Legislation to restrict the use of P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing software across the federal government was introduced Nov. 17 by Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The bill comes after a highly confidential House Ethics Committee document containing the list of ongoing investigations was inadvertently exposed in October by a staffer with P2P software on his computer.
"We can no longer ignore the threat to sensitive government information that insecure peer-to-peer networks pose," Towns said in a statement. "Voluntary self-regulations have failed so now is the time for Congress to act."
Other P2P security incidents this year include highly sensitive information discovered on open file sharing networks regarding the electronic schematics to the President's helicopter, Marine One; the financial information belonging to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; and the location of a U.S. Secret Service safe house for the First Family.
"The time has come to put the proper file sharing restrictions in place. I believe my legislation will help prevent these types of inadvertent security breaches from occurring in the future," Towns said.
On the face of it, the legislation would prohibit the download, installation or use by government employees and contractors of open network peer-to-peer file sharing software on all federal computers, computer systems and networks, including those operated by contractors on the government's behalf. The bill would also ask the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to address the use of P2P software by government employees and contractors as it relates to telework and remotely accessing federal computers, computer systems and networks.
However, the bill would allow agencies to seek approval for P2P use if it is necessary for the day-to-day operations of the agency or is instrumental to completion of a task.