Military scouts best ways to protect stored data

April 4, 2011
Cyber Security, FedCyber Wire
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via Defense Systems

Information security in the predigital age involved physical barriers, locks and guards. Modern data systems are more secure — yet also more vulnerable — than the acres of file cabinets they replaced.

The Defense Department has spent a lot of time and money on technologies to keep its classified and unclassified content secure. The need to protect that information now and migrate it to new systems in the future influences DOD’s acquisition decisions.

The primary agency responsible for managing, storing and securing military data is the Defense Information Systems Agency. One of DISA’s major challenges is dealing with massive amounts of information across a range of security classification levels, said Kerry Miller, branch chief of DISA Computing Services’ engineering design group in Denver, Colo.

DISA has turned to a variety of technologies, such as systems with built-in encryption, to deal with that security problem. Miller said several vendors incorporate encryption in their hardware, which then eliminates the need for external encryption/decryption systems. Built-in encryption can protect data on physical media such as hard drives and laptops. If a portable device is stolen or lost, the data remains protected and is difficult to extract, he said.

Built-in encryption also protects data from equipment failure. If an unencrypted disk that contains classified information goes bad, an adversary might still able to retrieve at least some data. Miller cited the example of a disk containing payroll data. A thief might not be able to read the entire disk but could still access a few Social Security numbers.

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