As the Recording Industry Association of America crusades against digital music piracy, the organization cites surprising statistics; according to the RIAA, 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded in a single five-year period. Though the organization may respond to illegal music downloads with legal action, users have the right to protect their privacy by blocking IP addresses from accessing their computers via programs such as PeerGuardian and PeerBlock. These applications aren't limited to providing privacy from the RIAA, however, and may be used to provide privacy in other capacities.
The developers at Phoenix Labs released the original version of PeerGuardian in 2003. In 2005, the company replaced this version of the software with PeerGuardian 2.0. This update increased the speed of IP address blocking. Unlike the original PeerGuardian, version 2.0 requires no driver installation.
This version of the software evolved into PeerBlock, the successor to PeerGuardian, in 2010. PeerBlock uses the same code as PeerGuardian. Both programs are open source, which means the developer freely offers program code online, allowing users to make custom modifications of the software.
Both PeerGuardian and PeerBlock prevent known IP addresses – or numeric addresses that identify each Internet-connected computer – from accessing your computer and its shared file directories. Typically, users of peer-to-peer, or P2P, file sharing programs employ PeerGuardian and PeerBlock to prevent the RIAA from scanning their shared directories. However, the programs can also block IP addresses tied to government, hacker, military, Motion Picture Association of America, spammer, spyware and other sources. Users select lists of “known bad” computers to block communication with them.
Though PeerGuardian and PeerBlock are similar in purpose, each iteration of the program comes with different features. PeerGuardian features support for multiple blacklisted IP lists, a list editor and automatic program updates. PeerBlock retains these features and adds increased stability when compared to PeerGuardian. Additionally, PeerBlock features list optimization, saved configuration of user preferences and list “sanity” checking, which double checks and remedies duplicates of blocked IPs. At the time of publication, the developer actively responds to bug reports and feature requests from PeerBlock users. The program's creators state that “after you have PeerBlock running well on your system, there really is no point to leaving [PeerGuardian] installled.”
PeerGuardian runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux and Max OS X operating systems while its successor runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 platforms. At the time of publication, Phoenix Labs no longer offers PeerGuardian, though users can download the program from third party software databases. PeerBlock is available for download at the program's official website, PeerBlock.com. All versions of PeerGuardian and PeerBlock are free to download and use.