File-sharing software ban sought in House

By Paul Kane
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weeks after an embarrassing security breach revealed details of dozens of ethics investigations, a House committee chairman introduced legislation Tuesday that would forbid federal employees to use popular file-sharing technology that was involved in the leak.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, aims to outlaw federal workers from using networks such as LimeWire, through which network members can share computer and music files.

The Washington Post reported last month on the inner workings of the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics. The information came from a committee document that a junior staffer had exposed on her home computer, which was using peer-to-peer technology. A non-congressional source with no connection to the committee accessed the document and gave a copy to The Post.

"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 peer-to-peer security breaches in the last year have involved documents about the president's helicopter, financial information belonging to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and the location of a Secret Service safe house for the first family.

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