IT Security Information — Windows File Sharing

Last Updated: 01/10/2012

Overview

Windows File Sharing

Be very careful with Windows file sharing. The default options for all versions of Windows are insecure and will let hackers into your computer unless they are disabled or fixed! Your best bet is to disable file sharing completely.

In order to use file sharing to access files from other computers, while preventing access from hackers, you must enable shares that require accounts and passwords. This is not the default setting on any Windows version and can take a considerable amount of work to set up. You also need to synchronize the account names and passwords on both the 'server' Windows computer and the 'client' Windows computer, which requires a lot of work and is very time-consuming. Most computer users should keep file sharing turned off.

Assuming that you do not need to share the files on your computer with other computer users, you should completely disable the sharing feature. You will still be able to connect to servers, but no one (including hackers) will be able to connect to your computer.

To disable 'File and Printer Sharing' in Windows XP:

  1. Open Control Panels from the Start menu
  2. Double-Click Network Connections (under Network and Internet Connections in XP Category View).
  3. Right-click on Local Area Connection and select Properties.
  4. In the middle of the properties window, you will see the list of networking components used by this connection.
  5. If File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks is listed, uncheck the item and click OK. This change goes into effect immediately.

Peer to Peer Sharing

Because there are academic applications for peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing applications, CU-Boulder does not ban them from its network as some universities have done. However, we recognize that most p2p activity consists of copying music and video files for personal enjoyment. If you participate in this kind of file-sharing activity, there are things you should know:

  • P2P activity consumes a disproportionate amount of network resources. In an environment where we share network resources, disproportionate use of those resources is not fair. P2p applications rank consistently as the one of the highest bandwith consumers at CU-Boulder. That means other network activities such as academic research and file transfers are severely compromised as direct result of p2p activity. You can help avoid an all-out ban of p2p applications by configuring and using your p2p application responsibly.
  • Copyright laws apply. If you're caught violating Federal copyright laws, you will suffer the consequences. We are not the police; however, we will cooperate with the police and other agencies when required. There is increasing pressure on universities to take action against any and all copyright violations, especially those attributable to p2p. If you're unsure whether a shared file is copyrighted or not, assume it is.
  • Your personal information and data are at risk. P2p applications copy files from unknown sources to your computer, setting you up as an easy target for hacking or computer viruses. If you use a p2p application and you don't use anti-virus software, you're flirting with disaster. See CU-Boulder’s Anti-virus page for more information, free downloads, and configuration tips [link to AV Page]. Also, an increasing number of p2p applications are installing spyware. Spyware collects personal data about your Web surfing and other habits and sends that information to advertisers or other interested third parties. Some spyware causes computer problems such as blocked Internet connections. Protect your computer by understanding how spyware works and installing protective software [link to spyware page]
  • Turn off your computer when you're not using it, shut it down. This ensures there is no unmonitored network activity originating from your computer. Several popular p2p applications run in the background even if you think you've turned them off. Turn off your computer so you don't have to worry about it, and you'll save energy too.
  • Turn off the ability to upload from your computer to the Internet. Inside of the configuration of your software there is some type of option to "disable uploading to others" or "disable file sharing." Please make sure that uploads/sharing are disabled. If you are having trouble doing this easily then you need to visit the P2P vendor's site for more instructions or contact the IT Service Center for assistance.