Tuesday, March 29, 2005

File Sharing - Still Not a Good Idea...

I've never been a big fan of peer-to-peer file-sharing applications. I work on a lot of computers and spent a great deal of time clearing them of adware, spyware, browser hijackers, and viruses all the result of P2P file sharing applications.

Instapundit links to a Michelle Malkin piece on some pretty heinous side effects of a P2P file sharing application. She even has instructions for installing a common P2P application and downloading personal tax information from random users. A business partner of mine also told me he has seen files shared from applicaitons like Outlook, Money, and Quickbooks as well. Personally, I would never run a P2P sharing application on my computer. Even ignoring the inherent security risk, such applications usually come with their own payload of spyware or a browser hijacker. It also goes without saying that just about any software you download through P2P networks is likely to come with a virus or some other malicious application.

Constant pop-ups, Internet Explorer unexpectedly losing focus, and Internet Explorer failing to start or reporting errors when launched are all indications you may have adware or a browser hijacker. In any event, I highly recommend Lavasoft's Ad-Aware to rid your system of these hidden applets. The personal edition is free for use on a personal computer. I also recommend Microsoft's Anti-Spyware Beta software. It is free for all users, but I do not recommend it for low-end systems or the most computer-illiterate users (you know who you are).

Finally, the Firefox browser is the first FREE browser that offers a real alternative to Internet Explorer in almost ten years. However, beware the hype of Firefox as a panacea for all Internet security threats to browsers. It does not support Active-X technology, which reduces its exposure to attack, but it is still susceptible to Java, Flash, and user selected security threats, just like Internet Explorer. Nevertheless, I highly recommend Firefox, especially for the novice user who has better things to do than worry about browser security.

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