In the wake of WikiLeaks' first batch of sensitive government documents hitting the internet, the US military is now reportedly banning physical, removable media in order to reduce additional information leaks. This includes CDs, DVDs and even thumb drives.
Ironically, the news stems from a leaked document-- acquired by Wired's Danger Room-- issued on December 3 by Major General Richard Webber, commander of Air Force Network Operations. Entitled "Cyber Control Order," the document echoes similar orders made to other branches of the military, directing soldiers to "immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines" residing on the Defense Department's secret network, SIPRNET.
"Unauthorized data transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat uses to exploit classified information," the document adds."To mitigate the activity, all Air Force organizations must immediately suspend all SIPRNET data transfer activities on removable media."
This may prove problematic for military personnel. According to Wired, 60-percent of the military's machines are now connected to a Host Based Security System which keeps an eye out for anomalous behavior. However classified computers are typically disconnected from the network or reside in low-bandwidth areas. Getting information from one machine to the next meant saving the info to a thumb drive or a DVD. Now that's been stripped away.
"They were asking us to build homes before," an unnamed source said. "Now they’re taking away our hammers."
Although the order acknowledges that the new ban will make life extraordinarily difficult for military personnel, those who do not comply—rather, those who decide to use physical media anyway-- may be punished under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This means personnel could risk a court martial.
In June Army intelligence analyst PFC Bradley Manning was arrested by Federal officials after handing over classified US combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to WikiLeaks. Manning supposedly downloaded all the files from SIPRNET to a CD marked "Lady Gaga" and passed it over to the whistle-blowing website.