The advent of the Internet has unleashed the potential for massive transfers of information with the click of a button. One of the most popular methods for such exchange is the peer-to-peer (P2P) computer network. This format allows a network of computers to share information without a central server. Each computer can act as both a client and a server for the other PCs, or nodes, in the network. BitTorrent, a P2P file sharing protocol, has long been a leader in this field. All forms of digital content can be shared – audio, video, data. But in a world of aggressive hackers and repressive governments, users need to make sure they aren’t sharing more information than they bargained for.
Security Risks on P2P
Peer-to-peer networks pose security risks for two reasons: They are often used for illegal file sharing and are thus the target of authorities, and their decentralized nature renders them vulnerable to hacking. Indeed, lawsuits have been carried out for acts as innocuous as simply accessing a P2P network, and hackers have no trouble uncovering your information just like the authorities would. Why do P2Ps leave users so exposed? Because when you download or share information on a peer-to-peer network, you are connecting to a large group of other netizens. Although this may be done simply to share files, it means that they can see your IP address – your unique digital signature on the web. But how can netizens conceal this identifying string of numbers – the key to a safe, secure P2P experience?
Anonymity via VPNs
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts and masks your IP address. Your internet traffic is funneled through another server. This means that when a person tries to log your IP address to identify you, they will come up with a digital signature from a server that cannot be traced back to you rather than the one that would lead them straight to your house.
This leads to an obvious follow-up question: Wouldn’t the VPN provider store your real IP address and thus – willingly or unwillingly – potentially leave it vulnerable? Technically, yes. But some VPNs don’t store logs of user IP data and the top providers such as Strong VPN offer excellent security measures (see our review page). As with any other purchase, you need to research the most appropriate price and service for you. The VPN Reviewer is designed to help make that choice easy.
In addition to installing a VPN, the following tactics can help ensure your P2P activities are safe:
1. Install anti-virus software and make sure it is up-to-date so that new downloads will be automatically checked for malware
2. Utilize a firewall to manage the traffic from and to your device
3. Research your P2P protocol to make sure that it is safe and trustworthy
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