BullGuard Internet Security

Keep your PC safe with this must have internet security suite.

ThankYouDogIf there’s one thing that I know and know WELL, it’s that anyone and everyone can get a computer virus or piece of malware. It’s becoming too easy not to pick up a bug, no matter how computer savvy or experienced you are. If you use a Windows PC, as nearly everyone in the universe does, it becomes even more difficult, as most of the viruses in the wild are targeted and attack Windows PC’s specifically. This is the number one reason why I really like apps like BullGuard Internet Security. It’s a suite of security apps that can keep your Windows PC clean as well as protect it from a number of different threats.

BullGuard Internet Security is an all-in-one security suite that guards you, your kids and your PC against ever-evolving malware and cybercrime. The app protects you, your computer and your family from all online threats – identity theft, credit card fraud, hackers, viruses, spyware and much more – thanks to its broad range of features covering nearly every possibility. With BullGuard Internet Security and it’s at-a-glance update system, you will never worry about your digital safety again.

bullguard internet security

BullGuard Internet Security provides the following, holistic, protection:

Total Protection – its real time scanner can stop intruding malware in its tracks, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and adware so you can compute without worry. The latest enhancements include better protection against advanced rootkits that can steal control of your computer as well as from ransomware so you’ll never have control of your life stolen from you.

Unwanted Apps – Adware sucks. BullGuard Internet Security stops adware cold in its tracks, protecting your data, your browser settings and search engine preferences.

Advanced Backup – BullGuard Internet Security includes 5GB of free online storage so you can keep all of your data, photos, music and home video off site and safe. You can backup data directly from folders with one click. If you want, you can view data on your computer or even your smartphone. If you have a Dropbox account, you can back up your data directly to it.

Firewall – stop unwanted intrusions from accessing your computer and other resources connected to it.

Spamfilter – stop unwanted junk email and email scams, phishing attempts, viruses and foreign language email from flooding your inbox.

Keeping your computer safe is important. Finding the right application or suite of applications to do it isn’t always easy. To be very honest, there’s a lot of crap out there. However, BullGuard Internet Security is one of the best security suites available on the internet today.

Other suites are often overpriced, bloated or difficult to work with. BullGuard Internet Security is fast, easy to use and provides protection for up to three computers in your home. It can protect your PC from adware, viruses, spam and malware. It can protect your PC from unwanted intrusions.

While its licensing is subscription based, that business model is the industry standard, and for three computers, that breaks down to just $20 per PC per year…and honestly, that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

download Bullguard Internet Security

 

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Ransomware. Taking your Data Hostage

Yeah… Speaking of malware…

Introduction
With all of the email problems I’ve been having over the past month or so, I’ve had my hands full. I’m nearly certain that I’ve got some kind of malware. Removing it, has been a real chore; but at least I don’t have any ransomware. Yeah. That would really suck.

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. This type of malware forces its victims to pay a ransom through an online payment system in order to regain access to their data or system. Some ransomware encrypts files. Other ransomware blocks communications.

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No matter which way you look at it; you don’t have access to your data. Depending on how valuable that data is to you or to your organization, that can be a problem.

One of the most popular pieces of ransomware is CryptoWall or CryptoLocker – same thing. CryptoWall is a Microsoft Windows based Trojan horse. A computer that is infected with this virus has its hard drive encrypted, with the RSA decryption key held by a third party.

When infected, the virus payload installs itself in the user’s profile folder and then adds a key to the registry that causes it to run on startup. It then attempts to contact one of several, designated command servers where it retrieves a 2048bit RSA key pair. The command server sends the public key to the infected computer.

The virus then encrypts the user’s files across all local and mapped network drives with the public key and logs each encrypted file in a registry key. The process only effects files with a specific extension type – usually those belonging to Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, JPEG, GIF, BMP, etc.

Once encrypted, the virus then displays a ransom message that includes a countdown clock. If a ransom of $400USD or €400 in the form of a pre-paid cash voucher – like a MoneyPak or an equivalent amount of BitCoin. If the ransom isn’t paid within the specified timeframe, your decryption key gets deleted, and then there’s no way to decrypt your data. Once paid, the user is able to download a decryption program, preloaded with the decryption key, that unlocks the files.

However, some victims have claimed that even though they have paid the ransom, their files were not decrypted.

Now, there are three ways to get rid of CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker once you get it. Some of them are easy, others are not. Let’ run them down so you know what the options are.

  1. Pay the Ransom
  2. Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
  3. Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
  4. Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch

Pay the Ransom
Many security experts have said that with a 2048bit encryption key, using some kind of brute force attack to get the decryption key was nearly impossible. Previous versions of the Trojan horse used 1024bit keys and while that may have been crackable – in at least one case, it was – doing so, was not easy and took a great deal of time. That method also required the use of tools and skills that most consumers don’t have, can’t afford, and wouldn’t know how to use.

While removing the Trojan from an infected PC is possible, especially in its early encryption stages (depending on the amount of data in question, encryption can take quite a while), the nature of the infection is that it works in the background. Many users don’t know or see that anything bad is happening. In cases like this, many security experts initially agreed that the only way to recover files was to pay the ransom. Users can usually expect to receive their decryption key within 24 hours.

However, given the dishonest nature of the individuals behind the Trojan horse infection, the 24 hour waiting period and the fact that some people don’t always receive their decryption keys without the call for additional payments, this is a risky removal method. Its certainly not guaranteed. They got your money once. Its very likely that if you don’t get your decryption keys early in the 24 hour period that you will get asked to make additional payments.

It has been estimated by Symantec that up to 3% of all infected victims pay the ransom. Its also been estimated that ransomware operators have collected upwards of over $3.0M USD. So, while you may get your data back with this, paying the ransom doesn’t always get your life’s memories back; and it could end up costing you more than was originally asked for.

Regardless of how much you may pay, if this is the case, you’re going to want to make a back up of your decrypted data and then blow your hard drive and reinstall Windows and all your applications from scratch. You’re also going to want to invest in a malware scanner and some kind of backup plan after that.

Whether its online or offline, it doesn’t matter. The key is starting from a known clean slate and then making certain you don’t get hit again.

Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
Even if your PC and all of your data becomes completely encrypted, if you have your computer’s restore DVD’s AND you have a back up of your data before it became infected (and that drive isn’t always connected to your PC), then you’re more than half way home.

In this case, you can just go tell the malware creator to go pound sand.

However, this may take just a bit of work on your part. You’re going to have to do a few thins to make certain you can safely get to your data.

Check the Status of your Backup
If your backup is done on line, through services like Carbonite or Backblaze, you should be ok.

If you’re using a backup drive that’s connected to your PC all the time, its likely infected and encrypted. However, if you’ve backed data up AFTER you got infected, its likely encrypted and should be considered bad. Do NOT use that data.

If its not always connected to your PC, do NOT connect it to your infected PC. CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker will encrypt it. Check the status of the backup from ANOTHER, uninfected PC and check the last backup date and perform a malware scan on it. Once verified clean, that’s the state of the data you’re going to get back.

If you’ve got all of your data on a cloud service drive, you’re in even better shape., as its likely NOT encrypted. Those services should be set to scan all the data that comes into their data centers and should prevent infections like CryptoWall or CryptoLocker from infecting them. You just need to restore your PC (see below) and then log back into your cloud service and resync your data.

Restore Your PC
After you have the back up drive for your PC identified and set aside, you’re going to need to restore your PC back to factory fresh status. You’re going to need to do this no matter what you do (pay the ransom, restore from a non0infected backup or use a mitigation tool. Once compromised, its not good to continue to use a Windows installation that’s been infected by such a serious piece of malware.

If you have something like a Surface Pro or other tablet/ convertible device do NOT restore from the device’s recovery partition. There’s no way to know that it hasn’t also become infected as well.

In that case, you’re going to need to download the recovery image on a separate computer and then burn that image to a DVD, also from that separate computer. Do that and set it aside

If you have a PC that has a set of restore DVD’s grab those now. Place the restore DVD (either the one you just made for your Surface or other similar device or the ones that come from your PC manufacturer) into either your PC’s DVD drive, or into a USB DVD drive connected to your computer.

You’ll need to set your UEFI or BIOS to boot from the DVD drive. Use that DVD to restore your computer. Once it finishes, and you can reinstall your backup software and a suitable malware scanner. After you’ve updated all of the appropriate malware definitions and performed a malware scan on your newly configured PC, THEN connect your backup drive to your PC.

Perform a second malware scan on your backup drive before the restore. Its better to be safe than sorry.

Once verified clean again, you can restore your data; and you should be good to go.

Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
You should know up front that this is by far, the riskiest option of all. Its not easy, and you’re not guaranteed to be successful.

If you don’t have your data on some kind of cloud sync service, backed up to a drive that was connected to your PC BEFORE you got infected with CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker, and you aren’t using an online backup tool and you MUST get all of your data back, then you can try to use an appropriate mitigation method.

Now… this is where things get a bit sticky. If you’re not comfortable working with and modifying the Windows Registry, installing and updating hardware drivers or other low level components, then stop. It might be a good idea to take your infected computer to a trusted, reputable repair shop and let them handle it.

They’ll likely keep it for a few days. They may charge you $150 – $250 bucks to get rid of the virus; but you’ll likely get your computer back, with some to most of your data, without having to pay a huge sum to some crook.

In a nutshell, here are the steps you’ll need to perform:

  • Boot to Safe Mode
    In Windows 7, XP and Vista, you’ll need to restart or turn on your PC and quickly and continuously press F8 until you see the Advanced Boot Options screen. From here, you’ll have 30 seconds to use the up/down arrows to choose the “Safe Mode with Networking” option from the list and press the Enter Key.

In Windows 8/ 10, its best to start with the computer already on and sitting at the Windows Logon Screen.

Press and Hold the Shift key, and then click Restart. On the resulting screen select Troubleshoot – Advanced Options – Startup Settings, and then Restart. When your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe mode with Networking.

Let your PC boot into Safe Mode. Your PC should be up and running in Safe Mode. You should be logged in (do so if you aren’t) and you should have access to the Internet.

  • Download a Malware Removal App
    Open up a browser window and download SpyHunter or other spyware/ malware removal app. Purchase a licensed copy if you need to. Use it to remove CryptoLocker/ CryptoWall from your PC. Use that app to remove all of the malicious files that belong to the ransomware and complete the CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker removal.
  • Salvage your Data
    If this works, get your data off your computer and store it on a known clean drive. Then, refer back to the section above where I tell you how to rebuild your PC from scratch.Rebuild your PC from scratch.If you don’t get everything – and that’s possible, even with a good malware removal too – you don’t want to be on a PC that’s had ransomware on it. Rebuild your PC and then put your data back on it.

If that doesn’t work, or if your version of CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker prevents you from booting to Safe Mode with Networking, then you can try something else. However, if this doesn’t work, your options become limited.

  1. Boot into Safe Mode with Command Prompt
    In Windows 7/ XP/ Vista, restart or turn on your PC and tap F8 multiple times until you see the Advanced Boot Options window. Use the up and down arrows to move down to Safe Mode with Command Prompt and press Enter.In Windows 8/ 10, at the Windows login screen, press and hold the Shift key and then click Restart. On the resulting screen select Troubleshoot – Advanced Options – Startup Settings, and then Restart. When your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt in the Startup Settings Window.
  2. Restore your System Files and Settings with System Restore
    Once the Command Prompt window is available, you should be logged into your computer and the Command Prompt window should have you logged in to C:\Windows\system32Type – cd restore – and press the Enter keyType – rstrui.exe – and press the Enter key

    When System Restore comes up, click the Next button and then select a restore point that is PRIOR to you getting infected with CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker. After that, click the Next button again.

    A warning dialog will display, notifying you that System Restore can’t be interrupted. Click the Yes button and let System Restore run and complete.

  3. Remove the Virus Files
    After System Restore completes, you can reboot your PC. After that, you can download Spy Hunter or other spyware/ malware removal app. Use it to get rid of the malware files
  4. Attempt to Salvage your DataYou need to understand that using a mitigation method does NOT remove any encryption from your data. It just removes the malware. If you data is encrypted, you can try to use Windows’ Previous Versions feature to restore any files that may have been encrypted.To do that, find the file in question and right click it. Choose Properties from the context menu that appears. When the Properties dialog appears, look for the Previous Versions tab and look for a restore point for your file. Choose a date before you got infected, and follow the process.

    However, you need to understand that this method is ONLY effected after System Restore completes and the ransomware is removed. Ransomware often deletes Shadow Volume Copies and this method may fail to work.

Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch
Ransomware is a very SERIOUS piece of malware. If you get it and you end up with your data encrypted, depending on how adventurous or wealthy you are, you can try one of the methods that I’ve listed above, or you can cut your losses and call it a day.

In other words, you can simply resign yourself to the fact that your data is gone and you can rebuild your PC, again, using one of the rebuild methods I noted, above.

Depending on how much you trust the drive you’ve got, you may want to just go and buy a new hard drive for your computer, put it in, and then rebuild your PC from scratch, again, using one of the rebuild methods I noted, above.

There are a few advantages to this. While it consigns your files to a permanent rubbish bin, its likely a much safer way to go, especially if you catch it early in the encryption process.

Conclusion
Ransomware is a huge problem in many countries around the world, especially in the United States. Malware is EVERYWHERE on the internet, and you can get it from visiting dubious websites and even through ads that display in a browser window. You can get malware from email, from infected files and just about anywhere else on the internet.

While you’re clean, the best thing for you to do is to make a backup of all of your data. You can use a backup program, a cloud data service like Dropbox, Google Drive orOneDrive and the like. You can also use online backup programs like Carbonite or Backblaze. Whatever you do, though. Make a backup of your data.

If you do find that you get infected with ransomware, again, you have very limited options. You can:

  1. Pay the Ransom
  2. Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
  3. Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
  4. Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch

There’s a price to each of these, either in cold hard cash, or in time. Unfortunately, despite any of these methods, you’re likely going to experience some data loss, unless you have a recent, uninfected backup. So the rule here, as always should be to back up early and often.

But again, if you do get infected, the best thing to do as quickly as you can, is to get off the internet, remove the malware, rebuild your system and then restore your data. How you pull this together is up to you, but it isn’t easy, and it can often create other problems that you didn’t initially anticipate.

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Recover all of the data from your iDevice

With EASEUS MobiSaver – a must have, multiplatform tool.

0024695It totally sucks when your iDevice locks up or dies and you lose your data. If you live in your iPhone, like I do, having something like this around for those times when the world turns upside down is a must have…a must have. That’s where EaseUS MobiSaver comes in. It’s a data recovery utility for your iPhone and Windows machine.

EaseUS MobiSaver is an easy-to-use iPhone data recovery app that allows you to directly scan your iPhone – or extract iTunes backup files – to recover deleted iPhone dat. You can recover notes, text messages, call history, calendar data as well as photos and videos. EaseUS MobiSaver supports iPhone 5, 4S, 4, and 3GS. EaseUS MobiSaver can solve all data loss problems with 3 simple steps. You can preview your lost files, and get all your missing data back in minutes.

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EASEUS MobiSaver has two recovery modes – direct from the device and from iTunes backup. The app lets you scan your device, and with one click to recover data from iPhone 5/4S/4/3GS, New iPad and iPod Touch 4. When recovering data from an iTunes backup, you can extract the files and then send them to your device quickly and painlessly.

EASEUS MobiSaver is a great app. If you’re in a bind where you can’t get regular access to your iDevice or if your iPhone just isn’t doing what you want or need it to do and you MUST get your data off before you wipe it, then this is the app that you need. Its just that simple. The only thing that I don’t like about it is that you MUST have iTunes installed on the PC you use do to the recovery. This is the only fault that I can find with the app, however. So, other than that, this is a total winner of an app.

download EASEUS MobiSaver

 

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Tenorshare Android Data Recovery

android-data-recoveryBUN Recover lost data from your Android smartphone with this must have Windows utility.

More than half of all the smartphones in the world are Android smartphones. Until the iPhone 5 came out last year, I was using an Android phone. They are really that good.

The biggest problem with having an Android or any smartphone is the protection of your data. Lose it, and you could be out of luck. That’s one of the reasons why applications like Tenorshare Android Data Recovery is so very important. It’s a Windows desktop utility for your Android phone.

Sometimes it can really suck when life happens. We rely on our smartphones to do a lot – phone book, appointment book, notes, memos, and on top of that, music player, video consumption device as well as digital still and video camera. That’s a lot to ask of from any device, let alone one that gets dangled over every public toilet you see because you stick it in your shirt pocket. You can avoid a lot of this – except the Evel Kenevel dangle of death out of your shirt pocket – thanks to Tenorshare Android Data Recovery.

You can get back ALL of your data – Contacts, photos, text messages, appointments, etc. – including all of these plus call history from just about any Android phone or tablet, including those from Samsung, LG, Motorola and HTC. It also works with every version of Android…ever.

The best thing about the app, though, is that you can review data, and selectively recover just what you need. You can mark lost files and then make sure you get them back.

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If you’re looking for a decent Android utility, this may be the first place you should stop. There are different setup requirements based on the device you have, so you should look here for specific instructions.

The biggest issue with Tenorshare Android Data Recovery is that your device MUST be rooted in order for you to be able to recover any data besides photos and videos. This is somewhat problematic for individuals who aren’t comfortable with rooting or able to do it due to work restrictions, even with one of those automatic rooting tools.

However, if you do have a rooted device, and you’re looking for a way to backup and recover data, this is an excellent choice.

 

download Tenorshare Android Data Recovery

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Malwarebytes Secure Backup – Protect and backup your data

mwbrKeeping your data safe is probably the one of the most important things a computer can do. Without your data, there really isn’t a reason to have or use a computer.  Its for this reason that having a backup strategy is important.  If I were you, I’d give serious consideration to Malwarebytes Secure Backup.  It’s a backup program for Windows.

With Malwarebytes Secure Backup, your files are backed up automatically to a secure server, according to a schedule that you set. Every version of a backed up file is archived. Every backed up file that is deleted from Malwarebytes Secure Backup is archived. Every file can always be retrieved, so you never have to worry about something being lost forever. With Malwarebytes Secure Backup, your data is always, ALWAYS safe.

The app even backs up infected files; but thankfully, the app automatically scans your files with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware engine and cleans them.  Don’t worry about your data. Malwarebytes Secure Backup keeps it safe and clean.

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Many backup services backup your most current dataset and that’s about it. As items change, so does your backup set. That’s not the case with Malwarebytes Secure Backup.  It backs up and archives every version of every file on your PC.  You’re not limited by the number of devices it backup, either.  It will backup most any device on your PC or network with just one license.

If you’re looking for a backup service or thinking of making a change, then you really need to give Malwarebytes Secure Backup a serious look. Its worth the cost and the time it takes to backup the data.

download Malwarebytes Secure Backup

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Backup a partition or a disk with ease using AOMEI Data Backuper

Keep your data safe with this important Windows utility.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten burned because I lost a critical file. The number one reason why it happened is because I didn’t have a backup copy stashed somewhere. Having a formal, real back up of your data is important. This is one of the reasons why I decided to give AOMEI Data Backuper a try. It’s a backup utility for Windows PC’s.

AOMEI Data Backuper is a simple Windows tool for creating backup images of individual partitions or entire hard drives. Data Backuper has a clear and simple interface which feels familiar to anyone who’s ever used backup tool before. Its functions are organized across a number of tabs, and the program works as expected.

AOMEI Data BackuperIt also has the extra tools you’d expect. The app includes an option to mount a disc image as a virtual drive. You can then restore an image directly from the program, or create a bootable rescue disc.

Aoemei Data Backuper has a simple, and easy to use interface. The app does exactly what you would expect it to do, without cluttering up its workspace with a bunch of junk. This is a no-nonsense app, so don’t go looking for too much in terms of sophistication. However, if you need to back your data up and keep it safe, AOMEI Data Backuper is a great choice and one that you’ll be glad you have if you bump into problems.

Download AOMEI Data Backupe

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Burn, edit, backup, rip, convert and play your media with Nero 12

Nero12Over the past few years, the biggest influx of consumer data has been in the area of multimedia. More than anything else, the increase in popularity of smartphones, tablets, digital cameras etc. have created a huge increase in the use and demand for multimedia – pictures, music, and video. This is one of the biggest reasons why I like Nero 12. Its one of the best optical media utilities available for Windows today.

With Nero 12, you can burn, edit, backup, rip, convert & play all of your multimedia. It’s one of the most-complete multimedia suites ever. You can use it to format your media for use with all of your computing devices.

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Nero 12 allows you to stream your movies, photo slideshows and music playlists throughout your home network. Nero uses the latest high-quality video formats to convert, edit and burn your data. The app supports streaming to your XBOX 360™, PS3™, Android tablet, PC, digital media adaptor, streaming-enabled TV, or other DLNA- or UPnP-supporting devices. Nero 12 supports virtually all the latest video formats, including AVC/264, MKV, MP4, 3GP, AVI.

The result of Nero’s support for burning and streaming is disaster-proof data; and Nero is Windows 8 compatible. It takes only seconds to schedule an automatic backup with Nero LIVEBackup in Nero BackItUp 12. Now, you can back up to hard drives larger than 2 TB. Nero also supports USB 3.0 storage devices. Should your destination be optical media, Nero supports burning to CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray.

Nero 12 is a great application; and one of my favorite multimedia burning suites. I’ve used it for years. While the app supports Windows 8, streaming, and nearly any multimedia format you’d be interested in, it is quite pricey, and there are other, suites that you may find more affordable. If cost isn’t a huge issue, then this is probably the best optical media app you can invest in.

Download Nero 12

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BitTorrent and Sync

bittorrentBitTorrent Inc. has released a new application that allows users to securely sync folders to multiple devices using the BitTorrent protocol. The free application has no storage limits and can serve both as a public backup system and a shared drive. BitTorrent Sync is especially efficient for groups who need to share many large files over the Internet.

The latest release form BitTorrent Inc. is an exciting and innovative application that provides users with the ability to synchronize their folders to a wide range of devices, simply by implementing the BitTorrent protocol. What are the benefits of this new application? Well, for one there are no limitations when it comes to storage – which gives users the multiple benefits of using Sync for shared drive purposes and as a public backup system. Essentially, this means that users with the desire and the need to share files across various devices have access to a practical, speedy and reliable form of distribution.

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If this sounds a tad familiar though, that’s because it is. BitTorrent is using similar technology to that of certain cloud services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Skydrive. The difference, however, is pretty clear. This is simply that there isn’t any third-party that has access to the files that are being shared, the storage is effectively unlimited and transfer services are rapid. It’s about time that BitTorrent introduced a productive way to backup and synchronise files across various devices – as BitTorrent have never really enjoyed this kind of service until now.

Sync implements a peer-to-peer platform. This means that users of the program will rely on each other for the sharing of their files, as opposed to any centralized infrastructure. This will add to the already rapidly growing peer-to-peer market that has dominated the Internet. Statistically, peer-to-peer transfers take up over 40% of the data being transferred across the net. With the cost effectiveness of this platform, more and more content owners and distributors are taking advantage of it – meaning its market domination is only likely to grow.

Legal issues surrounding peer-to-peer transfer are complicated, as the files being transferred will often make reference to copyrighted content – this means that the implemented peer-to-peer platform is often said to be synonymous to piracy. BitTorrent has established a completely decentralized network with the intention of transferring files in an effective and practical way – which raises problems in relation to existing laws within the market. The law has raised issues in terms of the liability of the BitTorrent protocol. Regardless, the amount of users making use of peer-to-peer sharing networks continues to grow.

 

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