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MP3s and the Peer-to-Peer Fiasco

Napster, Morpheus, Bearshare, Kazaa… Sound familiar? How many of you out there have installed peer-to-peer file sharing applications on your home or office computers? Do you really know what you are doing when you install these “Free” programs?

May 20, 2004

By Greg Richburg

Napster, Morpheus, Bearshare, Kazaa… Sound familiar? How many of you out there have installed peer-to-peer file sharing applications on your home or office computers? Do you really know what you are doing when you install these “Free” programs?

Admit it or not. You, I, and millions of others have utilized the Napster days or the modern Kazaa era for the benefit of “borrowing” music, video, software and many other data based mediums available. “To what end,” I ask you.

Viruses, Worms and Trojans

Yes it’s true. You can contract various technical illnesses by downloading files, especially in a peer-to-peer environment where you have no clue where the file is actually coming from.

Malicious code can easily piggy-back various file types and upon execution, install right into your PC or network. I have seen it happen. Right here in one of our local government offices, I witnessed a downloaded file spread through the network connection like wildfire. Luckily damage was limited due to somewhat of an anti-virus infrastructure.

The worst factors are the data processing elements that you do not see. Malicious code comes in all manners. New clever code can be deposited on your system and go unseen for long periods of time. And if your anti-virus programs are not up to date, or your firewall systems are not secure enough, you better watch out. A simple Trojan horse can allow an intruder to access your entire network in a heartbeat.

Spyware and Adware

Oh my, these little bastards are causing more and more network destruction every day. Watch out for the freeware applications. More garbage gets installed on your PC when you setup Kazaa than any program I have ever seen. Pop-up directors, sneakware applications, and my favorite hate, the “Hotbar” programs that promise to make your Internet experience more enjoyable, cause nothing but problems.

Read the fine print ladies and gentlemen; know what you are doing when you do it. Sadly, I say, a good new virus, or spyware attack is great for business. I get paid to resolve your problems.

The Big Truth
I share this with you for your benefit and for your own good. If you install these applications wrong, you could be offering your livelihood to any number of hack attempts on your personal PC, your office network, and most importantly of all, your financial security.

By default, some of these applications allow access to your “My Documents” folder. Some of you by accident make the “My Documents” folder your shared resource for file trading. I have even seen people open up their entire “C:\” drive. So basically, you are allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry out there access to all the data on your system.

We just finished tax time people. Did your accountant send you your tax documents via e-mail?

Do a search on your Kazaa installation for 1040, 8283, tax, IRS, federal, income or anything of that kind and tell me what you find. Now try proposal, account, bank, or any other word that the un-savvy computer user may title a confidential document left in the “My Documents” folder with a peer-to-peer file sharing application installed.

I guarantee you will be amazed at what you find.

A Rule for the Road:

If you allow your children to play on your home office PC, be sure they do not accidentally jeopardize your confidential files by installing free software.

All past articles written by Greg Richburg are available at http://www.netricks.com/news. Please address article suggestions to: info@netricks.com.

Greg Richburg a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and the owner of Netricks, Inc. a network consulting, web design and hosting company located in Fresno, CA. Visit Netricks at http://www.netricks.com.

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