Energy halts use of classified discs, drives

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham ordered today all Energy Department operations to halt using controlled removable electronic media (CREM) to improve media protection procedures.

Abraham's directive follows an announcement earlier this month that Los Alamos National Laboratory employees had lost two Zip discs containing classified material. Lab workers are searching for the discs amid more than 2,000 safes and vaults. The lab's director has halted all operations at Los Alamos, and Abraham has directed that classified operations will not resume until Energy's deputy secretary, Kyle McSlarrow, and the National Nuclear Security Administration's administrator, Linton Brooks, confirm that newly implemented corrective actions improve CREM management.

"While we have no evidence that the problems currently being investigated are present elsewhere, we have a responsibility to take all necessary action to prevent such problems from occurring at all," Abraham said in a statement.

CREM includes all types of classified hard drives or computer discs.

In May, Abraham called for a variety of security reforms, including several that affect the way the agency protects classified data. Among the reforms is an initiative to move toward disk-free computer environments and keyless security possibly involving a biometric identifier.

At the recommendation of McSlarrow and Brooks, Abraham announced a CREM stand down and details of a plan, effective July 26. "These procedures are designed to guarantee a complete inventory of our classified electronic holdings and make certain that specific individuals can be held responsible and accountable for future problems," Abraham said in a statement.

Some elements of the plan include:

* A 100 percent initial physical inventory of accountable CREM followed by weekly inventories.

* Trained staff will control repositories for all accountable CREM.

* Create a formal checkout process for all accountable CREM.

* An independent validation team will verify the protocols before the operation gets back to normal.

The halt to the use of classified discs and hard drives will continue at Energy facilities until each "conducts appropriate training, reviews security procedures, ensures complete and accountable custodial responsibility, and arranges for a complete inventory," Abraham said.

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