Copyright 2003 Gale Group, Inc.


Copyright 2003 A.P. Publications Ltd.

Database and Network Journal

April 1, 2003

In the wake of Napster, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks have moved beyond trading MP3s into swapping anything from the latest episode of "Sex In The City" to popular video games, reports Websense Inc.

This diversity of content is not only driving the creation of new P2P Web sites and applications, but also creating bandwidth, legal and security issues for corporations worldwide. The number of P2P file sharing Web pages has increased more than 300 percent in the last 12 months, totaling more than 89,000 Web pages. In addition, there are more than 130 unique P2P applications, such as KaZaa, Grokster and others.

"P2P networks have truly developed beyond the music to become a marketplace for users swapping videos, games and software packages," say Websense. "While this may be free to end users, it comes at a huge cost to corporations in the form of wasted bandwidth, gaping security holes and serious emerging legal issues."

While trading MP3s remains a popular activity among P2P users, other content is gaining popularity. For example, more than 5 million video game downloads occurred last year, according to game developer Trymedia; between 400,000 and 600,000 copies of movies are downloaded each day, according to consulting firm Viant; and approximately 3 million users download favourite TV shows, such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," from KaZaa every day.

Many employees use their office Internet connections to download P2P files, hardly surprising considering that less than 1 percent of the UK population has high-speed access at home (OFTEL). For example, using a high-speed office connection, a full-length movie takes approximately one hour to download, which is considerably faster than the 23.5 hours that it would take to download the same file on a 56k dial-up Internet connection typically used at home. Yet, despite this problem, 64 percent of companies do not monitor music or video downloads, according to a recent CIO survey.

P2P applications carry security risks because they communicate directly with other users' computers and often bypass a company's firewall opening up Web traffic, virus-infected files and other malicious code which can slip past a company's traditional defences.

Once stored on a corporate network, P2P files can create legal issues that are becoming more serious every day. "As most new computers ship with CD and DVD burners, companies may be crossing new legal boundaries as employees burn downloaded videos or music onto discs using company-owned assets," according to Websense.