Online file sharing networks command a lot of press, featuring high-profile court battles and constant celebrity protest. But how much do you really know about the hazards behind the headlines, which can include identity theft?
These networks aren’t necessarily illegal. In fact, there are plenty of recognized networks used in academic and professional settings around the world. One of the problems, however, is that networks sometimes get flagged for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material like music and movies.
Another problem is that some file sharing outfits operate in a shadowy part of the Internet landscape. This setting can attract identity thieves and other kinds of wrongdoers.
The dark side of online file sharing
First of all, you may be exposing your computer so that anyone on the network – including identity thieves – can see sensitive personal information stored on your hard drive. Authorities have found all kinds of potentially compromising data obtained through illegal networks, such as tax returns, credit reports and loan applications.
Also, hackers have been known to use online file sharing as a method of transmitting viruses, spyware, malware and other types of destructive code.
Alternatives to illegal file sharing
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy songs, movies and books without getting anywhere near a criminal enterprise.
Most of the big production networks now have digital outlets that customers can use to watch shows and movies for a monthly fee. They often use secure systems that reduce the risk of data breaches.
Additionally, there is a surprising amount of free and legal options for streaming music and videos. To use them, you’ll generally have to view a couple of ads or take a survey – but that situation is still highly preferable to putting yourself at risk for identity theft.