P2P Software Leads to ID Theft

Dennis Faas's picture

In what's being described as the first case of its kind, a Seattle man has reportedly been arrested on 4 counts for using peer-to-peer (P2P) software to steal digital data and commit identity theft, alleging that he victimized at least 83 people. Gregory Thomas Kopiloff used Limewire, Soulseek and other P2P software to rummage other people's computers for financial, medical and tax information, which he would use to open credit cards and for online shopping sprees. He bought more than $73,000 worth of merchandise online, then turned around and resold them at steep discounts.

"If you are running file-sharing software, you are giving criminals the keys to your computer," said assistant U.S. attorney Kathryn Warma. "Criminals are getting access to incredibly valuable information." She also referred to Kopiloff as "the poster child of a 21st-century theft."

Robert Boback, a P2P risk management expert called it a "new age of crime" and said that people who engage in P2P file sharing "don't realize what they are sharing is their entire hard drive."

Research performed by Boback's company for a two week period found almost 800,000 suspicious P2P search terms involving credit cards, credit reports, tax returns, bank accounts, medical insurance and passwords, and about 966 million P2P searches are done every day around the world. "This is the new world of identity theft," he said. "There are tens of thousands of individuals making a living doing this kind of work."

Kopiloff began using free P2P programs about 2 1/2 years ago to search for computer users who inadvertently allowed access to their sensitive files. He also obtained some information the old-fashioned way -- his associates would go dumpster diving for financial records.

Kopiloff has been charged with mail fraud, accessing a protected computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

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