[ISN] Are P2P networks leaking military secrets?
isn at c4i.org
Wed Jul 28 03:48:34 EDT 2004
By John Borland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
July 27, 2004
A new Web log is posting what it purports are pictures, documents and
letters from U.S. soldiers and military bases in Iraq and
elsewhere--all of which the site's operator claims to have downloaded
from peer-to-peer networks such as Gnutella.
The "See What You Share" site has been online for a week and has
published photos ranging from a crashed military jet to a screenshot
of a spreadsheet file that appears to include names, addresses and
telephone numbers of marines.
The site's operator, a 30-year-old named Rick Wallace, wrote in a blog
posting that he is trying to help the military understand how serious
a security risk unmonitored peer-to-peer file sharing can be. CNET
News.com could not independently verify the authenticity of the
documents posted on the site.
"I want everyone to know that we can be our own worst enemies when we
don't understand the full power of our technology," Wallace wrote in a
posting explaining the site. "I want every military and government
agency to see firsthand what is being shared with anyone who has a
computer. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I can save myself
Among the items appearing on the site were documents from a
transportation unit at Fort Eustis in Virginia. A Fort Eustis
spokesperson contacted could not immediately comment.
The issue of unmonitored file sharing has been a problem since the
release of Gnutella, which allowed people to share the entire contents
of their hard drives, rather than just MP3 files, as had been the case
Network watchers quickly noted that some people appeared to be sharing
much more than they realized, including personal information and Web
"cookie" files that sometimes included passwords for credit cards and
Critics of file-sharing companies, including the Recording Industry
Association of America, have often pointed to this accidental sharing
of personal information as a rationale for tighter regulation of the
Wallace told CNET News.com that he first downloaded a zipped file of
classified documents a few months ago on Gnutella, with stamped
security clearances ranging from "For Official Use Only" to "Secret/NO
FORN." (NOFORN typically stands for "not for release to foreign
nationals" in military parlance.) The documents contained real-time
information about operations in Iraq, "stuff that could kill people,"
In an interview from Germany, where he lives with his wife, a U.S.
Army officer, Wallace said he had contacted local military
intelligence about the issue. They forwarded the information to a
higher level, but there was little further response until he contacted
the office of Sen. Conrad Burns, who represents Wallace's home state
of Montana, Wallace said.
Burns' office confirmed that the conversation had taken place.
"We did send a letter to the secretary of the Army," Burns spokesman
J.P. Donovan said. "We are monitoring this as it goes along."
Shortly after Wallace got in contact with Burns' office, the file of
classified documents disappeared from Gnutella. But many other
potentially sensitive files remain on the sharing network, ranging
from confidential military documents to internal information on public
safety authorities procedures, Wallace said.
"If you're a terrorist, imagine the damage you could do with that,"
Wallace said. "I don't really care if people share their love letters
online. The only things I care about are when people share information
that could hurt people."
Wallace said he now calls agencies once before posting information on
his blog but sees the site as a way to spotlight a problem that could
cost lives in the future. He said he blacks out information that could
be classified before posting a file.
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