In its simplest form, filesharing is the act of transferring files between two or more computers. There many ways to do this but this article focuses on Peer to Peer (P2P). P2P first became popular about 10 years ago with the emergence of music sharing program Napster.There have been many different formats and programs but today BitTorrent is probably the most well known protocol. P2P software is commonly used to download copyrighted digital content (usually music and films, but also e-books and photographs) for free. It's important to note that there are many legal and legitimate uses for P2P technology. It's not illegal to publicly share files but it is if they contain copyrighted content. [Top]
2. P2P and the Digital Economy Bill
The government is currently in the process of finalising the Digital Economy Bill, which amongst other things could grant Ofcom the power to:
Block websites that are known to offer illegal content,
Issue fines to downloaders and distributors of illegally download copyrighted material
Force an ISP to disconnect those who use file-sharing to illegally download or distribute copyrighted content.
How this will be implemented is unclear at present. Traditionally those who upload and share content are targeted, rather than downloaders (who only receive files). If you're concerned about whether this could affect you, read on and we'll show you where you can find out how your connection is being used and what you can do about it. [Top]
3. How is my connection being used?
Although it depends on the type of file and content, typically P2P downloads are quite large, so you should be able to spot any extra usage on your connection quite easily. View My Usage shows you how much data you use each month and it can also show a breakdown of the type of traffic being used on your connection. To see this, go to View My Usage and click View Internet Activities. P2P traffic appears as Peer to Peer as shown in the picture below. You can read more about and the other usage categories.
I don't use P2P programs but VMBU shows traffic on my account?
Occasionally VMBU can show small amounts of traffic in the categories that you haven't used. This is usually background traffic or content embedded in webpages and is nothing to worry about if it's a small amount. If you see a lot of unexpected usage, it's worth looking into as it could be due to:
Unauthorised access of your wireless network - If you use a wireless network without the correct security measures, it's possible that someone else could be using your connection. Read more about this below.
Computer virus infection - Your computer may be infected with a virus that's using your broadband connection. You should update your anti-virus software and perform a full scan of your system - find out more in our security guide.
4. Keeping your network secure
If you use a wireless network, you should make sure it's secure to prevent others from logging in and using your connection.At the very least, your network should be password protected with Wireless Encryption (our wireless routers use this as standard).Read more about encryption and how else to protect your network in our Wireless Security Guide. [Top]
5. How can I tell if P2P Software is installed on my computer?
There's lots of P2P software available, too much to list here in full. BitTorrent is the probably the most popular method at present, with uTorrent, Azureus and Bit Tornado being amongst the most commonly used programs. Gnutella is another popular P2P protocol and Limewire, Frostwire and Shareaza are three of the more popular programs in use. You can see if you have these installed either by checking your Start Menu or by going to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel. Make sure you check every computer that connects to your network, it's a good idea to be familiar with what's installed on your computers, particularly laptops that are used by children. [Top]