Is P2P Safe?
Searching for the best way to transfer files, usually, music and videos, between two devices may lead you to some P2P file-sharing apps. They can be very useful and can provide fast transfers, but also bring some risks as well.
P2P file sharing is safe if you are downloading from a legitimate source. However, if you are downloading files of suspicious origin and from untrusted sources, then you are putting yourself at a risk to download a virus or download pirated files, which will lead to legal consequences.
Peer-to-peer file sharing is usually not regulated and controlled, which is why it is possible that you get into trouble. There are several risks connected to using P2P apps, which are all described in this article, so you can be fully aware of what you are getting into.
What Is P2P?
P2P or Peer-to-Peer is a form of online file sharing between two devices, usually computers, by using third-party apps like Morpheus, LimeWire, iMash, SwapNut, Blubster, etc. The list is really endless since the competition is very high and lots of these apps can be found.
P2P file sharing is used for music sharing, rather than documents or pictures, but it is not limited to the type of file that can be sent via the P2P app.
The way it works is that the P2P app will take a piece of data from your hard drive and make it available online for download, so the other computer can download it on theirs hard drive. This process also works vice versa.
The issue with P2P apps is that they are not monitored and regulated, meaning that sometimes the app can make the whole directory available online for download, not only the selected file.
The even bigger issue can happen if the app allows all the files from your hard drive to be downloaded online, without your knowledge and consent. Because of this, they are not considered to be safe for use.
P2P apps are mostly used for sharing music or videos, and here you can fall into a trap to be accused of copyright infringement. The thing is that it is not illegal to share one specific music file between you and your friend, but it is illegal to make copies and distribute them online.
Because the P2P app is automatic and not monitored, you can easily be in the center of copyright infringement cases without any intention in the first place. Automation means that the app is working and exchanging files in the background whenever your computer device is turned on and connected to the internet.
Risks of P2P File Sharing
P2P apps are not being controlled, so they can pose a great risk and can put the information from your computer in jeopardy. If you don’t pay attention, the data can easily be compromised. If you are using the computer for handling sensitive data, it is better not to install any P2P file-sharing apps.
The biggest risk you can get with the P2P sharing apps is that you cannot determine and validate the source of the file. This means that there is no way to find out if the file is coming from a legitimate source that has no intentions of harming you in any way.
Sometimes the downloaded file may be of a suspicious origin and may contain a virus, malicious code, trojan horse, or another malicious item, whose main purpose is to compromise the data on your device.
Beware because the files may look legit, but in fact, they contain a very well hidden virus which will be activated once you open the file. Sometimes it is not obvious straight away that your computer was infected with the virus.
P2P file-sharing apps can also have unlimited access to your personal data or to all the data that can be found on your hard drive. Because of this, the risk of Identity theft can be really high, if an unauthorized person accesses this data.
Sometimes you have to grant permission for the P2P apps to be able to read certain data on your computer, but there is no way to find out if this permission is being given to a legitimate organization or a scammer.
P2P apps are also full of “holes” in their firewall which can be easily used by hackers to attach your computer and steal or compromise the data on the hard disk. You may not be the target of attack if you are just a regular person, but if people know that you handle confidential information, they may look for weak points to access the things you know.
These apps are also using a significant amount of data, so they can clog the internet and reduce its speed, especially if you are using them in a home environment. If you notice any connectivity or speed issues while you are using the file-sharing app, then you know who the culprit is.
Another risk P2P apps are bringing is the one already mentioned – regarding copyrighted material, pirated software, and/or pornography. If you are using a company-provided computer, or you are sharing these files via a company network, both you and your company may face legal consequences.
Should You Use P2P Apps?
When the internet started expanding, P2P apps experienced rapid growth. Before the use of Youtube, email, and the invention of the USB memory sticks, P2P apps were very convenient for sending or receiving favorite music, for example.
Nowadays, when you look at all pros and cons of P2P apps, you will quickly conclude that there are more risks bounded to the usage of these apps than there are pros. This is why it is not recommended to use P2P apps if you are not very familiar with them.
However, bear in mind that if you are downloading from a legitimate and trustworthy source, the P2P file-sharing apps can be a really good and fast solution. Under no other circumstances should you use these apps, unless you are willing to put yourself at risk.