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When sharing files with friends and colleagues using the internet, email, CDs or memory sticks, activate your security software (firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware) and scan files to make sure they are not infected.

Do not assume that because a file was sent or given to you by someone you know that it is safe – just plugging in a removable device can infect your computer if it is not protected.

Sending and receiving files via email

  • Never open an attachment from a source you do not know or are unsure about.
  • If you are comfortable about the source of the file, scan the file before opening it using your anti-virus and anti-spyware software. You might know the person who sent it but they may not know that the file they are sending contains a virus or spyware.
  • Set your anti-virus and anti-spyware software to scan every incoming and outgoing email and attachment automatically.

Sending and receiving files via portable storage devices

Portable storage devices include CDs, DVDs, memory sticks or external hard-drives.

  • Never connect or insert a storage device into your computer or open any files on it if you are unsure of its origin or owner or if your anti-virus or anti-spyware software is not up-to-date.
  • Scan devices before opening any files using your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  • If you are sending files to someone else, save the file to the portable device and then scan the whole device using your anti-virus and anti-spyware software before giving it to them.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing networks

Peer-to-peer file-sharing is a system that allows a person to make specific files on their computer available to anyone, anywhere on the internet, who has the same file-sharing software. This software allows its network of users to see and download files from the computers of all the network members who are online at the same time.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing has received a lot of publicity because it is widely used for sharing files such as music or computer software. 

Be careful – sharing some files may contravene copyright laws.

Only join music and movie file-sharing services where you can stream, download or purchase digital files with the copyright owner's permission. It's important to keep your file-sharing legal. Downloading copyrighted music, movies and software using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs without the copyright owner's permission could have serious legal implications.

Stop and think before downloading files through these networks. Don't download files from sources that appear suspect or that you aren't sure you trust.

Make sure the peer-to-peer file-sharing network can only access the files on your computer that you want accessed.

Users of peer-to-peer file-sharing software should also be aware that they may not be anonymous while participating in these networks.

Parents should be aware that peer-to-peer file-sharing networks may contain inappropriate images, audio and video clips, and should monitor their children's access to and use of such networks.

Consider using a dedicated computer for file-sharing

Due to the considerably raised security risks associated with participating in peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, you may want to consider dedicating a computer solely to file-sharing activities. In this case, you should:

  • Only use this computer for file-sharing, and only have files on it that you are prepared for others on the internet to see.
  • Ensure that all the security software and measures mentioned in this website are installed, activated and kept up-to-date, for example anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewalls.
  • Always disconnect this computer from the internet once you have finished file-sharing.
  • Never have this computer connected to other computers in your home or office when sharing files on the peer-to-peer file-sharing network.
  • Always scan files downloaded and stored on the dedicated computer before transferring them to other computers in your home or office.

Where to get help

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