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Peer-to-Peer FAQ

 There are a large number of P2P (peer to peer) services available on the Internet and many of us use one on a daily basis, perhaps without even realizing it. Most peer-to-per services operate on a kind of “shared resources” concept that turns your local computer into both a client and server. Peer-to-peer is an important factor in file sharing, an activity we have discussed in a previous tip of the week. In this IT Security Tip, we will address some of the frequently asked questions regarding file sharing and peer-to-peer services.

How can file sharing turn my computer into a server?  Some software lets users share libraries of music/audio and video files with anyone using that same application i.e. other users can search for and upload files from your computer, making your computer a ‘server’ to their machine.  To have your computer act as a server is potentially in violation of our university’s acceptable use policy and definitely puts your computer at risk. To read our AUP please go to this site: http://www.westga.edu/policy/index_3706.php

How can downloading music/audio and video from the Internet be a problem?  Sometimes these applications take a large amount of bandwidth, making huge demands on UWG’s network, hereby slowing down response times for everybody on campus. Doing this is also in violation of our AUP (see above). Also most music/audio and video files may are protected under U.S. copyright law. The copying and distributing of such files can be viewed as piracy and by doing this – even if you are not aware of doing it - you are opening yourself up to possible prosecution under the law. UWG’s AUP prohibits participation such illegal activities and explicitly mentions the distribution of copyright materials.    How do I know if the application I'm using will cause problems?  There are things you can do to minimize the risk:

Is there a way to prevent others from uploading my files?  Yes, in most cases it can be prevented. Some applications have default settings that automatically allow file uploading from a workstation. Change the defaults to prevent your machine from serving as the illegal distributor of copyrighted materials. Know that when your workstation is serving as such you may be in violation or you’re helping others to violate copyright law even if it is happening without your knowledge. To correctly set your defaults:

Which other risks related to file sharing should be aware of?  Many of the file-sharing networks are infested with virus and worm infected files.  Downloading/opening such a file puts you at risk for infection of your own computer. Because of the peer-to-peer action of the service that you use, this puts others on the network at risk as well e.g. if you’re in a dorm. It will risk your computer jack being turned off by ITS until your computer has been completely cleaned and the problem is taken care of.  As a precaution, be sure to run a virus scan on any file downloaded from a sharing network before you open it.