Navy investigates NMCI's Welchia outbreak

Navy NMCI Web site

Navy officials want to know how a worm got into the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

Earlier this month, the so-called Welchia worm infected thousands of systems nationwide, including a few prominent government systems such as NMCI, which is designed to connect everyone in the Navy and Marine Corps on a single, secure network. It was the first time NMCI fell victim to a virus since the services started adding users to the system in 2001.

Now the Navy has begun an inquiry to determine the sequence of events leading to the event, its root cause and the full scope of operational impact, including the specific circumstances that made NMCI vulnerable. The lessons will lead to changes in the Navy's operating processes and procedures to minimize similar incidents in the future.

"It would be Pollyanna-ish to assume that this can't happen again, so we're going to take this as a learning experience," said Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI staff director.

The investigation, being led by the Naval Network Warfare Command, is largely focusing on what happened before Welchia struck. However, once the worm was discovered, the Navy responded adequately to the emergency, a department official said.

"The particular circumstance of the Welchia attack was that the worm was passed to NMCI hours before the updated antivirus signatures to detect and repel the work became available," the official said. "However, the ability of NMCI to push software tools to all workstations on the network enabled us deploy the new signature file as soon as it became available, containing the infection very quickly."

Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, commander of Naval Network Warfare Command, said the protection of the Navy's networks will continue to be a priority as the nation's defense base becomes more reliant on networks.

"The Department of the Navy partnership with the IT industry that led to NMCI has created structure and a command organization to prevent and quickly respond to enterprise network threats such as this," he said.

Consultant Robert Guerra of Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates Inc. said he doubts the outage will have any lasting effects on either lead contractor EDS or the NMCI program.

"The history of the performance of the network is incredible," he said. "It's been up for a couple of years and this would mark the first time it's been down. The project has a responsible vendor, who's done a great job at deploying a very complex network, and a very good customer in the Navy."

Since users started being moved to the system in 2001, more than 99,000 seats have been shifted to NMCI from legacy systems.

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