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How can mobile device data be lost on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network?

Can an attacker gain important and private information from my phone through a peer-to-peer network?

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Peer-to-peer telephone services, such as Skype, Free World Dialup (FWD) and Ooma, offer users a way to save significant money on telephone services. By leveraging peer-to-peer networks to route calls around the world, every call becomes a local one.

While this is an interesting technology, I would not recommend that it be used for any private communications. Peer-to-peer services allow telephone calls to be routed through the privately owned equipment of one or more unknown individuals. This raises a number of confidentiality, integrity and availability concerns, and little information is available about what, if any, security controls these services have put in place to protect your telephone calls.

Would you be upset if an unknown third party was able to eavesdrop on your call? What if they were able to reroute it to a different destination? Or if they were able to disrupt your service? If the answer to all three of these questions is "no," then by all means give peer-to-peer telephone a shot. Otherwise, until the security implications are addressed, you probably want to think twice about adopting this emerging technology.

More information:

  • A reader asks Mike Chapple, "Do P2P networks share the same risks as traditional ones?"
  • Learn how to monitor and block P2P apps.
  • This was first published in January 2009

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