Get Your Taxes Done by the Internet?
How much does the world know about you? Probably more than you think. Would you be surprised to learn that your entire hard drive might be shared with the entire world? if you've ever paid taxes, the information could be available. Your state and federal tax returns might be scattered all over the internet.
Installing a file sharing program to get free music and movies may open up your entire computer to all of your fellow pirates. Limewire, for example, is a free program that hooks your computer into a global peer-to-peer (P2P) network of enthusiasts. When you grab a file from a peer, it comes from a benevolent stranger that you'll never meet. Your compatriot may be in Somalia or just across the street. Be careful; as easy as it might be to download Madonna's latest video, it's just as simple to let someone else grab a copy of your 1040 form. You may be sharing your entire hard drive by default.
If you have a file-sharing program installed, try this simple test. Use the program to search the sharing network for files that contain "doc". Since most Microsoft Word documents end in .doc, you might see some file names that will shock you. Try a search for files that end in ".pdf." Hopefully you won't fnd any of your files out there.
We aren't picking on LimeWire; eDonkey2000 and bitTorrent are two other file sharing networks that operate in a similar manner. Whatever 'service' you use, be sure to check the file sharing folder settings before going live. Find the configuration screen that lets you specify what folders to share. When installing an updated version, double check the settings again.
Don't relax simply because you don't have file sharing software installed. Any computer on your network that is running the software may be able to see you and your sensitive documents. To make matters worse, your computer may become a way station for all manner of questionable content. Do you know where your kids are surfing tonight?
Hot tip: keep file sharing programs off all the computers on your network and secure your wireless network as well.