by Mike Masnick

Patent Office Says File Sharing Is A National Security Risk

from the oh,-come-on dept

The entertainment industry has long tried all sorts of tactics to demonize file sharing systems, and all too often politicians seem to accept those claims. For a while, politicians started claiming that file sharing networks were a threat because they exposed children to porn. This went on long after studies showed that the risk was no different from the regular internet. The latest, though, (submitted by John) is that the US Patent Office (who has always been friendly with the entertainment industry due to their similar views on intellectual property) has put out a report claiming that file sharing networks are a threat to national security. It discusses how these file sharing networks default to "share everything" mode and how that's useful to identity thieves, but then notes that government employees are using the networks and may be accidentally sharing confidential documents.

There is some precedent for such claims. After all, Japan admitted that a contractor with a file sharing system on his laptop had accidentally revealed nuclear secrets a few years ago. Of course, like this report, the Japanese government started out by blaming the software, not realizing it wasn't the software's fault at all. Instead, it's the lax security policies of a government that lets people with classified information on their laptops install programs without any oversight and without any recognition that those programs might be opening up security holes. The fault isn't with the file sharing systems -- but with the security policies of government agencies.

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  1. identicon
    Tom, 9 Mar 2007 @ 10:33pm

    Why its OK to blame distributors who violate their


    First, a disclaimer: The views expressed below are my own private opinions. They do not reflect the views of any past or present employer.

    Mike, since you seem not to have read the report before declaring it to be misguided, I thought I should summarize why, in the case of the particular programs analyzed in the report, it might be appropriate to conclude that there is a problem with the software itself. Here are the highlights:

    · In 2002, a published study identified two features in popular filesharing programs (share-folder and search-wizard features) that were causing users to share their personal files inadvertently.

    · In 2003, two congressional hearings confirmed the effects of these two features and showed that inadvertent sharing was a widespread problem.

    · In 2003, distributors purported to respond to concerns about inadvertent sharing by adopting a Code of Conduct that would have prohibited them from deploying share-folder or search-wizard features on two separate grounds.

    · In 2004, some distributors represented to the FTC and Congress that their compliance with their Code of Conduct had rendered inadvertent sharing a mere “urban myth.”

    · In reality, in 2004 and 2005, most of these distributors kept right on deploying share-folder and/or search-wizard features. And guess what? Inadvertent sharing of personal files kept right on recurring.

    Under such circumstances, there is a problem with the software, or, more specifically, with the distributors who violated their own self-imposed Code of Conduct in order to keep on deploying features that had a known tendency to cause inadvertent sharing.

    Mike, can you honestly say that you see no problem with the course of conduct described above? If not, then please consider reading the report and re-evaluating whether it might actually describe some real problems. Moreover, if you do read the report, you will also discover that the problem with these programs is not that they “default to share-everything mode.” They don’t. –Tom Sydnor

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