By Bob Brewin
Dec. 22, 2006
Due to an increased network threat condition, the Defense Department is
blocking all HTML-based e-mail messages and has banned the use of
Outlook Web Access e-mail applications, according to a spokesman for the
Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations.
An internal message available on the Internet from the Defense Security
Service (DSS) states that JTF-GNO raised the network threat condition
from Information Condition 5, which indicates normal operating
conditions, to Infocon 4 in the face of continuing and sophisticated
threats against Defense Department networks.
Infocon 4 usually indicates heightened vigilance in preparation for
operations or exercises or increased monitoring of networks due to
increased risk of attack.
The JTF-GNO mandated use of plain text e-mail because HTML messages pose
a threat to DOD because HTML text can be infected with spyware and, in
some cases, executable code that could enable intruders to gain access
to DOD networks, the JTF-GNO spokesman said.
In an e-mail to Federal Computer Week, a Navy user said that any HTML
messages sent to his account are automatically converted to plain text.
The JTF-GNO spokesman declined to say why the command raised the threat
level except to say that Infocon levels are adjusted to reflect
worldwide social and political events and activities. He said the
current threat level does not bar the use of attachments, including
Power Point slides used for briefings.
He also declined to tell FCW what other restrictions on e-mail that
JTF-GNO has imposed. But a December 2006 newsletter of the Colorado
National Guard said that under Infocon 4, Guard members receiving
e-mails from any unknown source, including mail received from
unrecognized Department of Defense accounts, should be viewed as
The Colorado Guard newsletter also alerted personnel to be vigilant
against e-mail phishing attempts to gain personal information.
The ban on use of Outlook Web mail will hit thousands of users at Robins
Air Force Base, Ga., according to an internal message available on the
Internet. The ban on the use of Outlook Web Access will significantly
impact the way we presently conduct business, due to the fact that that
Web mail is the primary means of e-mail access for 4,500 employees at
the base, according to the message.
Robins has developed a work-around for these users to access Outlook
directly by logging on to government computers with their common access
cards, the internal message said.
JTF-GNO raised the DOD network threat level to Infocon 4 in mid-November
after an attack on the networks at the Naval War College (NWC) required
NWC to take its systems offline. The JTF-GNO spokesman said at the time
that the increase in threat conditions had no relation to the attack
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