Plugging DOD's network holes

The Interceptors are picking up signals that the Defense Department will soon get a pot of money to plug the gaping holes in the military's computer network defenses.

One of our best sources told us that a lot has been going on in this area in the past several days. Congress is preparing a funding package for fiscal 2006 and is expected to make a decision in the next 30 days.

This means Bob Lentz, DOD's director of information assurance, should get more money to spend on the problem next year.

He told us earlier this year that he expected an increase in computer security spending in 2006, but he may be getting a windfall.

We'll see. Our source said he is not planning a Friday happy hour party in McLean, Va., just yet. "We've been told this 10 quarters in a row," he said.

Titan Rain presentation

Speaking of DOD's network vulnerabilities, mark 12:15 p.m. Oct. 26 on your calendar.

That's when Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, will give a presentation on the topic at the Federal Information Assurance Conference 2005 in Adelphi, Md. His speech is titled "Titan Rain: The Theft of America's Critical Military Information Assets."

Paller said he will present the unclassified version of the story of how Chinese cyber spies hacked into U.S. government networks. He said he wants military, government and industry officials to understand how it happened so they can prevent it from happening again.

We'll be there taking notes.

Able Danger IT angles

The Interceptors appreciate renegade lawmakers because we sometimes view ourselves as renegade reporters. So we delighted in reading Rep. Curt Weldon's (R-Pa.) testimony last month to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Able Danger whistling teapot scandal.

Weldon contends DOD knew about Mohamed Atta and three other hijackers more than a year before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

He said a department initiative called Able Danger collected information about al Qaeda and five worldwide cells.

Weldon found eight DOD and government officials who confirmed the existence of Able Danger. Even more interesting, he said one of them, a technician, admitted to destroying up to 2.5 terabytes of data on the initiative.

Weldon wants to know who ordered the destruction of the data and why. We'd like to know how someone gets rids of that amount of information without leaving a trace.

So we called an industry official whose company specializes in data storage. We're still waiting for a return phone call. We're not surprised.

Grand Challenge rules

We find robot technology fascinating, so we're always excited to hear about the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge. The second annual event will be held Oct. 8 in the desert Southwest with 43 teams vying for the $2 million prize.

Unmanned ground vehicles that operate without the help of humans must travel 150 miles over rugged desert roads using onboard sensors and navigation equipment.

DARPA will announce the route two hours before the race starts, then team members will program their vehicles to follow the route and avoid obstacles. The vehicle that completes the route fastest within 10 hours wins. Sounds clear.

We took the time to explain the rules because they are important. In fact, you can't imagine how important they are.

Last year, an official who runs a robotic company told us DARPA changed the rules so many times that the race was a fiasco. This year, it sounds like the agency learned its lesson.

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