Windows XP Home Edition Default File Sharing a Big Security Hole

The Internet Patrol - Patrolling the Internet for You

If you use Windows XP Home Edition, you may not realize it but you most likely have a big security hole sitting on your desk.

This is because Windows XP Home Edition comes with public file sharing enabled by default. [By the way, “file sharing” is not a dirty word, or words, or even illegal. In this context it simply means putting files in a public area on your hard drive so that others can access them from outside of your machine – such as sharing files between computers on your home network.]


The problem with this is that if you have file sharing turned on for your home network, and your computer is connected to the Internet (as it almost certainly is), then you may by default have also supplied access to your public files to 11,000,000 of your closest friends on the Internet.

“But Aunty”, Aunty can hear you saying, “what’s so unsafe about that? If it is enabled by default, surely it must be a secure set-up, right?”

Wrong.

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The problem is that Windows XP does not support password-protected file sharing. So, if you are using Windows XP’s Simple File Sharing, anyone who can access your computer through the Internet can access the shared files.

To compound things, it’s not that simple to disable because XP uses the “guest account” for it’s public file sharing, and it also uses the guest account for a lot of other things, so just disabling the guest account can cause problems for the home user.

According to about.com one answer to this security conundrum is to password protect the guest account, but because Windows XP does not offer an easy way to do this, you have to do this through the command line interface, something with which many home users are not familiar, let alone comfortable.

 

Another option is to go through a series of hurdles in the Network Setup Wizard which comes with XP. This, despite being a big pain, is less of a pain for non-power users than playing with the command line, and is probably the better option for many people running Windows XP Home Edition. You can find step-by-step instructions for locking down your system while still being able to share files at PracticallyNetworked.com

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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