Aerial view of the United States military headquarters, the Pentagon

The Pentagon has listed a huge amount of previously-dormant internet space, The Washington Post reported. One expert told Insider that the move could enable the Pentagon to gather information from big companies. “It creates this risk of leaking data out to an entity that probably exists just for the purpose of collecting it,” he said. See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than 175 million previously dormant web addresses owned by the US Department of Defense were activated in January, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The announcement of the newly-active IP addresses came from a mysterious company with almost no paper trail, stoking intrigue over the announcement – but the Defense Department ultimately clarified that the company is a contractor and that the Pentagon still owns the IP addresses.

It remains unclear why the Pentagon contracted with a private company to make the announcement (a Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment). Though the agency told The Washington Post that the change is meant to “assess, evaluate and prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space,” the exact purpose and scope of the maneuver remains a mystery.

But the newly active IP addresses – which account for roughly 6% of all internet addresses of their kind – could enable the Defense Department to start collecting a geyser of information from companies across the globe, according to one expert.

The Defense Department’s decision to bring long-dormant IP addresses to life could be an effort to monitor huge amounts of internet traffic, according to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the network monitoring firm Kentik, who published a blog post on the incident cited in the Washington Post’s report.

Big companies are likely unwittingly sending the Pentagon their private data, Madory told Insider. He explained why:

The Pentagon-owned address space in question has been “famously unused” for decades. As a result, companies setting up their internal

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