Pentagon Pulls Data Off
Web Sites - Unit Locations,
Movements, Etc. To Go
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Defense Department's 1,000 publicly accessible World Wide Web sites may be stripped down further by the end of the year after a Pentagon-wide review of data that was being thrown out into cyberspace. Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, who ordered the review, said he recently became aware that some Web sites were offering "too much detail on DOD capabilities, infrastructure, personnel and operation procedures." "Such details, especially when combined with information from other sources, may increase the vulnerability of DOD systems and potentially be used to threaten or harass DOD personnel and their families," Hamre said in a statement. Hamre said he was most concerned about the possibility that information about members of the military and their families, including Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, birth dates and home addresses, could be gained by tapping onto web sites. He ordered immediate removal of personal data from Internet sites pending results of the review in November. Specifics also were eliminated on military movements, the location of units, installations or personnel in cases where "uncertainty regarding location is an element of the security of a military plan or program." Military plans and so-called "lessons learned" critiques of previous operations also were stripped from Web pages because the information could reveal "sensitive military operations, exercises or vulnerabilities." "The Internet may provide our adversaries with a potent instrument to obtain, correlate and evaluate an unprecedented volume of aggregated information on defense personnel and activities," the Pentagon said in a statement. "The department must assess the information posted on public DOD Web sites to ensure national security is not compromised or personnel placed at risk."
The Pentagon has been using the Internet to spread information to members of the military serving around the world, partly to speed up business and eliminate paperwork for contracts and administration. It also said it was aiming to be more open with Americans and the international community. Hamre said the goal now is to manage the Web sites more closely and "to strike a balance between openness and sound security." Enemies of the United States such as terrorists, adversarial governments, members of organized crime and drug traffickers probably found the Pentagon sites a treasure trove of useful information, said E. Peter Earnest, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, who worked for the CIA before retiring. "It is a rich site of information, and any adversary is probing for vulnerabilities or weak spots," Earnest said. "As you saw from the bombings in Africa, clearly enough homework was done to determine those sites had some weak spots."
On Pentagon Web sites, maps and floor plans of military facilities can be reviewed and details about what new weapons do can be downloaded. During the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union and the United States were in a nuclear standoff, much of this type of information was classified, Earnest said. Some hackers haven't been satisfied with the Pentagon,s open Web sites and have tried to get into some of the department,s 2.1 million computers. In February, Hamre said the Pentagon's unclassified computers were hit by the "most organized and systematic attack" to date, targeting mostly personnel records. Last year, hackers penetrated medical data banks at veterans hospitals and changed blood types in soldiers' records, according to Federal Computer Week magazine, which quoted Art Money, a civilian awaiting nomination as assistant secretary of defense for communications and intelligence.