If you’re into downloading open license movies, music, games and applications, then there’s a good chance you’re into the enormously popular BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing application.
Just to be clear – I am not a fan of public, peer to peer file sharing – here’s why: Peer to peer file sharing carries with it a high risk that the user will not get what he thinks he will. And, may pick up something nobody wants to pick up.
So is this a serious risk? You bet – take a look at the following from the BitTorrent Beginner’s Guide - How do I know that someone isn’t sending out viruses on BitTorrent?
In short, you don’t. You should treat something downloaded with BitTorrent just like any file downloaded from the internet – that is, if you don’t trust the source of the file, then you should use caution when opening it.
BitTorrent guarantees that the content you download is not altered from when the torrent was originally created, but if the source files used to create the torrent were already infected, this will provide no protection!
What’s a user to do then, who enjoys file sharing through BitTorrent, and wants to reduce the risk of being burned by cybercriminals who lurk on public file sharing networks? BitDefender’s Virus Guard, might provide part of the answer.
BitDefender’s free Virus Guard, which is now part of BitTorrent’s App Studio, is available to BitTorrent’s 80 million users. Virus Guard quickly scans torrents before they’re launched, and flags any potential threats it finds; effectively giving users an opportunity to delete torrents before they can do any harm.
Here’s a screen capture of the BitTorrent application with BitDefender’s Virus Guard installed. Click on the graphic to expand to original size – 1260 x 745.
BitDefender’s Virus Guard Fast Facts:
Scan from within BitTorrent — avoid wasting resources on a full disk scan.
Check all torrent downloads (including ZIP, RAR, and TAR archives) to eliminate potential threats before they occur.
Protect against viruses and other malware using industry-leading technology.
Keep all your torrent downloads safe and clean.
BitDefender provides industry-leading protection based on two proactive threat detection technologies.
Virus definition library updated continuously to protect you from the latest threats.
Download Virus Guard at: BitTorrent’s App Studio (you will have to scroll down the page).
Old advice, but more important than ever:
Trade-offs and risks you should consider if you’re a fan of Peer to Peer file sharing.
Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share. So be sure to setup the file-sharing software very carefully.
If you don’t check the proper settings when you install the software, you could allow access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, such as your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, and other personal and financial documents.
It’s extremely important to be aware of the files that you place in, or download to, your shared folder. Don’t put information in your shared folder that you don’t want to share with others. Your shared folder is the folder that is shared automatically with others on peer to peer file sharing networks.
Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues. Copyright infringement can result in significant monetary damages, fines, and even criminal penalties.
Some statistics suggest as many as 70% of young people between the ages of 9 – 14, regularly download copyrighted digital music. If you are a parent, you bear the ultimate responsibility for this illegal activity.
Adult Content: Again, if you are a parent you may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them. It’s not unusual for other peoples’ files to be mislabeled and you or your children can unintentionally download these files.
Spyware: There’s a good chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. Spyware monitors a user’s browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Frequently the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected and forwarded to these third parties.
I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove. Before you use any file-sharing program, you should buy, or download free software, that can help prevent the downloading or installation of spyware, or help to detect it on your hard drive if it has been installed.
Viruses: Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program.
Generally, your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files. While downloading, you should avoid files with extensions such as .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.
Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk. Be sure to turn off this feature in the programs “preferences” setting.
What’s more, some file-sharing programs automatically run every time you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you should adjust the file-sharing program’s controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically starting.