Computer Live

New Computer Banner Balances Security, Privacy Considerations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June  2008 – A new notice on Defense Department computer screens ensures users understand that their e-mails are subject to monitoring, but also reinforces specific user privacy and confidentiality protections, a senior defense official said.

The new language represents the first change since 1997 to the “notice and consent” banner that appears each time a user logs onto a Defense Department network or information system. Similar changes were made to DoD’s information system user agreement.

While clarifying the scope of the Defense Department’s authorized monitoring of its networks and information systems, the revised language preserves the privacy and confidentiality of certain types of privileged communications, according to John G. Grimes, the department’s chief information officer.

“These changes to the banner and user agreement language help clarify the user's understanding of the broad nature of DoD's authorized monitoring practices, while simultaneously reaffirming DoD's commitment to respecting and protecting important private and confidential communications that are guaranteed for its personnel,” Grimes said.

“Privileged” communications between Defense Department users and their attorneys, clergy or psychotherapists receive additional protections against monitoring.

“Although DoD has a long history of respecting such privileged relationships, the previous banner language did not expressly identify this protection for the user,” Grimes said. “For the first time ever, the DoD banner and user agreement now specifically addresses these important protections.”

The new banner notifies users that their systems may be monitored for purposes including “penetration testing, COMSEC (communications security) monitoring, network defense, quality control, and employee misconduct, law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations.”

It also includes a paragraph clarifying that passwords, access cards, encryption and biometric access controls are used to provide security for the benefit of the government – not to provide personal privacy to employees.

A shorter notice will appear on government BlackBerry devices and other personal digital assistants and personal electronic devices.

Grimes emphasized that the new language clarifies longstanding DoD policy and practice. The revised banner will ensure all users of government computer systems understand the limited privacy protections, officials said.

Defense Department officials said monitoring is critical in ensuring government systems aren’t compromised by viruses or hackers, and to identify threats as early as possible. “In order to protect DoD information systems, DoD needs to be able to monitor all traffic flowing through and across DoD systems,” an official said.


John G. Grimes

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Notebook Safety Hits Hot Button with Military Shoppers

DALLAS – In the past six months, four Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) electronic suppliers have issued recalls on notebook computer batteries. Furthermore, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of at least 47 incidents involving smoke or fire associated with notebook computers, from January 2001 through August 2006.

“Our Soldiers and Airmen regularly work with the latest technology available,” said AAFES’ Quality Assurance Director Joan Scheffler. “Because of their comfort level, AAFES sells a lot of hi-tech merchandise and is generally affected by most industry-wide alerts.”

With more than 200,000 notebook computers sold to military shoppers since 2004, AAFES, in conjunction with CPSC, offers the following tips to encourage the safe use of notebook computers and batteries:

    • Do not use incompatible computer batteries and chargers. If unsure about whether a replacement battery or charger is compatible, contact the product manufacturer.
    • Computer batteries can get hot during normal use. Do not use your computer on your lap.
    • Do not use your computer on soft surfaces, such as a sofa, bed or carpet, because it can restrict airflow and cause overheating.
    • Do not permit a loose battery to come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys or jewelry.
    • Do not crush, puncture or put a high degree of pressure on the battery as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating.
    • Avoid dropping or bumping the computer. Dropping it, especially on a hard surface, can potentially cause damage to the computer and battery. If you suspect damage contact the manufacturer.
    • Do not place the computer in areas that may get very hot.
    • Do not get your computer or battery wet. Even though they will dry and appear to operate normally, the circuitry could slowly corrode and pose a safety hazard.
    • Follow battery usage, storage and charging guidelines found in the user’s guide.
    • Regularly check the AAFES website at to view the latest product recalls and alerts relevant to PX/BX.

More than 40 AAFES associates provide troops and their families the world over with the highest level of customer protection through a combination of five broad programs: Inspection, Supplier Quality Assistance, Product Testing and Analysis, Social Responsibility and Food and Drug Safety. As a result, AAFES’ team of technicians, veterinarians, inspectors and even a graduate gemologist have visibility of products from assembly line to check out.

The AAFES Quality Assurance team defines quality in terms of “fitness for use;” i.e., if an item is not fit for intended use, then it is not a quality item. Anything that adversely affects appearance, serviceability or salability of an item is considered a defect. “Safety of an item is an integral part of quality because if an item is not safe to use, it is not fit for use,” said Scheffler.

Once merchandise in AAFES’ stock assortment is identified as unsafe, the Quality Assurance team immediately issues a recall or alert in conjunction with federal agencies. All product recalls and alerts relevant to AAFES are posted and archived online at

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Computer attacks, threats continue

by Senior Master Sgt. Alan McClellan
805th Communications Support Squadron

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN)  -- Government computers and official information are subject to a wide range of threats and vulnerabilities that are a constant, invisible threat to penetrate military networks and degrade warfighting abilities.

     Along with those nameless, faceless hostile enemies there is also a threat from simple computer hobbyists experimenting with readily available free software to detect and exploit security holes in operating systems, e-mail and browser software.

     New attacks against computer systems occur nearly as fast as software vendors can produce security patches. Computer hackers analyze each new generation of security patches to determine how previous security vulnerabilities were corrected.

     By doing this, these computer hackers have frequently found new vulnerabilities to exploit. Once hackers identify new vulnerabilities, they use the Internet to spread the word to others on how to exploit these defense weaknesses. Hacker groups even distribute free software tools that could be highly effective in attacks against operating systems.

     Software manufacturers, including Microsoft, continue to stay ahead of the hackers, but virus-development time is becoming shorter, so new protective measures must be developed to avoid network catastrophes.

     If malicious individuals are unable to break through network firewalls to launch an attack, they often try to bypass the strongest defenses by attaching viruses to e-mail messages to gain access to the "inside."

     As recently as July, a hacker sent out e-mails that advised recipients to visit a phony "Windows-Update" Web site and download a security patch. When users did as instructed, their computers secretly passed control to the e-mail originator, who then hijacked their computers to send spam e-mails as well as establish pornographic Web sites on the captured computers. Other e-mails have contained hidden instructions that exploit unprotected aspects of computers.

     To protect computers, users need to ensure they are running antivirus software with current virus-definition files. These files can be checked by "right-clicking" the computer mouse pointer on the antivirus program icon on the taskbar. That will open the antivirus program information page. If the date of the virus definition file is older than 10 days or if users must manually run "live update" to get new antivirus-definition files, contact the workgroup managers for assistance.

     Workgroup managers can help configure computers to automatically keep virus-definition files current. Maintaining antivirus software and deleting suspicious e-mail attachments or Web links from unknown sources, greatly reduces the chance the computer might become a target or virus host.

     Users need to pay close attention to the latest virus warnings and requests for system updates. The virus creators are very smart and can readily hunt out unpatched computers to exploit.

     Information on computer-defensive postures is available from workgroup managers or wing information-assurance offices in the communications squadron. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service).



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