The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it uncovered rampant data breaches across various institutions as members of those institutions engaged in swapped files over the Internet.
Employees at the institutions, including companies, schools and local governments, inadvertently leaked sensitive information onto peer-to-peer networks, making them vulnerable to identity theft and other abuse.
Financial data, social security numbers, and drivers licenses numbers are among the data leaked.
Unfortunately, companies and institutions of all sizes are vulnerable to serious P2P-related breaches, placing consumers' sensitive information at risk, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a news release.
The agency said it has launched separate investigations of some companies as a result of its file-swapping inquiry, but it declined to name those firms or detail the scope of the probes.
It also sent 100 letters out to the institutions detailing the breaches and urged companies to review their security practices and, if appropriate, the practices of contractors and vendors.
P2P technologies, such as BitTorrent or Limewire, allow users to share and receive content with others across the Internet, making it easy to swap large files, music and video.
In this case, users engaged in P2P sharing inadvertently shared sensitive data as well.
It is your responsibility to protect such information from unauthorized access, including taking steps to control the use of P2P software on your own networks and those of your service providers, the FCC said.