Is P2P Sharing? 

The concept behind P2P file sharing is simple. P2P file sharing sites allow users to upload and download files quickly and conveniently from the Internet. Such sites make it easy to transmit files over long distances. These services get their name from the fact that users are “peers,” that is, individuals rather than large corporations or organized groups.

Connect to P2P Networks Through Files Sharing Software

 

Software like the Vuze bittorrent client is what makes P2P file sharing possible. Once you have located the torrent of the file you are interested in downloading, and you have made sure that downloading the file would not infringe on copyright, the bittorrent client will point connect your computer to other users on the network that have the file you are looking for and then allowing for the download to take place. A good bittorrent client will also allow you to covert the file into a file format that is usable on your machine and may also provide extra features like sharing the file to your other devices and DVD burning to name a few.

Protect Your Computer 

Any time your computer is connected to the Internet, you are at risk of exposure to undesirable files: viruses, Trojans, spyware, malware and ransomware. However, because P2P sites are devoted to file sharing, such networks are especially vulnerable to harmful files from innocent users who don’t realize that their computers are infected as well as from malicious users who are intent on doing harm. 

To protect your computer, ensure that your computer software is up to date. Install a protective software suite, including an anti-virus program, a firewall and an anti-malware/spyware program. Run the anti-virus and anti malware/spyware programs before and after accessing P2P files. Store all the files that you obtain from P2P sites in a separate folder. Maintain copies of critical files on CDs or on some other location off of your computer’s hard drive. If you use a cloud-based backup service, you’re covered. 

Use Only Legal, Reputable Download Sites 

It may be tempting to download a bootleg copy of a copyright protected song or the hot new movie, but the risk is not worth taking. Not only would you be breaking the law, you would be exposing your computer to significant risk.

Download Only Public Domain Files, or Rights-holder Approved files 

Have you read Shakespeare? The Bard’s works are performed regularly, and you can download all his works onto your computer, legally. How cool is that? In fact, many classic literature works are available in the public domain. It is also OK to download open source games and software. If you accidentally download pirated files, remove them from your computer immediately. The files may also contain viruses. 

Liz Garret is a computer professor with several years experience. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s blogging online.