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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

Military USB Memory Stick Ban: Lack Of Disk Encryption Is Not The Only Issue

The US Department of Defense is banning USB memory stick as well as all other forms of removable media storage devices. (Makes me wonder why they didn’t react this quickly when they decided data encryption software was necessary to safeguard the information on their computers.)  In the face of this ban, it seems like a good time to point out that there is software out there that will allow administrators to control USB ports on their computers.

Why The Ban?
The ban was initially reported as the result of a worm spreading in the military’s computer networks.  The worm, a variation of the SillyFDC, is spreading in the military’s networks.  This particular worm spreads from an infected disk to another.  For example, if you stick an infected flash drive into a computer that’s not infected, the virus copies itself to the hard drive of the computer, infecting it.  Any other removable storage media that are plugged into the now-infected computer will be affected as well.  This is a little different from other computer worms that spread, for example, via a computer network.

A further update, however, has the military claiming that the ban is not due to the spreading of the worm per se.  They’re claiming that the ban of removable media storage is one aspect of an effort to improve the military’s information system protection.  Which is weird.  This worm has been around forever.  USB sticks have been around forever.  And enemies have been around forever as well.  What the heck changed that merits an immediate ban?

Déjà Vu?
The issue of removable storage has cropped several times in the past.  Just a couple of years ago, it was claimed that the UK military was looking to ban iPods.  The argument was that iPods are hard drives that double up as music players, so it wouldn’t be improbable for secrets to slip out of military bases accompanied to their own soundtrack.  The British military denied it, as reported by the BBC.

Control Ports Using Superglue…Or Whitelists
It’s been reported that some companies have superglued USB ports shut in an attempt to prevent data breaches.  While it makes for great conversation at a party, superglue is not necessarily the best solution.  What if you have to use that port at some point in the future?  You’d be better off using application control software.

Software exists to control what devices work when connected to USB ports, and it’s usually programmable via whitelists or blacklists (or both, if using AlertBoot data encryption and protection suites) to easily control the desired outcome.  A whitelist would allow a device to connect to the computer, whereas the blacklist would do the opposite.  Better yet, it allows you to control port availability based on the user profile.

What this means for the military is, if a four-star general decides he needs to stick his flash drive to a computer, he’s able to do so, whereas Private Jenkins cannot.

Certainly a better solution than superglue (messy) or assuming soldiers always follow orders.  I mean, if they did, the term AWOL wouldn’t exist now, would it?

Related Articles:
http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/11/army-bans-usb-d.html
http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/11/military-usb-ba.html

 
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About sang_lee

Sang Lee is a Senior Account Manager and Security Analyst with AlertBoot, Inc., the leading provider of managed endpoint security services, based in Las Vegas, NV. Mr. Lee helps with the deployment and ongoing support of the AlertBoot disk encryption managed service. Prior to working at AlertBoot, Mr. Lee served in the South Korean Navy. He holds both a B.S. and an M.S. from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.