Protecting your Information Online

The Today Show recently had a segment on Limewire and the possible bad effects of the file sharing software (check out this via wikipedia) (and others).

One of the key things many people do not think about when using a file-sharing solution, the software is designed to not only obtain (download) files, but to upload files as well (a give and take model – minimize “leeching”).

A few years ago I worked at a College in NC. One morning I noticed a HUGE amount of traffic leaving the campus. I tracked it back to ONE PC. In a couple of hours hundreds of gigabytes had been downloaded from his computer. I called and suggested he quit the program and check the sharing settings. Within an hour of the call, he responded, shut down the program, and traffic returned to “normal”. He just did not know he was sharing his data OUT (not only downloading files IN).

Many of the software programs run through a setup when installed that ask what you want to share with the internet – many users do not pay much attention to these questions and just click “ok” – exposing their documents, music or photo/movie folders to the world.

The segment from the Today show describes how a family’s tax returns (social security numbers, address, children’s information) was all fair game! College applications – online. There was also a story today (03-02-09 via cnet) about the blueprints for the President’s helicopter (Marine One) being found in Iran and believed accessed via a contractor’s laptop and a file sharing software.

The other effect to consider is many files shared on Limewire or the like are illegal (music/movies top, but not only reasons for the software – there are legitimate uses). Many times the downloads take at least an hour – that is one hour that you are sharing your data with the world… Once it hits one PC there is no getting it back…

Do you have a “family PC” that your kids use along with the parents for taxes, banking and other “sensitive” information – check for file-sharing tools, limit (or eliminate) their use and offer the great (though non-free) alternatives like iTunes, Netflix or Hulu.

Educate yourself and protect yourself…

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