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February 22, 2010

FTC uncovers widespread data breaches

Warns organisations of data leakage on P2P file-sharing networks

By CBR Staff Writer

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned about the data breaches including personal information about customers or employees and has sent letters to almost 100 organisations.

The commission notified organisations that the sensitive data has been shared from the their computer networks and is available on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks to any users of those networks, who could use it to commit identity theft or fraud.

Peer-to-peer technology can be used in many ways, such as to play games, make online telephone calls, and, through P2P file-sharing software share music, video and documents.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman at FTC, said: “Unfortunately, companies and institutions of all sizes are vulnerable to serious P2P-related breaches, placing consumers’ sensitive information at risk. For example, we found health-related information, financial records, and drivers’ license and social security numbers – the kind of information that could lead to identity theft.”

The FTC opened non-public investigations of other companies whose customer or employee information has been exposed on P2P networks. It is also releasing new education materials to help businesses manage the security risks presented by file-sharing software.

FTC said that it has sent notification letters to both private and public entities and also recommended that the entities identify affected customers and employees and consider whether to notify them that their information is available on P2P networks.

Mr Leibowitz, added:  “Companies should take a hard look at their systems to ensure that there are no unauthorised P2P file-sharing programs and that authorised programs are properly configured and secure. Just as important, companies that distribute P2P programs, for their part, should ensure that their software design does not contribute to inadvertent file sharing.”

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