Step one for the Defense Department in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, which saw sensitive defense intelligence splashed across newspapers worldwide, was a top-down review of the security chain and an identification of its weakest links.
That was the message the department’s new Chief Information Officer Teri Takai took to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee last week.
Takai, who previously served as California’s CIO, was tapped for the Pentagon post last year and is also acting assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration.
“The department immediately began working to address the findings and improve its overall security posture to mitigate the possibility of another similar type of disclosure,” Takai told the committee, according to an American Forces Press Service report.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates immediately called for two internal reviews, she said, with an emphasis on how classified information is treated in “forward-deployed” areas.
Pfc. Bradley Manning, the accused leaker, is alleged to have exploited an information-sharing network provided to soldiers in such areas by downloading the classified information onto a removable disc.
Takai told the Senate committee the review found an “overreliance” on using “removable electronic storage media,” such as flash drives and discs.
To strengthen that weak link, DoD has disabled the ability to copy data from nearly 90 percent of its computers containing classified material, she said. For the remaining computers, the department has instituted strict controls.
Additionally, the department is enacting programs to combat the insider threats by monitoring user behavior on sensitive networks.
The end goal though is not to roll back the information-sharing environment that was a key reform of post-9/11 intelligence efforts.
“We will strive to implement the mechanisms necessary to protect the intelligence information without reverting back to pre-9/11 stovepipes,” Takai said.