Secure the personal information stored on your computer
Set up the file-sharing software very carefully.
If you don't check the proper settings when you install the software, you could open access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, like your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, or other personal documents.
Be aware of spyware.
Some file-sharing programs install other software known as spyware. Spyware monitors a user's browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Sometimes the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected and disseminated. Spyware can be difficult to detect and remove. Before you use any file-sharing program, get an anti-spyware program from a vendor you know and trust. Set it to scan on a regular basis -- at least once a week -- and every time you start your computer, if possible. And, delete any software programs the anti-spyware program detects that you don't want on your computer.
Close your connection.
In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and could increase your security risk. If you have a high-speed or "broadband" connection to the Internet, you stay connected to the Internet unless you turn off the computer or disconnect your Internet service. These "always on" connections may allow others to copy your shared files at any time. What's more, some file-sharing programs automatically open every time you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you may want to adjust the file-sharing program's controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically opening.
Use an effective anti-virus program and update it regularly.
Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program. Not all anti-virus programs block files downloaded through file-sharing, so check your program's capabilities and settings. In addition, avoid downloading files with extensions like .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.
The UW Internet Connectivity Kit (UWICK) is a CD that contains software that gives University of Washington students, faculty, and staff access to networked communication, information services and up-to-date virus protection software. With the UWICK, using your home computer and a modem or a campus computer with a direct network connection, you can do the following and more:
Communicate with others using email
Search the World Wide Web
Protect your computer from viruses
Disabling Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Programs
Computer Vet program is a free, help-desk service offered to UW students, faculty and staff to assist with computing problems including operating system updates, anti-virus installation and update, and infected computers blocked from UW network access.
The following is a list of some of the more popular P2P file-sharing software programs. Should you choose to use one, proceed with extreme caution! Often, P2P programs install spyware on your computer. This spyware may keep your P2P connection(s) active even though you think you have uninstalled or disabled P2P file sharing. The only sure way to be sure you have stopped P2P file sharing is to completely uninstall all P2P software.
Additionally, there's something else you may not realize. For instance, KaZaA software if installed on your hard drive has a default setting that allows your computer to be commandeered by the KaZaA system and used as what they call a 'SuperNode' without your knowing it. A SuperNode is a computer that indexes other people's files and otherwise can be used by the network - which means that KaZaA can drain away your computing power and your bandwidth without any warning whenever it pleases. Many Gnutella programs have a similar function they call "Ultra-Peers."