Soldier faces court-martial in espionage case

FORT BRAGG N.C. - The Army has charged Pfc. Eric Jenott assigned to the 35th Signal Brigade 18th Airborne Corps with espionage theft of computer passwords and computer crimes involving classified military networks that include unauthorized hacking of supposedly secure systems.

The Army provided only the bare details of the case against the 20-year-old Jenott who has been jailed since June 21 and is slated for a general court-martial beginning Sept. 24. Maj. Gerald O'HARA public affairs officer for the 18th Airborne said in a prepared statement that the "case involves classified information and matters pertaining to national security...limitations exist with respect to the facts that may be disclosed at this time...with respect to due process and the rights of the individual involved we are limited in the information we may release."

The Fayetteville Observer-Times which broke the story of the charges against Jenott last week said the Army has charged him with espionage because he gave computer passwords to Chinese nationals.

Jenott's lawyer Timothy Dunn of Fayetteville has portrayed the charges against his client as an innocent hacking attempt by a young computer-savvy soldier gone awry. Dunn told Federal Computer Week that Jenott faces a variety of charges including unauthorized access to government computer systems as well as the larceny charge related to the theft of computer passwords.

But Dunn said Jenott "did not do anything with an intention to injure the United States....He just demonstrated a weakness [in a computer system to his superior officers.] Whatever [information] he accessed he kept it secret."

Although the Army declined to release any details of the networks Jenott allegedly compromised or penetrated Jenott would have access to both classified and unclassified military networks in his assignment with Company B of the 35th Signal Brigade sources said.

The Jenott case illustrates the need for a drastic change in the way the Pentagon protects its classified and unclassified networks knowledgeable former Defense Department officials said last week.

"The Pfc. may have a problem but the real problem is a management issue. Why do we have classified military networks out there only protected by passwords?" one informed former federal official asked.

FCW has learned that the vulnerability of computer networks protected only by passwords is a key matter of concern for the Defense Science Board's "Summer Study" on information warfare/protect. The study almost complete could recommend that the Defense Department quickly move to "token" and password protection of networks much as banks issue magnetic strip-encoded cards and passwords to customers for automated-teller machines.

Winn Schwartau an information security and information warfare consultant said "Passwords are useless. Even if you firewall a network and someone has a password they can get in. Classified networks should not be using just passwords they should be using tokens as well as biometrics of fingerprints to identify users."

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