Saturday, February 5, 2011

P2P file sharing: Know the risks

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is a convenient way to share public-domain music, audio, images, documents, and software programs over the Internet.
Using P2P, you can store files on your computer and go online to search for and share files with others using the same software; programs such as BitTorrent, Morpheus, Kazaa, LimeWire, and iMesh, among many others.
It's a good idea to understand and anticipate the risks of P2P file sharing before you download your first file.
Risk #1: Exposing your computer to unwanted software
Shared files can contain security risks such as virusesspyware, and other unwanted software. A file that appears legitimate could be a virus in disguise. Unwary file sharers can download beneficial software that incorporates undisclosed spyware with it.
You can help prevent these dangers by following these steps:
Risk #2: Breaking copyright laws
Reputable P2P software is legal to use, but if you choose to do so, it's important to understand and differentiate between copyrighted and public domain material and to share responsibly.
When in doubt about a given file, it's best not to share or download it.

Tips for file sharing more safely

  • Monitor family P2P use and don't assume that using an Internet filter will protect your family from accessing or downloading unwanted or illegal material.

    Because most Internet filters cannot block P2P file sharing, it's important to set guidelines and ensure that all family members are educated about illegal file sharing.
  • Treat all downloaded files with suspicion and use updated industry standard antivirus software to scan each new file before you click it. Set your antivirus software to automatically scan your hard disk on a regular basis, or do it manually yourself.
  • Delete any pirated material found on a family computer, digital audio player, CD-ROM disc, or other storage device and consider disabling the P2P software's downloading option or blocking outside access to the program by changing your computer's Internet firewall settings.
  • Learn all you can about your P2P software and be very careful about which files you make available to others. Most P2P shared files are typically stored in a single folder on your computer (often named "Shared Files").
  • Do not store copies of copyrighted files that you have legally purchased, such as songs from a CD or a licensed retail music site in your P2P file-sharing folder.
  • Back up important files on an external storage device or a CD-ROM disc before sharing or downloading files.
  • For more information about P2P file sharing, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation and theRecording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

How to better protect your PC with botnet protection and avoid malware

How to better protect your PC with botnet protection and avoid malware

Cybercriminals work tirelessly to enlist your computer in their network of computers known as abotnet, which they then use to commit crimes. Find out more about botnets, botnet protection, and how you can help protect your PC against these attackers.

What is a botnet?

The term bot is short for robot. Criminals distribute malware (malicious software) that can turn your computer into a bot, also called a zombie. When this occurs, your computer can perform automated tasks over the Internet without your knowledge.
Criminals typically use bots to infect large numbers of computers. These computers form a network, or a botnet.
Botnets can be used to send out spam email messages, spread viruses, attack computers and servers, and commit other kinds of crime and fraud. If your computer becomes part of a botnet, it might slow down and you might be inadvertently helping criminals.

How to tell if your computer is infected with malware

It's not always easy to tell if your computer has been infected with malware. If it is unusually slow, crashes or stops responding frequently, for example, these problems might be signs that your computer has been infected. However, the same problems might also point to hardware or software issues that have nothing to do with malware. Because it's difficult to tell the reasons for your computer's unusual behavior, we suggest that you follow these steps:
  1. Get a more complete list of symptoms.
  2. If, based on the complete list of symptoms, you think your computer has been infected, let Microsoft help you diagnose the problem and solve it.

How to help avoid malware

Cybercriminals use two basic strategies to penetrate your computer's defenses and enlist computers in their botnets:
  • They install malware on a computer by taking advantage of unintended vulnerabilities in its software or by breaking into accounts guarded by weak passwords.
  • They try to trick you into installing their malware.
To help secure your computer against bots, follow the advice below. For specific how-to info, seeHow to boost your malware defense and protect your PC.

Strengthen your computer's defenses

  1. Install antivirus and antispyware programs from a trusted source. Anti-malware programs scan and monitor your computer for known viruses and spyware. When they find something, they warn you and help you take action.
  2. Keep all software up to date. Regularly install updates for all your software and subscribe to automatic updates wherever possible.
  3. Use strong passwords and keep them secret. Use our password checker to determine the strength of your password.
  4. Never turn off your firewall. A firewall puts a protective barrier between your computer and the Internet. Turning it off for even a minute increases the risk that your PC will be infected with malware.
  5. Use flash drives cautiously. Putting your flash drive (sometimes called a thumb drive) in a computer that is infected could corrupt the drive, and ultimately your computer.

Do not be tricked into downloading malware

Attackers can enlist your computer in a botnet by:
  • Delivering malware in downloads that you think are pictures or movies, or through links that you click in email or instant messages (IM), or on a social network.
  • Scaring you into clicking a button or link they supply with fake warnings that your computer has a virus.
Botnet in action
Click on the Image to Enlarge

Where can I get virus-related assistance from Microsoft at no charge?

Where can I get virus-related assistance from Microsoft at no charge? 
If your Microsoft PC has been affected by a virus and you need help, you can get virus-related assistance at no charge from the Microsoft Online Safety Portal.

What are the Microsoft Security products? 
Microsoft offers several security products for both Enterprise and Home users. A summary of all Microsoft Security products is shown in the table below:
Product NameMain customer segmentMalicious softwareSpyware and Potentially unwanted softwareAvailable at no additional chargeMain distribution methods
CustomersBusinessScan and RemoveReal-time ProtectionScan and RemoveReal-time Protection
Microsoft Forefront Server Security  Volume Licensing
Microsoft Forefront Client Security  Volume Licensing
Microsoft Security Essentials Web download
Windows Live OneCare safety scanner   Web
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool Prevalent malware families   Windows Updates/Automatic Updates
Download Center
Windows Defender   Download Center
Windows Vista
Microsoft Forefront Online Security for Exchange    Web purchase
Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway  Volume Licensing