Air Force agents tackle security

The U.S. Air Force for the first time has co-located special agents with a major command in an effort to defend military Web sites against hacker attacks.

Two cybercrime agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) are now co-located at the Air Force Materiel Command's Network Operation and Security Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The Air Force is considering co-locating agents with other organizations with high-value networks, officials said.

The Materiel Command owns five Web sites among the Defense Department's most frequently scanned or probed networks by cyberintruders seeking illegal access. The sites are targets because of a heavy focus on technology research.

For instance, the Air Force Research Laboratory, which falls under the Materiel Command, develops technology for information warfare tools, air and space vehicles, sensors and munitions.

"The bad guys are really after the information in the minds of our scientists or in our networks, and those are the two fronts we're trying to protect," said Lt. Col. Dennis Keith, vice commander of AFOSI's region one, which supports the Materiel Command.

The idea is to prevent network intrusions, identify potential threats and offer an extra layer of protection to critical research networks, said special agent Zachary Smith and others.

"We have a wider window on what may be the adversary threat to our information resources," said Mel Clime, an AFOSI counterintelligence program manager. The special agents "have got their finger on the pulse of what's going on at the time instead of coming in after the fact."

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