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Kazaa: Napster's younger brother

Here’s a challenge for computer-savvy parents: What do WinMx, Morpheus and BearShare have in common? Do they sound familiar?

How about Zeropaid, Lime-wire, OpenP2P or Grokster?

Even if parents can’t place these programs, more and more children — even those junior high age and younger — know at least one of these names. The programs circulate all over the Internet and are most often used to exchange downloadable music files with others on the web.

Recently, a South Kitsap junior high included in its newsletter a piece on the security danger of a relatively recent peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program called Kazaa.

Derry Lyons, director of technology at South Kitsap School District, initially compares Kazaa, and the problem with most P2P systems, to the ones faced by the file sharing program Napster.

“Napster was actually historically the first peer-to-peer file sharing technology,” Lyons said. “The idea was that there was no one content provider.”

Therefore, Lyons said, peers could exchange files, even when each was using different technology.

Lyons said, P2P file sharing, which has only been around for about a decade, works as a telephone switchboard. Someone wants a certain song or file, and the technology connects the user to someone else whom they can download it from.

According to Lyons, in spite of all its legal functions, Napster was shut down due to it being a way to distribute copywrited material for free.

Many have stepped forward to take its place, including Kazaa.

“The actual process itself is legal,” Lyons said. “The issue that you get into is that you can’t distribute copywrited material.”

Another concern for parents is security protection for their computers.

In a speech given on Oct. 28, Lydia B. Parnes, Acting Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “File-sharing technology has numerous potential benefits for consumers. However consumers also face potential risks when downloading and using P2P file-sharing programs.”

The issue is a high priority for the commission. On Dec. 15 and 16, the commission will host a public workshop on P2P file-sharing to discuss future applications of the technology, risks to consumers, self-regulatory and technological efforts to protect consumers and competition issues.

Fear of identity theft is at an all time high and downloading software off the Internet can make one particularly vulnerable.

According to Kazaa, the technology includes built in virus protection with settings, a virus filter that blocks suspicious files and a password-protected adult filter.

However, the controversy over the Internet tracking program Spyware and the lack of its disclosure on the downloading site, has made some downloaders nervous.

The bottom line, Lyons said, is parents and children need to communicate.

“Parents need to talk with their kids about what they are using computers for,” Lyons said. “If they are peer-to-peer file sharing, they need to ask what they are file sharing.”

For more information on Kazaa visit www.imilly.com/kazaa.htm or www.kazaa.com.

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