People who share their files on the Internet may be playing with fire a new study says. The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) report reveals people who store any type of sensitive data on their home computers--particularly computers to which children, teenagers, or college students might have access--confront circumstances similar to those faced by governmental or corporate IT managers.
"I don't think parents would allow their children to download free music or movies if they knew who their kids were sharing files with," said Safwat Fahmy, CEO & president, SafeMedia Corp., Boca Raton, Fl. "Parents should know that free illegal downloading of music and movies (via Peer-2-Peer filesharing) can be dangerous."
The USPTO report "Filesharing Programs and Technological Features to Induce Users to Share" found that "home computers are often used by multiple people and the person who best understands which files are sensitive and where they are stored may not be the person who installs and runs a filesharing program."
The report reveals that at least four of the (P-2-P filesharing) programs analyzed have deployed partial-uninstall features: If users uninstall one of these programs from their computers, the process will leave behind a file that will cause any subsequent installation of any version of the same program to share all folders shared by the "uninstalled" copy of the program. Whenever a computer is used by more than one person, this feature ensures that users cannot know which files and folders these programs will share by default.
Federal prosecutors are now requiring social websites to reveal the emails of registered sex offenders. "If teenagers are filesharing music, who knows how many criminals might be sharing personal information, credit cards, bank passwords and social security numbers with scheme operators who buy them," said Fahmy, who created Clouseau®, a practical and inexpensive technology to stop illegal downloading of copyrighted materials on P-2-P networks. "They're also sharing family photo files with everyone," he noted.
To avoid becoming a victim, Safwat offers this advice when parents allow their children to surf the internet.
1) Visit legitimate websites that have secured seals.
2) Do not offer personal information on any websites.
3) Report any suspicious websites that offer items that seem too good to be true.
"The damage being caused by P-2-P networks goes unnoticed, because its free, and most often it is an illegal transfer of copyright protected files," explained Fahmy. The USPTO report "Technological Features to Induce Users to Share," published in November, 2006 disclosed five user-dangerous features hidden or disguised in P2P programs. The programs included everything from allowing hackers to exploit computer networks to stealing sensitive data to infecting computers or networks with malicious code.
"Unknowing Internet users are duped into breaking the law and jeopardizing their standing and their futures as law-abiding citizens," explained Fahmy.
Meantime, social website MySpace is being pressured by the attorney general of eight states to hand over information on sex offenders using the site by May 29, although the company is declining to do so. It claims both federal and state laws prohibit the release of such information.
Those states requesting the release of data were: Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and New Hampshire.
Congress is also sending an ultimatum and survey to universities to respond by the end of the month to a laundry list of questions of Internet piracy on campus (using taxpayer facilities).
The strong letters were sent to the presidents of 19 Universities, including University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University, Columbia University, Duke University, Howard University and Michigan State University to name a few.
And nearly two dozen California Universities received an order to enforce copyright infringement laws from state Chancellor Charles B. Reed.
"Even when parents know that their children are using popular sites like LimeWire, eMule, uTorrent and dozens of others, most of them are not techies enough to understand these illegal P-2-P networks features," explained Fahmy. "The problem is, on the surface they appear to be so easy to use; parents believe that they are safe."
And finally, the USPTO study, which reviewed half dozen programs, found that, "The damage being caused by P2P goes well beyond the knowing, illegal transfer of copyright protected files and a disregard for intellectual property. As you would expect, when files often come from anonymous and uncertified sources, the risk of that file containing a virus greatly increases. Research by the security company TruSecure found that 45 percent of popular downloaded files concealed malicious code."
For more about SafeMedia Corp.'s Technology and the Clouseau® visit: www.SafeMedia.com. Visit their Blog at: http://SafeMediaCorp.Blogspot.com.