P2P on Your PC Equals Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker

Peer to peer file sharing is a great technology used to share data over peer networks.  It’s also great software to get hacked.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is responding to reports that peer to peer file sharing allows Internet users to access other P2P users’ most important files, including bank records, tax files, health records, and passwords. This is the same P2P software that allows users to download pirated music, movies and software.

What’s interesting is that they didn’t already realize this was going on. Most of the committee members probably have kids, and their own home PCs probably have P2P software installed.

An academic from Dartmouth College found that he was able to obtain tens of thousands of medical files using P2P software. In my own research, I have uncovered tax returns, student loan applications, credit reports and Social Security numbers. I’ve found family rosters which include usernames, passwords and Social Security numbers for entire family. I’ve found Christmas lists, love letters, private photos and videos (naughty ones, too) and just about anything else that can be saved as a digital file.

Installing P2P software allows anyone, including criminal hackers, to access your data. This can result in data breaches, credit card fraud and identity theft. This is the easiest and, frankly, the most fun kind of hacking. I’ve seen reports of numerous government agencies, drug companies, mortgage brokers and others discovering P2P software on their networks after personal data was leaked.

Blueprints for President Obama’s private helicopters were recently compromised because a Maryland-based defense contractor’s P2P software had leaked them to the wild, wild web.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to the Attorney General and FTC Chairman, asking what the Department of Justice is doing to prevent the illegal use of P2P. Which is kind of ridiculous, because it’s not illegal to use P2P programs. Even if it were made illegal, P2P file sharing is a wild animal that can’t be tamed.

The letter also asks what the government is doing to protect its citizens. Okay. I’ve sat with both the FTC and the DoJ. These are not dumb people. I‘ve been very impressed by how smart they are. They know what they are doing and they see the major issues we face. But they are not in a position to prevent an Internet user from installing a free, widely accessible software, and subsequently being stupid when setting it up and unintentionally sharing their C-drive with the world. No government intervention can prevent this. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform should focus more on educating the public about the use of P2P file sharing.

Politicians are most likely being lobbied and funded by the recording and motion picture industries to put pressure on the providers of such software. Letters and government noise will not do anything to stop file sharing. While there have been plenty of witch hunts leading to prosecutorial victories, the public will always be vulnerable. It is up to us, as individuals, to protect ourselves.

  • Don’t install P2P software on your computer.
  • If you aren’t sure whether a family member or employee has installed P2P software, check to see whether anything unfamiliar has been installed. A look at your “All Programs Menu” will show nearly every program on your computer. If you find an unfamiliar program, do an online search to see what it is you’ve found.
  • Set administrative privileges to prevent the installation of new software without your knowledge.
  • If you must use P2P software, be sure that you don’t share your hard drive’s data. When you install and configure the software, don’t let the P2P program select data for you.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker video hacking P2P getting lots of fun data.

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  1. […] are millions of PCs loaded with P2P software, and parents are usually clueless about the exposure of their data. P2P offers a path of least […]

  2. […] are millions of PCs loaded with P2P software and the parents are clueless their data is in the hands of identity thieves. P2P is the path of […]

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