Worried about downloading the wrong file and messing up your PC?

For the moment, you don't have to fret much. Even though there are files in circulation that purport to be music but, when opened, spawn a flock of pop-up ads, audio and video adware isn't yet widespread.

But to be on the safe side, you should think a little more carefully about the files you download from peer-to-peer networks.

The easiest solution is to simply stop downloading WMA files from P-to-P services. But with legitimate, music-industry-sanctioned P-to-P services preparing to launch early this year, that may not be an option for everyone.

Prevent bogus files laden with adware or spyware from infiltrating your PC by taking the following steps:

  • Change windows Media Player setting to give you more warning. Select Tool, Options, Privacy and turn off 'Acquire licenses automatically for protected content'. A dialog box then will warn you each time a protected file attempts to get a license, and it will display the URL from which the file intends to request the license. If you have any doubts about the site, choose 'No'. Changing this setting in Windows Media Player will affect any other players you use that support Microsoft's DRM scheme.

  • At a minimum, set your browser to prompt you prior to downloading any ActiveX controls (in IE, choose Tools, Internet options, Security and click 'Custom Level'.) No matter what you have set as your default browser, you'll see Internet Explorer windows if you play one of these bogus files.

  • Use a pop-up blocker. This won't prevent the initial ad or the first IE window spawned, but it will prevent further pop-ups from appearing on your PC.

  • Turn on automatic Windows updates to make sure IE holes are plugged quickly.

  • Run a firewall, and monitor outgoing and incoming internet requests.