Anyone can use free p2p software and people are free to share with each other whatever they prefer, including viruses. There is no authorities monitoring these sites and you can download until your heart is content but you are doing so at your own risk. The good news is that common media files are safe; they can not execute scripts or code on your computer. The bad news is that basically everything else can be quite harmful.
Proceed with caution. If you plan to engage in this type of activity then the very least you can do for yourself is buy a very good and up to date virus scanner.
Downloading from someone that you do no know on a p2p site is as dangerous as opening up an attachment from someone that you do not know. Make sure that you make this completely clear to your children if they use the computer. Explain to them that it is extremely important that the computer remain as clean as possible and file sharing does create a very high risk. Virus infection has really started to rise in the p2p environment.
Another problem is that many file sharing programs let children have access, which should be restricted, to many pornographic websites. When your child types in a keyword to pull up a song, it is likely that pornographic keywords will pop up and expose your child to many files that they should not be viewing. They also have access to video libraries which again can expose your child to things that they should not be viewing. There are tools available that can add some protection to your file sharing program if your children use it. Remember viruses are plentiful on pornographic websites.
Within the past year or so there have been hundreds of viruses that have showed up that have come from p2p programs such as Limewire, Kazaa, and Morpheus. Unfortunately, the numbers are expected to increase. Almost half of the executable files that are downloaded on Kazaa alone contain malicious code such as viruses and Trojan horses. Some viruses were designed to infect every single file in a computers Kazaa directory. Other code would steal AOL passwords and send spam from that account. Some would also steal personal data from the files for their own personal gain. It is a treasure chest for malware writers as there are usually millions of users logged into programs such as Kazaa at one given time.
Almost all of the viruses that were picked up on p2p programs could have been avoided with a really good virus protection program and the key is that they have to be updated regularly. Even then there still is some risk as sometimes malicious code has not yet been identified because it is so new and some malicious code will also break right through firewalls and anti virus programs. A really good antivirus program is definitely a step in the right direction but it is not a sure all.
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