Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against the dangers of peer-to-peer networks.
The Internet—and the new technologies that are flourishing in this environment—are important resources both at work and at home. They shrink the world and allow us to communicate in ways that just 10 or 20 years ago would have been impossible.
But higher reward often brings higher risk, and the use of peer-to-peer networks is no exception. These networks allow users to link their computers with other computers around the world with the intent of sharing files back and forth. Typically, users just install free software, and that allows them to find and download files off some other user’s hard drive. There are three big concerns with peer to peer networks.
First—copyright infringement. Just because you can find and download the latest movie or music does not mean it is legal to do so. It is still a federal crime to distribute copyrighted material—including software and games—without authorization.
Second—child exploitation. The receipt or distribution of child pornography over the Internet is devastating to the victims of sexual assault and can bring very long prison sentences for users. Also, because there is no age restriction for use of peer-to-peer services, pornography of all kinds of easily available to anyone of any age.
Not concerned that your kid is breaking the law by downloading music? Maybe you should consider everything else that he may be exposed to. In fact, predators often mislabel files—perhaps the hottest new game title, for instance—with the intent of targeting and luring kids for abuse.
Third—computer hacking. Bad guys regularly use peer-to-peer networks to gain access to unsuspecting users’ computers so that they can load malware on the system. Hackers are even writing worms to specifically target peer-to-peer connected systems.
If you know of illegal activity happening on a peer-to-peer network, report your suspicions to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.