P2P/File Sharing

P2P (or peer-to-peer) file-sharing allows users to share files, like music and photos, on their computers. The problem is, it can also open a huge hole into your computer that lets identity thieves see everything on your hard drive.

What exactly is the threat?

P2P file sharing was designed to allow a system of independent computers to communicate with each other via the Internet and specialized software or sites. Connected systems are able to search for files on other people’s computers, and others can search for files on your computer. While P2P makes file sharing easy and convenient, if not set up correctly, it also enables identity thieves to access the personal information and files stored on your computer.

How Does P2P File Sharing Theft Occur?

Identity thieves on P2P networks, including music sharing sites, are able to access and download information from your computer, like tax returns and financial statements, onto their own computers as part of the shared library. Worst of all, because the user on the file-sharing site may be another member of the family, you may not even know others have access to your information.


Information thieves can collect:

  • Tax returns
  • Password files
  • Birth dates
  • Account numbers

What thieves can do with this information:

  • Identity theft
  • Employment-related fraud
  • Loan fraud/payday loan fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Benefits fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Other identity fraud

Data BP2P/File-Sharing Breach Statistics:

  • In any given second, nearly 22 million people around the globe are on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks downloading and swapping movies, software, and documents over the Internet.1
  • In 2009, The Today Show found 25,800 student loan applications, more than 150,000 tax returns, and nearly 626,000 credit on file-sharing networks.2

1 The Washington Post. “Soldiers’ Data Still Being Downloaded Overseas, Firm Says.” October 2, 2009.

2 Cnet.com. “Congress to Probe P2P Sites Over ‘Inadvertent Sharing.’” April 21, 2009.

Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011. February 2012.

Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.