P2P or Peer-to-Peer file sharing is a way of sharing content between two or more devices that are both connected to the internet. Users will download a P2P file-sharing application, allowing them to share and download content from other users freely. This can be anything from videos to files to music.
On the surface, P2P file sharing seems like a harmless and helpful tool, enabling people from across the world to share content practically. However, there are some things you should know about P2P and how it works. It’s also essential to understand the potential risks involved with this kind of online activity.
What is Peer-to-Peer Sharing?
To share and download content in this way, users must download what is known as a file-sharing app. There are various file-sharing applications on the market now, some free to download and others paid. Some examples of these that you may have heard of include Bit Torrent, Gnutella, iMesh, Napster, LimeWire, WinMX, The Pirate Bay, and AudioGalaxy.
How Peer-to-Peer Sharing Works
Some P2P applications work with multiple networks, while others operate using just a single network. Each peer represents an end user’s computer that connects to another peer via a server on the internet.
There is no intermediary server involved in P2P sharing. Using a P2P sharing application to send content from one device to another can be very dangerous, and in some cases, illegal.
Various issues can arise when using Peer-to-Peer sharing technology without the correct preparation. One of the most common problems that can occur is either purposeful or accidental copyright infringement.
However, there are also other risks associated with sharing files in this way, such as a sharp increase in the likelihood of downloading spyware or malware along with your requested files if you are not properly protected.
Why Peer-to-Peer Sharing is Used
P2P applications do have genuine and legal uses. For some, P2P is a convenient and efficient way to quickly share large files, such as documents, videos, and photo libraries, making it a convenient tool for collaborative work teams.
It also allows for direct communication between two device users. If you use any kind of interfacing software such as Skype, these programs are built using P2P technology. In the future, it is predicted that the use of P2P technology will only increase further.
Risk of Illegal Peer-to-Peer Sharing and Copyright Infringement
Although the technology behind P2P sharing is used in various legal ways, sharing copyrighted material across multiple devices is illegal. Video and music piracy, which typically use P2P platforms, can result in heavy fines and even felony charges.
Where a lot of P2P activity is an automatic process, P2P file sharing apps will often share the entire contents of your device as a default setting. A lot of P2P sharing is mainly unmonitored and can therefore leave you open to potential security risks.
Consequences of Copyright Infringements
Whether you consciously share copyrighted material or not, copyright infringement is against the law and can therefore have legal consequences. Copyright holders are entitled to pursue legal action against anyone who shares their material illegally.
If this were to happen to you, you could find yourself with some profound financial implications. As well as being liable for damages, you could also be subject to legal fees and court costs. Overall, the financial impact of copyright infringements can be substantial, and you should be aware of the risk associated with the use of Peer-to-Peer file sharing.
Security Risk: Spyware & Malware
Another risk to be aware of with Peer-to-Peer file sharing is malicious spyware and malware. Specific P2P applications have been found to contain spyware, enabling the app’s creator to see all your activity. Not only can they monitor your online activity, but they can also use various resources on your computer without your knowledge.
Any content downloaded over a P2P network has the potential to contain malware. You are also at risk of illegal content being downloaded to your device and then re-shared without your knowledge. P2P is used by some criminals to spread unlawful material in this way without it linking back to their personal information or IP address. This then puts you in trouble with the authorities instead of them.
Find Legal Alternatives
Although there are many illegal activities and copyright issues surrounding Peer-to-Peer file sharing, you can do it legally. One of the most popular file-sharing programs is BitTorrent, which has lots of legal content ready for download.
There are also several P2P applications offering legal movie and music downloads. To make sure you’re operating on the right side of the law, always make sure you know exactly what you are allowing to be shared from your computer.
Make Use of Firewalls and Antivirus Software
Another way to keep yourself as safe as possible from the risks of P2P file sharing is to ensure your device’s antivirus is running and up to date. Make sure you have an active firewall that is always enabled and note that if you get a request to disable your firewall for your P2P application to work, it’s a red flag. This may mean it is not legitimate software, and you should avoid it.
A good antivirus software program that is regularly updated will also increase your protection against spyware and malware from shared content. Make sure you use yours to scan any downloads and quickly quarantine or delete any marked risk.
Stay Safe When File Sharing
Overall, Peer-to-Peer file sharing is a handy tool for businesses. It is also useful for personal users who have a need to transfer large files, movies, and photo libraries which would take up excessive amounts of memory and an extremely long time if done using conventional methods. P2P technology is also on the rise and is used successfully by several large communications companies.
However, you need to be aware of how it works and the risks that can go along with it. To keep yourself as safe as possible, it is recommended that you share and download safely and legally using only trusted Peer-to-Peer sharing applications. If you notice any red flags, or suspicious activity, then your best option is to avoid that particular application altogether.