September 8, 2004
FOR CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS
Administrator, IT and E-Gov
Use Policies and File Sharing Technology
The purpose of this memorandum is to detail specific actions agencies must
take to ensure the appropriate use of certain technologies used for file
sharing across networks. These actions are based on recommended guidance
developed by the CIO Council in 1999. The effective use and management of
file sharing technology requires a clear policy, training of employees on
the policy, and monitoring and enforcement.
A type of file sharing known as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) refers to any software
or system allowing individual users of the Internet to connect to each other
and trade files. These systems are usually highly decentralized and are
designed to facilitate connections between persons who are looking for certain
types of files. While there are many appropriate uses of this technology,
a number of studies show, the vast majority of files traded on P2P networks
are copyrighted music files and pornography. Data also suggests P2P is a
common avenue for the spread of computer viruses within IT systems.
Federal computer systems or networks (as well as those operated by contractors
on the government's behalf) must not be used for the downloading of illegal
and/or unauthorized copyrighted content. It is important to ensure computer
resources of the Federal government are not compromised and to demonstrate
to the American public the importance of adopting ethical and responsible
practices on the Internet.
The CIO Council has issued recommended guidance on Limited Personal
Use of Government Office Equipment Including Information Technology.1
Examples of inappropriate personal use include the creation, download,
viewing, storage, copying, or transmission of materials related to illegal
gambling, illegal weapons, terrorist activities, and any other illegal activities
or activities otherwise prohibited and the unauthorized acquisition,
use, reproduction, transmission, or distribution of any controlled information
including computer software and data, that includes privacy information,
copyrighted, trade marked or material with other intellectual property rights
(beyond fair use), proprietary data, or export controlled software or data.
Direction to Agencies
Effective use and management of file sharing technology requires a clear
policy, training of employees on the policy, and monitoring and enforcement.
Specifically, agencies are directed to:
or Update Agency Personal Use Policies to be Consistent with CIO Council
OMB expects all agencies to establish personal use policies, consistent
with the recommended guidance developed by the CIO Council. Agencies who
have not established personal use guidance should do so without delay, but
no later than December 1, 2004.
Train All Employees on Personal Use Policies and Improper Uses of File
Agencies IT security or ethics training must train employees on agency
personal use policies and the prohibited improper uses of file sharing.
Training must be consistent with OMB Circular A-130, appendix III paragraph
(3)(a)(b) which states agencies must ensure that all individuals
are appropriately trained in how to fulfill their security responsibilities
]. Such training shall assure that employees are versed in the rules
of the system, be consistent with guidance issued by NIST and OPM, and apprise
them about available assistance and technical security products and techniques.
On October 6, 2004, as part of the agency annual reports required by Federal
Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) described in OMB Memorandum
04-25, FY 2004 Reporting Instructions for FISMA2
agencies must report whether they provide training regarding the appropriate
use of P2P file sharing.
Implement Security Controls to Prevent and Detect Improper File Sharing
As required by FISMA, agencies are to use existing NIST standards and guidance
to complete system risk and impact assessments in developing security plans
and authorizing systems for operation. Operational controls detailing procedures
for handling and distributing information and management controls outlining
rules of behavior for the user must ensure the proper controls are in place
to prevent and detect improper file sharing.
Again, OMB recognizes there are appropriate uses of file sharing technologies,
but as with all technology it must be appropriately managed.
you have any questions regarding this memorandum, please contact Jeanette
Thornton, Policy Analyst, Information Policy and Technology Branch, Office
of Management and Budget, phone (202) 395-3562, fax (202) 395-5167, e-mail:
(May 19, 1999)
(August 23, 2004) (28 pages, 270 kb)