Only specific drives will be allowed and rules for use are strict

Viruses and malware are a big issue for any computer user be the user a civilian trying to surf the net at home or a government installation with national security secrets tucked away inside its networks. One of the most common ways to move data from computer to computer and take data on the road today is the common flash drive.

The U.S. military has taken a harsh stance on USB drives and thumb drives after a virus infection stemming from a thumb drive infected networks in November of 2008 prompting a complete ban on thumb drives in any DoD computer. The ban not only included thumb drives, but also banned users from connecting PMPs, digital cameras and other devices with internal flash storage to computer networks.

Defense News reports that the Pentagon is now ready to remove the ban on thumb drives, but the lift of the ban is contingent on following strict rules and is for limited use of thumb drives. The DoD will only allow "specific thumb drives" and accompanying kits using hardware and software to remove and viruses or malware from the drives to be used. Vice Admiral Carl Mauney, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command said that right now, the military has only a few dozen kits and all were built in a laboratory.

One official referred to the kits as "malware scrubbing kiosks." The drives are heading to Afghanistan and are expected to be useful at combat command centers and analysis centers according to Mauney. Defense News offers a few of the rules for using the thumb drives from a statement that was issued on February 19. The rules are as follows:

"Only properly inventoried, government-procured and owned devices will be allowed for use in DoD's information systems."

"Personally-owned devices are prohibited on all DoD networks and computers."

The new government-owned and approved drives cannot be used in personal or other non-government computers or networks without specific approval.

Thumb drives and other flash media are to be used "only as a last resort" for transferring information from computer to computer or from place to place. When other network resources are available, they should be used instead.

The rules also stipulate that to ensure procedures are being followed "randomly selected users and drives will be subject to periodic auditing," according to the Strategic Command. Individual commanders will be able to decide if the use of the flash drives will be allowed in their organizations. Some commanders developed methods of moving data without needing thumb drives during the ban and may elect to continue using the same methods.

Few details were offered on the thumb drives used in the kits. One official stated that the thumb drives encrypted all data that was on the drive and the drives require a password or fingerprint to access the data. The drives also have anti-virus protection and other security features to prevent certain types of data from being copied or stored on the drive. Security may also prevent users form storing unapproved data on the drives.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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