Pentagon Bans Removable Drives on Classified Network

To avoid more documents going to WikiLeaks, the Pentagon has banned the use of removable drives on its classified SIPRNet. The Pentagon said data transfers "routinely occur," but didn't disable removable media due to logistics problems. The Pentagon previously banned removable drives in 2008, but lifted that order early this year.

In an effort to thwart future unauthorized releases of government documents, the Pentagon is now banning the use of removable drives on its classified network Relevant Products/Services. The move comes after thousands of classified documents and several military videos were released to the WikiLeaks web site earlier this year.

The order, initially from the Air Force and reportedly from the other services as well, prohibits users of its classified network, SIPRNet, from using what the Air Force described as "removable media on all systems, servers and stand-alone machines" on the network. Removable media include thumb drives, DVDs, CDs and similar devices.

'The Insider Threat'

The order noted that "unauthorized data Relevant Products/Services transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat Relevant Products/Services uses to exploit classified information Relevant Products/Services."

The Pentagon conducted an internal review this summer, which suggested that all computers storing classified information have the ability to write to removable media disabled. But excluding removable media makes the logistics of the system more difficult, since computers storing classified information are sometimes disconnected from a network, or in areas where the network connection is spotty or slow.

"Users will experience difficulty with transferring data for operational needs, which could impede timeliness on mission execution," according to the Pentagon order. But this isn't the first time removable drives have been banned. In 2008, they were prohibited following a widespread worm infection on the Pentagon's computers, but the ban was removed last February.

In a statement after WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables, the military said "the theft of materials traces to the lack of sharing of information and intelligence prior to and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

9/11 Info Easing 'Backfired'

According to the statement, issued by the American Forces Press Service, a commission report following the terrorist attacks "found that agencies weren't sharing enough information with each other," but the effort to improve information flow "backfired in that it made it easier for individuals and groups inside the process to steal the information."

Earlier this year, Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, admitted to an ex-hacker he met online that he had downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from this network to a CD he labeled Lady Gaga. The classified U.S. diplomatic cables were then turned over to WikiLeaks. Manning, who was stationed in Iraq, was later arrested by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.

Manning is also accused of being the source of a video Relevant Products/Services posted on WikiLeaks in April, which showed a U.S. air strike in Iraq that took the lives of several civilians.

Following publication of the leaked documents, WikiLeaks has had its accounts shut down by, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, and founder Julian Assange is currently in a U.K. jail on an unrelated charge. On Friday, his lawyer indicated to news media that a U.S. indictment against his client, possibly for espionage, is expected soon.[source]


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