Peer to Peer File Sharing is all the rage, but what is it and why should you even care? As a parent of pre-teen or teenagers, you may already know about peer-to-peer file sharing. Just in case you’re not in the know about this, here is Wikipedia’s definition: “P2P or Peer-to-peer file sharing allows users to download media files such as music, movies, and games using a P2P software client that searches for other connected computers. The “peers” are computer systems connected to each other through the Internet. Thus, the only requirements for a computer to join peer-to-peer networks are an Internet connection and P2P software.”
So what’s the problem ?Unbeknownst to you and your not-as-tech-saavy-as-they-may-think children, using Peer to Peer Software may mean they are illegally downloading, copying or sharing files that are copyrighted. This is considered piracy and punishable by law.
• Malicious code – It is difficult, if not impossible, to verify that the source of the P2P files are trustworthy. Some P2P applications can be used to transmit malicious code. Attackers may incorporate spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, or worms into the files. When you download the files, your computer becomes infected.
• ID Theft–When you use P2P applications, you may be giving other users access to personal information. Whether it’s through directories you give them access to or because you provide personal information, unauthorized people may be able to access your financial or medical data, or other personal information. This information may increase your risk of identity theft.
• 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. There are some P2P applications that can modify and penetrate firewalls themselves, without your knowledge.
Here are some suggestions for making sure this doesn’t happen to you:
1. Talk to your kids! Make sure your kids know about the possible risks. Let them know piracy is stealing and that means they are breaking the law. Enough said. However, for those of you sensing an eye-rolling from your tween-teen, further explanation may be needed. Let them know that P2P file sharing can put your computer at risk from viruses and other internet-based threats like spyware and adware. Remind them that the Feds/Law Enforcement can use this as reason to confiscate the computer (no more “Angry Birds”), impose a big fine (coming straight out of their allowance for the rest of their life) and may result in time spent in “Juve-y.”
2. Monitor your kids’ internet activities. Is your computer in a spot that you can monitor their download activities? Using a service like TrueCare will send your kids the right message that you are serious about keeping them safe online.
3. Lead your kids to ‘legal’ download websites. Direct them to sites such as iTunes and MSN that only let you access legal downloadable mp3s, movies, games, and software at a very low price. Encourage them to use these sites. Downloading illegal files may seem like a non-issue to your kids. However, done tastefully, it’s a great time to remind them how much you care about their safety whilst keeping their criminal record clean.
As usual, let us know how the conversation goes.