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Master Napster - Network Bans : Security and Bandwidth problems

Posted by netwebly | 12.6.2000

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Network Bans
As matter of policy many schools, universities and other institutions are opting to ban Napster entirely. While this may be unfortunate news for Napster fans, the reasoning behind these decisions is, for the most part, sound.

The Bandwidth Problem
Liability issues
Network security - the real problem?
Napster in the workplace

The Bandwidth Problem
For one thing, Napster consumes an insane amount of bandwidth. There's no way around it: it's a fact. Many schools have reported that as much as fifty percent of their network traffic is being eaten up by Napster transfers. That's no big deal if it doesn't impact other traffic on the network, but if Napster starts interfering with day to day operations, expect your school to pull the plug.

Managing Your Bandwidth Usage
If you're worried about keeping Napster access at your school or place of employment, it may be a good idea to resist the temptation to download everything you can get your hands on at once. If you keep your downloading at a reasonable level - say no more than two files at one time and no extended download sessions during regular business hours, you'll reduce the chances that traffic will become overwhelming.

It's also probably a good idea to keep an eye on how much activity is going on in your upload panel. You don't want to be selfish - but you also don't want to be serving up files to two hundred people at a time. Encourage others to adopt similar habits and you may get to keep Napster.

Legal Liability
As a big of a problem as bandwidth is for network administrators, the issue pales next the serious legal questions Napster raises. An increasing number of colleges, universities and other organizations are deciding to protect themselves from possible litigation by taking proactive measures.

Although Napster's legal status remains very much up in the air and probably will continue to be uncertain for some time to come, it makes sense that schools are concerned about possible legal action being taken against them.

The Recording Industry, the record labels and individual performers have already filed and won many law suits involving file-sharing progams. It is very conceivable that a college or university could be held liable for the actions of its students given the right lawyer and the right courtroom. Under the circumstances, don't be surprised if your school's lawyers decide to close out Napster.

Network Security
Another issue facing many organizations is the security problem - which may well turn out to be the most serious of the issues we're examining here. By itself Napster doesn't pose much of a security risk. Even though you're allowing complete strangers to access your hard drive when you use Napster, there's not much they can do while they're there that will cause problems.

Ultimately, it is the indirect implications of Napster use that has many network administrators worried - not the program itself. Because it's possible for another Napster user to determine your IP address while you're connected to the network, your downloading sessions could very easily draw unwanted attention to your network, increasing the possibility of hacker attacks and related problems.

Napster users, by and large, are also more likely to use other file-sharing programs like Gnutella and FreeNet to download things other than MP3 files. Unfortunately, this is where things can get really nasty, really quickly. While MP3 files themselves pose little or no security risk, other file types can pose a threat. .Exe files in particular, can contain computer viruses or hacker toys like trojan horses which can cause serious problems.

Network administrators are right to be worried about the security implications posed by Napster. You probably should be too.

Next up - user bans and getting unbanned

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