House Bill Bans Government Employee File Sharing

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2010-03-26

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation March 25 that would place greater restrictions on the use of open network P2P software on all federal computers.

The Secure Federal File Sharing Act (H.R. 4098) makes important progress toward banning the recreational use of P2P software on all federal computers, computer systems and networks including those belonging to government contractors. The bill would also require the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to approve legitimate uses of P2P software on a case-by-case basis and provide to Congress annually a list of agencies that are using P2P software and the intended purposes for using the software. 

On March 4, the Oversight Committee passed H.R. 4098 and sent it to the House floor for a final vote. The bill now moves to the Senate.

"We can no longer ignore the threat to sensitive government information, businesses and consumers that insecure peer-to-peer networks pose," bill sponsor Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), said in a statement. "Securing federal computer files is critical to our national security. Congress acted today to protect the American people by helping to prevent inadvertent security breaches on insecure networks."

In 2009, several security breaches involving highly sensitive information were discovered and in some cases widely reported by the news media. The leaks included a list of ongoing House Ethics Committee investigations, the wiring schematics for the "Marine One" helicopter that were downloaded in Iran and the release of sensitive information about U.S. military programs and troops.

"While I understand that peer-to-peer file sharing software offers great potential, the security risks of open network use on federal computers and systems far exceed that potential," said Towns.  "Because of our actions today, important safeguards are now in place to protect sensitive government information."

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