Information Warfare: January 16, 2000

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THE CASE OF PETTY OFFICER GOMEZ: During the Cold War and the decade that followed it, the Pentagon became increasingly concerned over "OPSEC" (Operational Security). Military web sites were required to remove information which could be useful to an enemy or a terrorist. Personnel were warned what kind of information not to reveal in public. Petty Officer Gomez, an information warrior assigned to the amphibious carrier Essex, may not have grasped the concept of OPSEC. He discussed in an open chat room details of the ship's operations, and his concerns over cyber security. He used his military Email address and signed his full name and rank. This came to the attention of the Navy, which has now blocked him from the Internet. Further investigations have revealed that Gomez wrote long Emails to "White Hat Hacker" groups supposedly more interested in defending networks that infiltrating them. Gomez was asking for help in defending his networks from infiltration, but in doing so he described the way a hacker could break into the system and defined some key vulnerabilities. Further investigations found the Gomez (along with thousands of other sailors) had personal web pages including details of his family and his military career, information that could make him and his family vulnerable to terrorists. If someone wanted to kidnap his family and force Gomez to commit treason, his web page told them where the family could be found. The site also described in detail just what sort of military electronic systems Gomez worked on, so if someone was trying to target a sailor who worked on the Joint Maritime Command Information System, Gomez had made himself an obvious target. The military is now struggling with an old question: how to balance a citizen's right of free speech with a soldier's obligation to keep some information secret.--Stephen V Cole

 


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