In a first, the Justice Department has arrested a man for
committing identity theft on a peer to peer (P2P) network. The accused, a
Seattle man, used the P2P service to search for sensitive documents that were
unwittingly shared by other users. While the victims were likely searching for
movies or music to download the accused man was searching for tax returns and
other sensitive information that would contain social security numbers,
employment records and more.
While such a scheme seems somewhat simple, the fact that it
is now “in the wild” will likely mean that there will be numerous copycat
identify thieves. Of course, such security breaches could be easily avoided if
users would simply pay attention to the security of their files when using
peer-to-peer networks. Very simple techniques, such as password protecting
sensitive directories and only sharing files with popular media extensions are
simple and effective ways to prevent attempted identity thefts.
While users are likely more conscious of their privacy on P2P networks because
of this story, it is also quite likely that copyright owners are quietly
cheering this development. Any additional risk on P2P networks, which allow
users to easily share copyrighted works, is a boon for IP holders who would hope
to see a reduction in use of P2P networks based on this news.