DOD's Hamre spells out Web rules

Just one week after senior Defense Department officials expressed concern over the posting of sensitive information on DOD World Wide Web sites, Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre last week issued a departmentwide action plan to boost DOD's Web security policy.

The move was a response to concerns that terrorists and other hostile forces might be able to glean revealing and damaging information on U.S. forces from the department's estimated 1,000 Web sites [FCW, Sept. 21].

"Recently, I have become aware that some information...provides too much detail on DOD capabilities, infrastructure, personnel and operational capabilities," Hamre said. Such details, when combined with information from other sources, "may increase the vulnerability of DOD systems...personnel and their families," he said.

Information tagged by the directive for immediate removal from DOD Web pages includes all data related to military plans, lessons learned, exercises and known vulnerabilities. The directive also called for the immediate removal of information on unit locations, military installations and various personal data on service members and DOD employees, such as Social Security numbers and family information.

"I believe that these steps will help us to better manage Web information services to strike a balance between openness and sound security," Hamre said. "This new security guidance does not diminish in any way our plans to [use] Internet technology to revolutionize the business practices of the department," he said. "Security and efficiency can be achieved at the same time."

DOD is not only concerned that damaging information might be gathered from its Web sites but that data might be corrupted. For example, last year hackers penetrated medical data banks at DOD hospitals in the Southeastern United States and changed blood types contained in soldiers' records, DOD officials said last week.

The centerpiece of the new directive is the creation of a task force under the assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence. This task force will develop policies and procedures governing DOD's use of the Internet and the posting of information on DOD Web sites.

According to the directive, the task force is expected to issue preliminary guidance for DOD agencies by November. In addition, all DOD agencies and components will be required to act on the task force's recommendations by February 1999.

Hamre also ordered the development of a new training program by March 1999. The training program will focus on Web information security issues.

Under the new directive, DOD must develop a plan for using reservists to conduct operational security and threat assessments of DOD sites and to develop a "computer architecture" that will be capable of enhancing the security of information deemed sensitive but unclassified.

Rick Forno, former director of computer security for the House of Representatives, said the Hamre directive is a step in the right direction and validates the need for reservist involvement.

"I see more of a need for this group to serve in an intelligence support role," including the traditional information assurance role, Forno said. "Why not have them [conducting open source intelligence analysis and Web security assessments] during their weekend drills?" he said.

Several DOD officials said they agree with tempering security with reasonableness. "What you want to do is get people to assess and make adult decisions about 'Are we doing something that is going to harm national security?' " said an official at one Defense agency. "What you don't want to do is something terribly Draconian."

Officials from the Marine Corps and Air Force said they have not yet seen the directive but added that the services are already "in the process of doing" many of the things outlined by Hamre.

The DOD directive "demonstrates the difficulty of translating paper-based security policies to the Internet world," said Rich Kellett, director of the General Services Administration's Emerging Information Technologies Policy Division.

The directive also has ramifications for civilian agencies throughout government, Kellett said. For example, agencies are already beginning to see Freedom of Information Act requests for "all e-mail addresses" for a given agency, he said.


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