What are File-Sharing Threats?
File-sharing refers to sharing or providing access to computer files over a network. File types that can be shared may include documents, audio files, video files, graphics, computer programs, e-books, or presentations. File-sharing allows people to use the same files with the purpose of reading, viewing, listening, modifying, copying, and/or printing. A typical file-sharing procedure involves one user granting access to files and content to another user over the internet via cloud file-sharing or file transfer. File-sharing methods include:
FTP. File transfer protocol programs (FTP) are the most common file transfer systems. FTP is used to access or edit files among an established set of users with a password. Many FTP sites offer public file-sharing or allow users to view or download content with a public password. FTP files are often large files, legacy files, and/or unusual file types.
P2P. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are file-sharing methods that transfer files between two individual devices (one-to-one) instead of downloading or uploading from one server to several devices (one-to-many). P2P usually involves many people sharing files, and it is good for sharing files with a small group of people or for files that are publicly unavailable.
Online file-sharing services. Web services such as Dropbox allow users to store or share files. Online or cloud file-sharing is appropriate for sharing files quickly and creating backups.
File-sharing security concerns include:
Viruses and malware. Downloading through P2P can be risky as P2P networks can carry viruses and malware such as spyware, Trojan horses, and worms that are bundled with content. This is more likely to happen when downloading illegal content.
Compromising personal information. File-sharing gives access to files on your computer to other people. While you may intend to only share a specific file, it is possible to inadvertently allow broader access to your device, or to share the entire content of the computer. Some file-sharing interfaces expose your computer directories without your knowledge, which may allow cyberattackers to view information that you did not intend to share without you even knowing that you shared it.
Unknown users. You may think that you are file-sharing with known users, but if any of those users have been compromised you may be file-sharing with cyberattackers.
Open ports. Firewalls encrypt communications going to and from your computer, and some file-sharing applications may request open ports to bypass your firewall. Bypassing firewalls open you up to risks such as distributed denial-of-service attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and more.
File-sharing safety tips include:
- Use legal file-sharing services
- Avoid sending sensitive or confidential information
- Avoid sharing or downloading illegal or pirated content
- Only download software from manufacturers or authorized retailer websites
- Review available security options for free users such as encryption and password protection
- Use a firewall
- Use high-quality antivirus solutions