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GCN : March 2013
[BrieFing] 12 GCN MARCH 2013 • GCN.COM NEWS ANALYSIS People love or hate peer-to-peer net- working for many of the same reasons: If of oads bandwidth demands from content providers to end users; it can provide a convenient way to copy and share copyrighted material, with or without permission; and it effectively turns your computer into someone else's server. These factors can cut two ways, so the House of Representatives opened a can of worms when it recently banned use of the Spotify P2P music service. The decision apparently is part of a broad ban on P2P technol- ogy within the chamber, but the Chief Administrative Of ce, which oversees the House's IT services, isn't saying whether there are speci c security concerns with Spotify. The Recording Industry Associa- tion of America, long in the forefront of ghting unauthorized le-sharing, quickly sent a letter to Chief Adminis- trative Of cer Daniel J. Strodel pointing out that "Spotify is a licensed, secure online music streaming service." Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said in a statement that "I have yet to see any evidence from the CAO that using this music service presents a credible security risk." Peer-to-peer networking in itself is not an inherent risk, Castro said in an interview, saying that there is risk in any application or network connection. Spotify does properly license its mu- sic and does appear to be reputable. But there is an additional layer of un- certainty and risk that comes with P2P networking that merits caution. The US-CERT warns that "P2P applications introduce security risks that may put your information or your computer in jeopardy," and advises that "the best way to eliminate these risks is to avoid using P2P applications." But peer-to-peer networking has be- come a fact of life that now is dif cult to avoid. In fact, you might be using it without knowing it. CNN generated some heat in 2009 when it used the P2P application Octoshape Grid Deliv- ery to deliver online video coverage of President Obama's rst inauguration. The network describes Octoshape as a technology "to deliver higher quality video." But a closer look shows that it is a P2P application that can take video from any user and deliver it to any other user. That upset some people. Peer-to-peer has come a long way since the days of rogue services such as Napster, because its users shared music without concern for copyright. There also were serious security concerns. A study by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Of ce in 2006 found that ve popular P2P applications not only allowed sharing of les that users had downloaded via the apps, but also allowed users to browse throughout anything on another user's drive and download any le. One would hope that modern le- sharing schemes operating with the blessing of RIAA do not have such bla- tantly malicious components. Spotify's terms of agreement prohibit "using the Spotify service to import or copy any local les you do not have the legal right to import or copy in this way," as well as using it for spamming, phishing or distributing malware. Most assessments of peer-to-peer applications, from US-CERT to the SANS Institute, conclude that turning your computer into someone else's server entails risk.• Security, legal issues prompt legislators' ban on Spotify P2P BY WILLIAM JACKSON The US-CERT cites five ways peer-to- peer file-sharing opens users to risks: Installation of malicious code When using P2P applications, it is dif- ficult to verify the files are trustworthy. Exposure of sensitive information Unauthorized people might be able to access your personal information. Susceptibility to attack Some P2P apps request users to open ports on their firewalls to transmit files. Denial of service File downloading might limit the availability of programs on your computer or access to the Internet. Prosecution Files shared may include pirated, copyrighted or otherwise illegal materials, leaving you open to legal actions. 1 2 5 POTENTIAL RISKS OF FILE-SHARING TECHNOLOGY 3 4 5