To the detriment of the enterprise, peer-to-peer (P2P) networking technology is making inroads into Australian companies with employees indiscriminately sharing music and videos.
Use of P2P technology such as KaZaA, Morpheus and Grokster is widespread with some sites recording more than four million users at a time sharing and downloading files.
Internet filter company Websense territory manager (ANZ) Graham Connolly said P2P applications bring with them numerous risks as they tunnel through port 80 along with other rogue protocols, often bypassing an organisation’s firewall.
File sharing with P2P technology exposes the enterprise to viruses that go undetected by traditional security measures.
Enterprises are also at risk of possible lawsuits, according to computer law firm SW Computer Law manager Steve White.
"Without the ability to suppress employee access to illicit or unauthorised material, the corporation is open to legal liability," he said.
"An employee who is inadvertently exposed to illicit material has the option to take legal action against their employer. Organizations can also be exposed for having copyrighted content on their network."
Meta Group’s senior research analyst Bjarne Munch said that companies can benefit from P2P technology for constant distribution and collaboration between employees across the enterprise, but need to have security measures in place.
However, the technology for P2P in consumer is third generation, but for enterprise it is relatively new and should be considered first generation. There are still issues with reliability, scalability and manageability.
"Adoption has slowed largely because Australian companies have not been mature in creating content and managing their data structure," he said.
"Bandwidth is also posing a problem. P2P downloading can easily consume 30 percent of network bandwidth and storage. Companies within Australia need to increase their level of investment if they are to utilise the advantages of P2P and protect the enterprise at a satisfactory level."
Meta Group’s reseach VP John Brand believes P2P shouldn't be feared but managed.
"Rather than avoiding P2P technology companies can look to applications that can manage it," he said.