Subjects: US news
Government personnel using popular online file-sharing software have inadvertently caused sensitive government and personal data to be released.
The information includes lists of people with HIV, FBI photos of a Mafia hit man, the names of people in the federal witness protection program and the safe-house location for Laura Bush, according to testimony provided last week to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The leaks occur when people download so-called “peer-to-peer” software to share music or other files. Many of these software products expose the contents of their computers’ databases to remote users, the experts explained.
“The administration should initiate a national campaign to educate consumers about the dangers involved with file-sharing software,” Towns understated to the Washington Post.
Expert testimony was provided by Robert Boback, the chief executive of Tiversa, a company that scans Internet-based music- and file-sharing networks for sensitive data. Boback told the committee that foreign governments are exploiting peer-to-peer software to spy on the US government.
“Other countries know how to access this information and they are accessing this information,” he warned.
The list of HIV infected people also included their Social Security numbers, according to Boback.
“This is unbelievably sensitive medical data,” Deborah Peel told the Post. The founder of Patient Privacy Rights added, “It has people’s names on it from mental-health treatment programs, drug studies. These files have everything needed for identity theft, the most prominent and frightening consumer issue with electronic systems.”
Another expert witness, Lime Group chairman Mark Gorton said his company’s P2P software renders such piracy extremely difficult, but there are hundreds of P2P software providers out there.
“Most creators of P2P applications are not based in the United States, and may not even be corporations,” Gorton said.