OMB asks agencies to double-check file sharing risks

OMB Memo on P2P Risks, 2004

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Prompted by growing concerns about the security risks posed by file-sharing programs, the Office of Management and Budget has asked agencies to review the controls they have in place to manage the technology.

OMB is particularly concerned about potential risks associated with having teleworkers who are processing information remotely, according to a July 24 memo obtained by Federal Computer Week.

The memo directs chief information officers to provide OMB with a brief e-mail message describing their existing configurations and controls for securing the telework environment. The e-mail message should also highlight any weaknesses found in their agencywide review and identify any steps needed to mitigate file-sharing risks.

OMB also asks that agencies incorporate new efforts into their Plan of Action and Milestones, which agencies file under the Federal Information Security Management Act. The memo referred to a September 2004 memo on “Personal Use Polices and ‘File Sharing’ Technology” for background on how agencies should protect against risks from unauthorized file sharing, specifically those caused by peer to peer networks (P2P.)

The potential risk of teleworkers sharing government files via P2P networks, which allow users to share files directly between computers, has lawmakers worried as well. Last week, experts and government executives testified that sensitive government information such as network diagrams, employee lists, security clearances and studies on the security of major U.S. cities are all available and actively being sought via P2P networks at House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

Experts caution that even experienced information technology professionals risk accidentally divulging data through the programs that automatically search hard drives and make downloaded files available for sharing.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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