Downloading & File Sharing

Downloading content over the internet is a great way to enjoy music, video, games and other entertainment. Downloading is also a very convenient way to obtain information in the form of Word documents, PDFs, photos and other files. Also, most software and its periodical updates are now downloaded from the internet.

The risks

  • Inadvertently allowing viruses on to your computer – from both websites and peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.
  • Inadvertently installing adware that enables annoying popup advertisements.
  • Installing spyware that enables criminals to obtain private information for financial gain or identity theft.
  • Having your firewall breached, especially when using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.
  • Downloading offensive/illegal material or viruses disguised as something else.
  • Breaching copyright. Although downloading free music, videos and software could be tempting, it is illegal to pirate material that is under copyright.

Safe downloading

  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you start downloading.
  • Download executable files (.exe) with extreme caution. These are files used by programs to run on your computer. However, they are also commonly used in viruses.
  • Use trusted download websites rather than peer-to-peer systems to obtain programs.
  • Be wary about downloading anything, as people can call their files anything they like. Something that appears to be a clip from a new sci-fi movie could in fact be hardcore porn or a virus-infected file.
  • Download music only from paid sites such as iTunes, Deezer or trusted retailers’ websites.

Safe peer-to-peer file sharing

  • If you must use file-sharing software, make sure you choose safe software, install it safely and use it properly.
  • Install file sharing applications only when you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running.
  • Consider paying for a premium version that is not funded by advertising, to reduce the risk of adware being installed.
  • Download software only from manufacturers’ or authorised resellers’ websites.
  • Don’t let people browse your files directly, and configure the program carefully so that you only share the files you want to and keep the rest of your files and personal information private. This avoids sharing your emails, photos, financial information or work files with complete strangers.
  • Don’t share material that is under copyright.

More information about copyright theft can be found at the following:

FAST: The Federation Against Software Theft.

FACT: The Federation Against Copyright Theft.

IFPI: International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.


See Also...

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Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:

.exe file

Executable file: used by programs to install and run on computers.


To obtain content from the internet, as an email attachment or from a remote computer, to your own hard drive.

Identity theft

The crime of impersonating someone – by using their private information – for financial gain.