Letter: Don't blame contractors for data leaks

Regarding "DOD: Controlled but unclassified data is leaking"

As a defense contractor and consultant, it always irks me to see articles where individuals like me are considered part of the problem.

It has been my experience that the real problems are Defense Department civilian personnel. Not so much the actual war-fighters/uniform wearers as they understand what can happen, but mostly government workers.

I have personally worked on DOD systems where there was, and probably still is, no control of USB devices, no control over CD or other media and no configuration control on the network period.

As an example, I recently witnessed a government person using a commercially purchased, personal USB thumb drive to bring files back and forth from home to a DOD network so that he could work at his convenience. This same individual (a system administrator) also used the same USB device to transfer operating system patches downloaded from a commercial vendor to upload patches to a classified system.

I have also personally found USB drives lost in parking lots surrounding the workplaces that, when inserted into a standalone system, revealed not only malicious code, but sensitive, unclassified DOD information.

I have also denied government workers access to DOD networks with computers they "bought" so that they could have the latest and greatest hot computer (think Lenovo). The real issue is that these types of people think that the government-provided computer is their personal system and not subject to any regulation or control. They even refer to it as "my computer" and believe that it is their personal system and what they do on it or with it is somehow considered "private communications" and not subject to audit or monitor.

We all read about a laptop left in a car and being stolen or lost. Do people read these articles and ask, "Who lost it?" Generally, it is some government civilian who is careless while in public and during travel.

Instead of DOD and the federal government saying that contractors expose the networks or information, I suggest they clean up their own house first.

Jack

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Reader comments

Thu, Feb 12, 2009 James TX

Bravo! we recently went through a complete T-Drive re-scan for malicious code and several drives were found to be used for both personal and Gov't data. Yikes!

Mon, Feb 9, 2009 James DC

I agree it's not all contractors, but civilian and contractors have been responsible for leaks. One former contractor at my gov't agency was removed because he was found to be trying to use his ID badge to access areas of the building that were off limits, including a classified area. It should definately not be stated the problem is only contractors, but it should be stated that everyone must do better, especially management who is supposed to have the proper controls in place to reduce or eliminate this type of problem.

Fri, Nov 28, 2008 Paul Blake

Jack brings up a great point. I often see Government employees with Post-It notes taped to their computers with all the User ID's and Passwords for all their system accesses.

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