File-sharing sounds like a great idea at first. You can upload or download files to share with anyone using the same file-sharing software. Most of these programs are used to share music, video or software files. File-sharing has a lot of potential; but there are dangers too. Misuse could lead to someone gaining access to files you never meant for them to see, unwanted material being sent to your computer, or worse yet… could land you in trouble with the law.
Experts are starting to see viruses and spyware spread through file-sharing services. In fact, some file-sharing programs could expose your entire hard drive, making all of that information available to every other user with the same file-sharing software. Think about what that could mean! What if your parents store vital information like tax documents or banking statements on the computer? That means all of their private information just became public.
You never know what you may find on the hard drives of random strangers on the
Internet. Many file-sharing programs allow you to access inappropriate audio and video clips—some could be sexually explicit. File sharing is NOT illegal, BUT, the sharing of copyrighted content (music, movies, etc) for which you do not have permission IS illegal.
Even if you don’t get spammed or haven’t been sent any inappropriate material, you are still at risk. Many of the things you find on file-sharing networks are copyrighted. That means if you download or share copyrighted material without the owners permission, you could be in serious legal trouble.
Before you decide to join any file-sharing programs, do your homework. Talk with your parents first before starting, and check out this great article from the Office of Information Technology of the University of Maryland.