Skip the navigation

Confidential Chicago terrorist threat assessment leaked over P2P

The study was done in '02 by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton

September 13, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Officials at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. are looking into how a Fox News reporter acquired a confidential terrorist threat assessment on Chicago over a public file-sharing network.

Larry Yellen, an investigative reporter with WFLD Fox News in Chicago, on Tuesday reported that he recently used a peer-to-peer (P2P) program called LimeWire to obtain the Booz Allen document. The firm authored the document in 2002.

George Farrar, a spokesman for Booz Allen, today confirmed the incident and said the document was commissioned by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) five years ago. It was one of 35 threat assessments of the nation's bus and rail systems that Booz Allen was commissioned to do by the agency.

"Essentially, yes, those were Booz Allen documents that were available on the Internet via a peer-to-peer file-sharing system," Farrar said. "What we don't know is from what system those documents made their way to the Internet."

Farrar said that after Booz Allen completed the threat assessment, it made the document available to numerous federal, state and private-sector entities and first responders as required under its contract with the FTA. It was then the responsibility of those entities to protect the documents, Farrar said.

"We investigated internally and didn't find the document on our computers," Farrar said. He also noted that employees at Booz Allen cannot connect to file-sharing networks at work. "We are continuing to investigate. We can't say definitely one way or the other," who the source of the leaked document was. But he said it is possible that the document was leaked from a computer belonging to one of the entities that got the report.

"We don't know what controls were put in place after the document left our hands. So far, we haven't been able to find evidence that it was from our computers," he said.

The Booz Allen incident again highlights what some analysts say is a growing problem: the easy availability of all sorts of government, personal and confidential information on P2P networks.

The situation is the result of information being leaked onto these networks by individuals who fail to take precautions for securing their computers during P2P sessions. Popular P2P clients such as Kazaa, LimeWire, BearShare, Morpheus and FastTrack are designed to let users quickly download and share music and video files. Normally, such clients allow users to download files to -- and share items from -- a particular folder on their system with other users on the network. But if the access these P2P clients have on a system is not controlled, it is easy to expose and share personal data with all other users on a file-sharing network.



Our Commenting Policies
Internet of Things: Get the latest!
Internet of Things

Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!