Sensitive Gov. Info Leaked on P2P Networks

Ariana Rodriguez
WASHINGTON — File-sharing software on government computers and networks has led to the disclosure of sensitive data including lists of people with HIV and FBI information, Internet security experts told a congressional panel yesterday.

Robert Boback, chief executive of Tiversa, a Pittsburgh-based P2P intelligence company, told the panel that while searching networks for data for a client, he uncovered FBI surveillance photos of a Mafia hit man and a witness list including names of those under a protection program to his trial while the case was still open.

In addition, a list of people with HIV, their psychological assessments and their Social Security numbers also had been breached.

Democratic New York Rep. Edolphus Towns of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he would introduce a bill to ban file-sharing software from all government and contractor computers and networks.

"The administration should initiate a national campaign to educate consumers about the dangers involved with file-sharing software," he said.

According to experts, people who download software to share music and other files often expose information unknowingly with software that makes all contents of their computers available to other users.

"I plan to meet with the new chairman of the Federal Trade Commission to request that the FTC investigate whether inadequate safeguards on file sharing software such as LimeWire constitute an unfair trade practice," Towns said. “The FCC needs to look at this, too. The file-sharing software industry has shown it is unwilling or unable to ensure user safety. It's time to put a referee on the field."

File-sharing software such as LimeWire links computers directly to allow for the exchange of digital movies, music and files between users without the use of a central site to manage the transactions.