Internet Law

First ID Theft Case Over PC File-Sharing?

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In what may be the first prosecution of its kind, a Seattle man has been arrested for allegedly using a file-sharing program to steal tax returns, financial aid applications and other sensitive information from individual computer hard drives.

Gregory Kopiloff allegedly used Limewire to get personal information, stealing his victims’ identities and fraudulently opening bank and credit accounts in their names, a federal indictment says. He then used the accounts to purchase merchandise, which he resold, reports the Seattle Times.

Security experts have warned for years that peer-to-peer computing networks used to share music, videos and photos “could also enable criminals to access sensitive personal and corporate information stored on computer hard drives,” the newspaper writes.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says computer users routinely share huge numbers of sensitive documents if they run file-sharing programs. A common mistake is accidentally sharing all files on one’s hard drive when downloading file-sharing software, rather than, say, all photo files.

“If you are running file-sharing software, you are giving criminals the keys to your computer,” says Kathryn Warma, an assistant U.S. attorney. “Criminals are getting access to incredibly valuable information.”

However, there is an easy way to protect confidential documents, reports an IDG News Service article in InfoWorld. They should be stored on a separate hard drive, apart from one’s personal computer.

Kopiloff, who was arrested yesterday, is charged with mail fraud, accessing a protected computer without authorization to further fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. He allegedly stole $73,000 and victimized 83 people, according to the P-I article. It says he used at least one other program besides Limewire to do so, and also utilized some traditional ID-theft techniques, such as Dumpster-diving.

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