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Info Technicians Must Be Mindful of Web Site Content

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2003 -- The U.S. military uses the Internet as an electronic conduit to quickly disseminate information. From a security perspective, however, stretches of that worldwide information highway contain potholes.

"We need to use the Web for efficiency and effectiveness - it's a great medium. But, we have to use it with security and information sensitivity in mind," noted Linda Brown, a DoD information technology specialist and the person responsible for the DoD web site administration policy.

DoD Internet security is getting better, even as more and more military information is being carried over the World Wide Web, remarked Brown, who works in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence.

On the other hand, operations and exercise plans and installation maps for water, electric and other utility services have no place on publicly accessible Web sites, Brown explained. That kind of information, she noted, "would be helpful for someone intending to defeat our plans, our intentions."

Classified information, she continued, is contained within heavily safeguarded separate networks that can be accessed only by certain individuals. However, there've been cases where the public was found to have access to things that were supposedly only on protected intranets, Brown remarked.

Such occurrences, though, are most often inadvertent and quickly remedied when discovered, she emphasized.

Other items definitely not for public viewing include anything that is For Official Use Only (FOUO), detailed computer system information, organizational manning charts and graphics, and photos of base entrances and exits, Brown noted.

Even unclassified, personal information could well be of interest, such as home addresses and the like, which would allow Web surfers to harass or target service members' families, Brown said.

DoD's Web policy is accessible at http://www.defenselink.mil/webmasters, Brown remarked. The site provides guidelines as to what DoD webmasters and content providers can and can't do on the department's Internet pages. The site also lists things considered inappropriate for posting, she added.

DoD has been concerned about Web security issues for years -- long before the war against global terrorism erupted, Brown noted.

"The basic DoD Web policy was issued in 1998," she explained. "Maybe we have some heightened concerns because of the world situation today."

It's a given, Brown noted, that U.S. adversaries routinely check out DoD Web pages for information.

"It's an ongoing, constant concern," she concluded.