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Risk

1/23/2011
10:38 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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WikiLeaks Targeting P2P Networks?

That is the allegation in a news report that ran last week. While the outcome from the investigation could have a profound impact on whether the anti-secrecy organization is a media outlet – there is a bigger lesson.

That is the allegation in a news report that ran last week. While the outcome from the investigation could have a profound impact on whether the anti-secrecy organization is a media outlet – there is a bigger lesson.According to this Bloomberg news story, WikiLeaks May Have Exploited Music, Photo Networks to Get Data, there is some circumstantial evidence lending to claims that WikiLeaks is proactively scouring peer-to-peer, or P2P, networks for confidential documents.

The evidence is based on the findings of a security firm, Tiversa Inc., which told Bloomberg that it identified systems based in Sweden searching for private documents on P2P networks and that documents it found later appeared on the WikiLeaks site.

Tenuous evidence? Sure. We'll see what comes of this. At stake for Wikileaks is its claim that it is a media organization. It will have a harder time making that claim if it is shown that it proactively goes out seeking to grab data off of hard drives that were never meant to be made public.

Though I have a hard time agreeing with the argument that snatching data off of hard drives with files and folders that were made publically available is much of a crime.

What is most disturbing is the sensitivity and the quantity of the files found available to anyone on those sharing networks.

Have a look, from Bloomberg's story:

Tiversa researchers said the data-mining operation in Sweden is both systematic and highly successful.

In a 60-minute period on Feb. 7, 2009, using so-called Internet protocol addresses that every computer, server or similar equipment has, Tiversa's monitors detected four Swedish computers engaged in searching and downloading information on peer-to-peer networks. The four computers issued 413 searches, crafted to find Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and other information-rich documents among some of the 18 million users the company estimates are on such file-sharing networks at any given moment.

Those searches led to a computer in Hawaii that held a survey of the Pentagon's Pacific Missile Range Facility in that state. Tiversa captured the download of the PDF file by one of the Swedish computers. The document was renamed and posted on the WikiLeaks website two months later, on April 29, 2009, according to a mirror image of the site.

If there are systems on your corporate network, or you have people who work from home, who have P2P network file sharing software on their systems - I can hardly think of a bigger security risk.

Make sure your security teams are scanning for this type of client software on work endpoints, and looking for network traffic behavior that would be indicative of P2P file sharing traffic.

For my security and technology observations find me on Twitter.

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