In response to news that employees at nearly 100 companies and agencies were often unknowingly leaking large amounts of sensitive customer and employee data through Peer-to-Peer networks, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) introduced legislation to protect sensitive government files from being shared unintentionally.
"In this age of information sharing, it seems only necessary that the federal government take the next step in ensuring that their data is fully protected," McCaskill said. "It's important that people know how these networks could potentially share information without the user's knowledge and how it could be detrimental to our national security and citizens' privacy."
"We need to close the security hole that has allowed the breach of highly-sensitive information for far too long," said Bennett. "Open peer-to-peer networks pose a continued risk to our country's safety and this legislation closes that gap and increases awareness amongst government employees and contractors alike of the security threats they continually face."
The Secure Federal File Sharing Act was introduced as a way to protect government information critical to citizens' privacy or our country's national security. It also prohibits government employees and government contractors from installing dangerous file-sharing software on their government computers. Peer-to-Peer networks are popularly used for music and video sharing, and exchange of illicit documents such as pornography. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently warned businesses and citizens against such file-sharing software because it can also unintentionally share other documents on the user's computer.
The legislation would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidance prohibiting installation and use of Peer-to-Peer software by government employees and contractors on all federal computers, systems, and networks. In rare instances, should a computer system require Peer-to-Peer software, the bill would require agency heads to request special clearance.