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Ban on USB devices in Army remains -- for now

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 20, 2010) -- The ban on using USB devices on military computers remains, for now, in the Army -- despite a partial lift of the original ban by U.S. Strategic Command.

USSTRATCOM issued a tasking order to services and concerned parties, Feb. 12, that allows the services to loosen restrictions on use of USB and flash media devices. Individual services, however, may continue the ban until they feel their networks are adequately equipped to deal with the threats posed by the portable storage devices.

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The official word from the Army Global Network Operations Security Center is "we are currently conducting mission analysis in order to provide guidance for the Army's safe return of thumb drives and flash media."

According to the AGNOSC, there are conditions that must be met prior to the lift of the ban. Those conditions include, but are not limited to ensuring that users are only using government-approved and purchased devices and that Army networks are properly configured.

The U.S. Strategic Command implemented a ban on USB storage devices in November 2008, to include such things as memory sticks, thumb drives, and camera memory cards. That ban was partially lifted by their tasking order Feb. 12.

The USSTRATCOM commander has "approved a Communications Tasking Order directing that the limited use of memory sticks, thumb drives, and camera memory cards (commonly called 'flash media,') be restored on Department of Defense computers after the verified implementation of certain procedures and operational practices," according to guidance from the U.S. Strategic Command.

The procedures are meant to ensure that malicious code that can be present on USB memory devices is prevented from infecting DoD computers.

"Until all conditions are met, the ban on the use of removable flash drives will remain," said AGNOSC.

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