- 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."
- BALANCE BETWEEN OPENNESS,
- 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."
- MAPS, FLOOR PLANS, WEAPON
- 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.