Bill would require protection against file sharing

Bill would require protection against file sharing

The House Government Reform Committee today approved a bill that would require agencies to develop policies protecting computer systems from threats posed by peer-to-peer networking.

'File sharing technology is not inherently bad, and it may turn out to have a variety of beneficial applications,' said co-sponsor Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). But risks associated with file sharing need to be addressed, he said.

HR 3159, titled the Government Network Security Act of 2003, was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.). It would require each agency to develop and implement a plan to protect its systems, incorporating technology, policy and training, within six months of the bill's enactment. The comptroller general would report to the House and Senate on the results of the plans within 18 months of enactment.

Peer-to-peer networking is a technology that lets users with common software share files on their computers over proprietary networks or the Internet, in effect turning each computer into a server. It has gained its greatest notoriety in the distribution of copyrighted music, but it can be used to share any type of digital material stored on a computer.

According to a statement from the Government Reform Committee, the legislation was spurred by a demonstration earlier this year in which staff members were able to access tax and medical records, and other sensitive data on government computers. Both the House and Senate have implemented their own plans to combat the security risks from this technology, spokesman David Marin said.

'They include everything from better technology, such as firewalls, to education and training,' Marin said. 'Each committee has forged its own rules, from outright prohibition to enlightened use.'

The bill would not outlaw peer-to-peer file sharing, but would restrict its use.

'Innovations in peer-to-peer technology for government applications can be pursued on intragovernmental networks that do not pose risks to network security,' it says.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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