Gregory Kopiloff was arrested Wednesday on charges of mail fraud, accessing a protected computer without authorization and two counts of aggravated identity theft, said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington. This is the first case that Langlie's office is aware of that involves P-to-P identity-theft charges, she said.
In court filings, federal prosecutors alleged that Kopiloff began the scam around March 2005, using the P-to-P networks to search for victims who had accidentally configured their software to share sensitive documents. Hard drives were searched for "federal income tax returns, student financial aid applications and credit reports that had been stored electronically," court filings state.
Using that information, Kopiloff would fill out online credit-card applications, and then buy products such as iPods or computer hard drives, which he then resold for cash, typically at about US$0.50 on the dollar, federal prosecutors claim.
Kopiloff was allegedly able to buy more than US$73,000 worth of merchandise using online credit-card accounts he'd set up using the identities of at least 83 victims.
It's easy for unsophisticated users to accidentally share sensitive information via P-to-P networks said Christopher Boyd, director of malware research with FaceTime Communications Inc. "Some P2P programs have 'share folder' options and if you accidentally hit it, bam -- it's out there without you even knowing about it," he said in an instant-message interview.
But luckily there's an easy fix for the problem. Boyd recommends that P-to-P users place all of their sensitive documents on a stand-alone drive, separate from the main PC. "It's about the best way to ensure you don't accidentally share your life story with the rest of the world via P2P," he said.