In the fall of 2008, a variant of a three year-old, relatively benign worm began winding its way through the U.S. military's networks, spread by troops using thumb drives and other removable storage media. Now, the Pentagon says the infiltration—first reported by Danger Room—was a deliberate attack, launched by foreign spies. It's a claim that some of the troops who worked to contain the worm are finding hard to back up.
In the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn writes that the worm entered the military’s classified systems "when an infected flash drive was inserted into a U.S. military laptop at a base in the Middle East. The flash drive's malicious computer code, placed there by a foreign intelligence agency, uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. Central Command."
"That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control," Lynn adds. "It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary."
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IT systems become increasingly complex. The user wants both data sharing and increased functionality. But Information Assurance is really the dual of that. An ideal system that perfectly meets IA requirements is a system that would have no users (or be a write-only memory) and have no functionality, and therefore have no connectivity.
Thus we confront this conundrum.
We'll always be forced to deal with this problem. As a set of IA measures are put in place, they will be undermined by increased functionality and expanded data access due to the need to share.
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