Some file-sharing clients open users to identity theft

On March 1, 2009, NBC's Natalie Morales reported on Nightly News about the dangers that Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software users face. The family they interviewed used a P2P program (still popular with the teenage crowds) which, unbeknownst to them, was leaking tax return information onto the P2P network.

There are two ways that P2P programs can lead to data leakage; one is due to user misconfiguration, the other due to software flaws. The first is somewhat easy to fix: if, after learning about the dangers of P2P programs, you still find a need to use them, be sure to configure the software so that does not share your entire hard drive but only designated files and folders. The second aspect, software flaws, is something the entire software engineering and information security community have been trying to solve for several decades with no end in sight.

However, this story opens up another worrisome aspect related to taxes, that of the small and medium sized CPAs and tax accountants all over the country who are charged by their customers to figure out their taxes. Tax returns are rich with personal information and need to be appropriately secured. Next time you drop off your tax records, ask how your information will be protected. If instead you find yourself doing your own taxes, be sure to safeguard any data files and/or PDF documents you generated by either encrypting these or storing them off of the main computer (e.g. in a safe, preferably encrypted as well).

Src: Some file-sharing clients open users to identity theft | msnbc.com [video]
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