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Cyber Safety Glossary


Also Known As:
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File-Sharing.

File-sharing is one of the oldest and most used features of the Internet. It traditionally requires a Web site on which files can be uploaded, stored, and downloaded. For example, there are a growing number of Web sites to which relatives upload and download family photos. This is one of the Internet’s most popular file-sharing activities.

Another common form of file-sharing is File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Web sites. These sites allow an organization’s employees, suppliers, and customers to upload, download, and share useful documents, presentations and images.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing does not follow the traditional model of uploading and downloading files from a Web site. Instead, files are shared directly from personal computer to personal computer with no intermediate server — thus, peer to peer.

Napster P2P software popularized peer-to-peer digital music file-sharing. The original Napster was shut down for copyright infringement. Today, the Napster name has reemerged as a legal and legitimate subscription-based music service and is no longer engaged in P2P music file-sharing. Copyright infringement through P2P file sharing, however, remains a major issue for the desktop software, music, movie, and games industries.

P2P risks:
There are a number of risks associated with P2P file-sharing. P2P client software can easily infect personal computers with viruses and spyware, creating a host of problems for the computer’s owner such as the theft of financial information. Pornography, inflammatory material, and malware can be disguised and then shared through P2P networks unknowingly. Shared copyrighted material like copies of software, music, or movies is illegal and possession of these files has the potential to expose the computer owner to prosecution and fines.

What Should I Do:
Talk with children and teenagers about the risks of illegal P2P file-sharing in terms of viruses, spyware, being hacked, unlawful sharing of copyrighted material, pornography and racist material. Steer family members away from illegal sites and instead guide them toward reputable, fee-based services. If the family does decide to use P2P software, carefully monitor and limit its use. Do not allow copyrighted material to be shared. Be warned that pornography or viruses could be masked as other files. Have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software protecting all of the family’s computers.