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3/25/2010
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House Bans File Sharing By Government Employees

Senate yet to consider the bill, which bans federal employees from using peer-to-peer networks at work or when accessing government networks at home.

The House has passed a bill that would prevent government employees from using peer-to-peer file-sharing software either in the office or when accessing government networks remotely from home.

The Secure Federal File Sharing Act, introduced by Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., in November, calls for the Office of Management and Budget to ban the use of applications like BitTorrent or Limewire on government PCs and networks.

It also requires the OMB to set policies for federal employees who telecommute or access government networks remotely.

The bill passed by a vote of 408 to 13, according to a statement by Rep. Towns' office. Towns also is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.

"We can no longer ignore the threat to sensitive government information, businesses, and consumers that insecure peer-to-peer networks pose," Towns said in the statement. "Securing federal computer files is critical to our national security."

A ban on the use of P2P networks by the federal government has been in the works for some time. However, a previous effort last year by the House to pass a bill that would have required agencies to set security policies around P2P use stalled in the Senate.

The Senate is not currently considering a bill similar to the Secure Federal File Sharing Act, either. However, it is considering another bill, the P2P Cyber Protection and Informed User Act, which would require people sharing software to alert users when they encounter a P2P program.

The Senate bill also would make it unlawful to prevent an authorized PC user from blocking the installation of a P2P file-sharing program, or disabling or removing P2P programs.

Towns first called for a ban on P2P file sharing last summer. P2P monitoring company Tiversa testified during a Senate committee hearing that it found the location of a Secret Service safe house for the President's family on Limewire. The company had previously admitted to finding other classified information on P2P networks.

Last month the issue resurfaced when a government employee who later was fired leaked the result of a private ethics investigation document on a file-sharing network. Reports said the leak was inadvertent and came from the employee's home computer.

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