Technology trends blog posts

The dangers of peer-to-peer-file sharing

Published April 25, 2014

Graphic illustrating peer to peer connections

Peer-to-Peer or P2P is a method of sharing of files between two or more computers on the Internet. Users share files via P2P by using peer-to-peer applications such as Gnutella, KaZaA, iMesh, LimeWire, Morpheus, SwapNut, WinMX, AudioGalaxy, Blubster, eDonkey, BearShare etc., and list goes on and on.

How P2P Works

The P2P application takes a piece of allotted data or sometimes whole directories from your hard drive and allows other users to freely download this content, and vice versa. P2P programs are most often used to share music and videos over the Internet. Although sharing, by passing around a CD or DVD is not illegal; sharing by creating multiple copies of a copyrighted work IS illegal. Some P2P programs will share everything on your computer with anyone by default. Much of the P2P activity is automatic and its use is unmonitored. Computers running this software will be busy exchanging files whenever the machine is turned on. Using P2P software can be, and often is very dangerous.

Consequences of Copyright Infringement

Downloading and sharing files which contain copyrighted material is against the law. The responsibility to restrict sharing and monitor the legality of files on your network lies solely with you and/or your employer (if it takes place at work using company equipment).

This is what can happen:

  • Legal consequences. Copyright holders may offer a legal settlement option or pursue legal action against you.
  • Financial implications. If a copyright holder chooses to pursue legal action, the minimum damage for sharing copyrighted material is $750 per file (in addition to legal and court fees). According to several different news sources, individuals who settled their cases outside of court were forced to pay substantial amounts. There is no way to predict how much you may be required to pay in settlement costs if illegal files are found to be on a machine or being transferred to/from an IP address that you own.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it a crime to create software that helps distribute copyrighted materials. It also limits an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) liability if the ISP notifies the alleged infringer and suspends access to illegal copies of copyrighted materials.

There Are Risks Associated With Using P2P Programs

Some of the P2P programs themselves contain “spyware” that allows the author of the program, and other network users, to see what you’re doing, where you’re going on the Internet, and even use your computer’s resources without your knowledge to carry our various activities –the most popular use at this time is to harvest computer power to mine Bitcoins. Another annoyance with this type of software is that once installed, these applications can be almost impossible to remove. In some cases a user has to know which files to remove and which registry entries to edit to completely get rid of the application. Content downloaded via P2P applications can be potentially laced with malware, be legally protected copyright data or be personal and/or private information. Tests carried out by various researchers have revealed that common P2P searches often contain very sensitive, private data including: patent applications, medical information, financial and other personal and business-related information.

Since the computers running the P2P programs are usually connected to a network, they can be used to spread malware. Another risk is that various types of illegal files can be downloaded and re-shared over P2P networks by mistake. Users can even have files placed on their machines without knowing by others who want to share illegal material without getting caught. This tactic allows nefarious users “spoof” their personal network and IP address information. Short explanation: they use YOUR computer network to distribute and share THEIR illegal material so, it’s traced back to YOU and not THEM. So, in the end, YOU will be the one getting the knock on the door from law enforcement.

“Stealing is Stealing and Wrong is Wrong”. There’s no need to use P2P software to enjoy music and movies. There are multiple free and LEGAL options available to watch movies and listen to music. While most of these free services are ad-supported, many also offer very low cost subscription options that, in my personal opinion, are worth every penny and are ad-free!

Legal Alternatives for Downloading

Some of the sites listed here, provide some or all content at no charge. They are funded by advertising or represent artists who want their material distributed for free. This is not an exhaustive list but, it’s a good place to start.

TV shows: Watch TV shows online legally and free->> Hulu TV

Music Listen to music online legally and free->> Pandora (personal favorite), , I Heart Radio, Xbox Music and Spotify.

Remember that it’s important to delete any files on any machines which may have been obtained over a P2P network and to also remove the P2P software. Use caution while surfing the internet and use some of the legal alternatives mentioned above for consuming media. If you suspect users on your business network of using P2P software, please don’t hesitate to contact New River Computing for support.

As always, STAY SAFE!

Why did Microsoft make the decision to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service?

Published July 24, 2013

Illustration of a tombstone with Microsoft TechNet on it.

On July 1, 2013, Microsoft announced the end of the 15 year program, TechNet Subscriptions. Microsoft’s TechNet Subscription Program is a paid program which allows partners to download full copies of most software titles to be used for lab or testing purposes. In an email announcement to partners, Microsoft said “In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources. As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013″. Many have tried to guess the real reasons behind Microsoft’s decision to end the program because the substitutes Microsoft left in place, though free offerings, are just not adequate.

IT pros are now going to have to struggle with time-limited versions and will be more likely to lose interest when reviewing and testing newer products because, like me, most of us never know how busy we’re going to be. To have to go through the bother of tracking when a particular piece of software was installed or to fire up a program only to get an error that it expired, may not make it worth it.

So, why did Microsoft make this decision? Many believe that Microsoft is shutting down TechNet subscriptions to force IT professionals and companies towards “cloud based” solutions like Office 365, Hosted Exchange and Windows Azure, where profits are based on subscription models rather than one-time purchases.

I know this is crummy news, but their might me a glimmer of hope. Thomas Lee and Jonathan Medd pointed out that Microsoft tried closing the MVP program once. The announcement caused uproar leading to MVPs organizing. They fought closing the program by writing Microsoft directly. Inboxes of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and vice presidents soon flooded as supporters expressed the value of the MVP program. Three days later, Microsoft recanted and reinstated the MVP program. The event is chronicled here.

The similarities between the MVP and TechNet cancellations are very similar. Despite what skeptics say, it just might be possible to convince Microsoft to keep TechNet open. Microsoft is always listening, believe it or not (Just look what happened with the Xbox One). Microsoft is watching online, and collecting data for evidence that customers are unhappy. Many, many people have taken to blogs and articles to voice their anger. A quick Google or Bing search for “TechNet subscription” will give confirmation. Microsoft just HAS to notice all of this backlash.

If you feel compelled to act, please write Microsoft. Start with Steve Ballmer. His email address should be Outline in your own words reasons for keeping TechNet open and its importance to you. Also, a public petition, entitled, “Continue TechNet or Create an Affordable Alternative to MSDN”, is attempting to gather enough signatures to get attention from Microsoft so they will consider reinstating TechNet subscriptions, or at least, provide an affordable alternative.

The petition has over 6,500 signed supporters from all over the globe. As the word continues to spread throughout the IT community, I expect the number of signatures to keep growing, especially when subscriptions start to run out. If this news is reaching you for the first time, I highly suggest showing your support by signing the petition.

You can sign the petition at Continue TechNet Or Create An Affordable Alternative To MSDN.

How is AOL Still Earning Most of its Money from “AOL Connect” Subscribers?

Published April 10, 2013

A Dawson's Creek meme comparing 2013 to 1996

I remember when I received my first “internet capable” computer; it was a long time ago on my birthday in July. If you know anything about July in the southeast, you know it’s typically hot, humid and sticky. This weather is far too miserable to spend any real time outside. And until receiving my first computer, there was no reason to hide inside during the summer, other than to catch a brief reprieve from the heat and bask in AC. But that all changed the day the Internets came to my house. In fact, not only did the Internet fairy come to my house, it came to my own ROOM! I felt like Steve Jobs, who was once quoted as saying, “I'm very excited about having the Internet in my den.” And I agree: One of coolest things ever!

I had a great time learning how to navigate the new and endless amount of information at my fingertips. Thanks to AOL I had means of connecting to the web back then. I remember how awesome it was to get email and hear “You’ve Got Mail!” out of my little desktop speakers. I also remember how insanely slow the connection was and the amount of time it took to download ANYTHING!!! The end of the world didn’t seem nearly as scary as it did when a landline telephone call would boot me offline and stifle all of my patiently awaited downloads-in-progress. At 56k max download speeds, it took a long time to download anything larger than a text document. The bigger the file, the longer it took, and the greater the chances that someone would call and muddle it all up!

Ah, those were the good ol’ days: when the Internet was fresh and new and MTV still played music videos. But that was a long time ago. With blazing fast Internet connection speeds available now to most people in major parts of the world, dial-up Internet and AOL seems like a thing of the distant past. But wait…could it be…is AOL still around? Are there STILL people out there that readily pay AOL a regular subscription fee to connect to the Internet? Well contrary to popular opinion it’s true. Not only is it true, is seems that AOL still has some meat left on its bone in the “AOL Connect” market. Unfortunately, in this case, any meat left on the bone is too much.

Recently, AOL posted its fourth quarter financial results and it was a shock to find out that they are still earning most of their money from subscribers who are still, for whatever reason, actually paying to connect to the Internet using AOL. Worse, some people pay for AOL services while paying someone else for Internet. Do people not realize that they can just get an Internet connection bundled with their cable or phone service provider? Or do they simply love the outdated, glitch and slow AOL browser/toolbar combo, plastered with ads and worthless celebrity gossip headlines? Apparently some people purposefully choose AOL, or they don’t realize contemporary avenues for more sophisticated accessibility.

Amazingly, according to the financial news site Business Insider, AOL Connect subscribers are still one of the biggest reasons AOL is staying profitable. They reported that in the fourth quarter, the company earned $176.7 million from its “Membership Group,” which is more than company’s overall $133.1 million profit. I find this shameful. AOL makes a pretty underhanded and dishonest move by misleading their customers into thinking that the company holds the magical key to the Internet. In no small way, AOL is blatantly lying to customers and stealing their money.

There are longtime AOL customers that I’ve spoken with over the past few years that still think that AOL exclusively allows online access, web browsing and email. I thought that this population was very small, with only a few pockets of people scattered throughout the U.S. But I was wrong – there are many more AOL subscribers out there than I initially thought. Fortunately the tides are slowly turning. People are becoming more technologically savvy each day by learning that Internet service isn’t nearly as complex and fixed by primary providers. Furthermore, the masses are learning that AOL isn’t the only email service that exists and that there are much better email services nowadays to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong; most of us recognize that AOL was useful (and fantastic!) in its heyday. But those days are gone for the better. Lucky other areas of the AOL corporation seems to be slowly growing since those “old school” subscribers aren’t going to stick around and line their stockholders’ pockets forever. If they don’t get it together and start focusing on new and honest ways of generating revenue, then the useful existence of AOL as a whole could be a thing of the past entirely…just like MTV.


Published September 10, 2012

A funny video about one of the most annoying things ever…SPAM!!!

How DNS works

Published June 11, 2012

With all the DNS Changer hubbub going on recently, I thought some of you might want to know what DNS is and how it works. I recently stumbled across a great article from the folks over at GFI Vipre that explains just that.

The original post can be found at Diving into the Domain Name System.

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