Hackers, Troops Rejoice: Pentagon Lifts Thumb-Drive Ban

Hackers, Troops Rejoice: Pentagon Lifts Thumb-Drive Ban
Hackers, Troops Rejoice: Pentagon Lifts Thumb-Drive Ban

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By Noah Shachtman 
Danger Room
February 18, 2010

Soldiers, you are now cleared to use your thumb drives again. U.S. 
Strategic Command has lifted its ban on the tiny drives, memory sticks, 
CDs and other "removable flash media" on military networks.

The repeal, first reported by, may be good news for 
troops, who depend on the drives to move data in bandwidth-starved 
locations. But it may be good news for hackers, too. The original 
network security concerns which prompted the ban haven=E2=80=99t really been 
addressed, one Strategic Command cyber defense specialist tells Danger 
Room: =E2=80=9CNot much changed. StratCom simply does not have the support to 
enforce such a ban indefinitely.=E2=80=9D

StratCom prohibited the drives=E2=80=99 use back in November 2008 after the 
Agent.btz virus began working its way through military networks. A 
variation of the =E2=80=9CSillyFDC=E2=80=9D worm, Agent.btz spreads by copying itself 
from thumb drive to computer and back again. Once on a PC, =E2=80=9Cit 
automatically downloads code from another location. And that code could 
be pretty much anything,=E2=80=9D iDefense computer security expert Ryan Olson 
said at the time.

There was also talk that such infections might be deliberate attacks on 
the Defense Department=E2=80=99s networks. The ban was billed in one StratCom 
e-mail as a way to counter =E2=80=9Cadversary efforts to penetrate, disrupt, 
interrupt, exploit or destroy critical elements of the GIG=E2=80=9D [Global 
Information Grid]. Jim Lewis, with the Center for Strategic and 
International Studies, told 60 Minutes last November that =E2=80=9Csome foreign 
power=E2=80=9D infiltrated the classified network of U.S. Central Command 
through the use of =E2=80=9Cthumb drives.=E2=80=9D (Later, Lewis said he did not have 
direct knowledge of the incident.)


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