For most people who have just gotten into the smart lifestyle, you may not be as familiar as those who have been into torrenting or those we call digital natives, when you hear the term peer-to-peer file sharing or “P2P file sharing”. In this brief post, we share some of the things that you need to know about P2P File Sharing and its importance in the internet of things (IOT).
Before going into the technical side of things, first let’s see how P2P file sharing works in its simplest form:
One of the many reasons why we go on the internet is because we want to get (or download) some files that we need and we typically follow these steps:
- Type a keyword or the name of the file you need on Google.
- Go through a list of websites which offer the file for download.
- Visit the website and pay (if required) to get the file that you want to download.
To give us a clearer picture of what just happened in those three simple steps and without getting into the technicalities of things, you asked Google to help you look for a file on the internet. Google does this for you by running a search on all websites that gives a match to your keyword and compiles all these websites into a list. All websites are hosted on servers, so just by entering a keyword onto a search engine (i.e. Google), you send out information request (i.e. keyword search) to servers. And this process is basically known as the Client/Server model.
The client/server model, just to make a point, is the model by which (our beloved) internet is built on. P2P File Sharing is an entirely different ballgame.
What are the Components of P2P File Sharing?
The first major difference between the Client/Server model and P2P File Sharing is what you use to search with. In the above example, you’re using sources (i.e. websites) derived from the web, in every step of the way. Since there’s no Google software available on PC (as of yet), you can only access it by going to the search engine’s URL or website address which is www.google.com by typing it on your browser. On the other hand, with P2P file sharing, you need to have a software program to do your search. In order to do this, you need to download the program and install it on your computer. With Google, following the example above, you search for something by means of “sending out a request” to servers for information that you are looking for. With P2P File sharing, you are not dealing with websites (or their servers), but you are looking at the files of other people on their computer.
This means that you’re not getting the information you need from a server, but you’re getting it from other computers, just like what you’re using. So, when you download a file in this manner, you become the source where other people can connect in order to get the same file that you got. In essence, everyone who becomes a part of this process acts as both a client and a server. The more people that connect to others in this method, the bigger the P2P network such as Bittorent becomes.
P2P File Sharing Terms to take note of:
When it comes to P2P File Sharing, there are three terms that you need to understand. These are leechers, seeders, and peers.
- Leechers are those people who have used the P2P sharing method to download a file, but are not sharing it back. This means that once you download something via P2P file sharing, and then disconnect from the system once you’re done, you would be considered a leecher.
- Seeders are people who do the opposite because even after they download a file via P2P sharing, they remain online to share it back or do not disconnect from the network. What this means is that, if a file has more seeders, it’s easier (and faster) for other people to get full access to the file being shared in the network.
- Peers are the people who are currently accessing or downloading the file for themselves. A peer won’t have the complete file available on their computers just yet, but they are also classified as semi-seeders to the portion of the file they have downloaded so far. Eventually, peers can either become seeders or leechers depending on their activity after they have completed the file download.
The Risks of P2P File Sharing
Since we’ve already established that P2P file sharing is basically you taking something off someone else’s computer, and vice versa, sharing information in this type of community-like structure poses several risks to users, as well. When computers establish connections with each other, information is exchanged between these two. There have been many instances when hackers took advantage of these connections to steal users’ names, birthdates, and even social security numbers. In other scenarios, some people have been known to attach viruses into their seeds, sending out the infection to everyone that belongs in their network. A lesser known risk is the infringement of copyright laws. As file sharing is entirely not considered illegal, it can be quite confusing to know what is a legal and an illegal download. However, when file sharing is used to download something illegally, there could be some serious repercussions to be expected.
How do you use P2P file sharing safely?
As P2P is based on the idea of directly connecting with other computers for purposes such as sharing files among hosts and clients. You need a tool that would enable you to engage in such connections without compromising your information to threats of cyber-attacks and crime. And the only way to safely connect to any network anonymously is through the use of a reliable VPN like VPN Surf.
Using a VPN enables you to use the P2P network with two important benefits:
- Your data becomes encrypted, and your IP becomes associated to the server you’ve chosen to connect to, thus eliminating the threat of other entities tracing your activity back to you.
- A VPN will conceal the fact that you are torrenting from your ISP. This will prevent ISPs from throttling your internet speeds when you engage in P2P file sharing or any other activities for that matter.
There are many other benefits you can get from a VPN service, but just to cover alone the basics of your internet security and connection reliability should be enough for a reason to sign up for a VPN.
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