House votes to lock out P2P threat

Thursday, 9 October 2003, 2:17 PM EST

U.S. government agencies that use such decentralized networks to exchange data would have to ensure they do not accidentally expose classified material or allow hackers into their systems under the bill, which passed by voice vote.

Peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and Grokster allow users to copy music and other material directly from each others' hard drives, drawing millions of enthusiastic users and the legal wrath of the recording industry.

Federal agencies have begun to use peer-to-peer technology as well. The www.fedstats.gov page, for example, uses peer-to-peer techniques to pull statistics and information from computers in more than 100 different U.S. government agencies.

But if configured improperly, peer-to-peer networks can expose tax returns, medical records and other sensitive documents that users do not want to share. Worms and viruses can spread through the networks, and some also contain hidden "spyware" to track users' activities, according to testimony at a committee hearing earlier this year.

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