U.S. Military Expected To Permit Some Thumb Drive Use Again
After being banned almost a year ago as bug-infested cyber threats, thumb drives may soon be allowed to plug back into U.S. Defense Department computers and networks. But not all thumb drives. And not for all computer users, according to Pentagon officials and industry sources.
Thumb drives were banned in November 2008 after thousands of military computers and networks became infected by worms, viruses and other malicious software. Many of the infections were traced to thumb drives, which acquired malicious software from computers or the Internet and passed them on. The ban has been a major hassle for many who came to rely on thumb drives.
Aircraft and vehicle technicians weren't hauling around tech manuals, Medical records of wounded troops were sometimes stored on thumb drives and accompanied patients from field hospitals in Iraq to Germany and on to the United States, Pilots used thumb drives to transfer mission plans from operations rooms to aircraft computers and thousands of others used thumb drives to store, share and transfer photos, briefings, videos, PowerPoint presentations, maps, documents and all kinds of other digital data.
"Up until a year ago, we were using thumb drives all over the place," said Robert Carey, chief information officer of the U.S. Navy. "Now I've got to burn a CD."
The ban wasn't confined to thumb drives. It also applied to memory sticks, flash memory cards, digital cameras, music players and personal digital assistants. But the thumb drive ban was the most inconvenient.
Thumb drives still offer an attractive means to move information quickly, Carey said. So in the next 30 to 60 days, the Defense Department is expected to announce that thumb drives are back - in a limited way. For starters, not everyone will be allowed to use them. Only "authorized individuals" are likely to be permitted to use thumb drives for "mission-essential functions."
And the approved drives won't be like the thumb drives on sale at your local office supply store; they probably will be "government-owned and procured."
"The days of using personally owned flash media or using flash media collected at conferences or trade shows are long gone," Carey said.
"A whole lot of procedures are being developed" to govern the return of thumb drives, he said. "Issuance procedures, monitoring procedures, control procedures, it's all in progress."
Europe will increase its aid to Afghanistan despite concerns the situation in the central Asian country is deteriorating. The decision was announced during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
"There's a new recognition in the global debate that while security efforts in Afghanistan are exceedingly important, critical and we can never succeed if we don't manage to build a basic state with basic governance that can provide basic security in the area between Central Asia and South Asia," Carl Bildt, Sweden's FM said. "That requires a lot of strategic patience and this is not going to happen overnight. And it requires clearly a more determined effort on the civilian and political sides. And here the European Union is now - I wouldn't say taking the lead -- but clearly stepping up efforts."