Sailors, Remember Your Passwords

Sailors should remember their user ID or password when they head to sea. The reason: The Navy won't have the infrastructure to support the Defense Department Common Access Card fully deployed throughout the fleet until at least 2011, according to an internal briefing last month by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

The CAC contains a digital certificate needed to access Defense information systems, removing the need to remember a password to access a system.

The Navy has installed Real Time Automated Personnel Identification Systems (RAPIDS) terminals needed to support the use of the digital ID card on just 15 ships, according to briefing slides from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Computers and Intelligence shop at SPAWAR.

The RAPID terminals access a defense manpower database known as the Defense Enrollment Eligibility System, which is maintained by the Defense Manpower Data Center, to verify user identities. The terminals, equipped with a digital camera, laser printer and fingerprint scanner then produce the digital ID cards on the spot.

If the digital ID card ends up “locked” or is missing needed certificates, end users need access to a RAPIDS workstation to fix the problem, according to an article in CHIPS, the Navy’s computer magazine.

But because the Navy has only equipped 15 ships with RAPIDS terminals, the SPAWAR brief said shipboard sailors will have to log on manually with an old-fashioned user ID and password. Use of cryptographic log-ins without a RAPIDS terminal could lead to “operational failures” if an end user’s digital ID is lost or stolen, the briefing said.

The Navy plans to start fleet-wide RAPIDS installs in July 2009, and it will take two years to install the terminals on 160 ships out of the 278 ships currently in the fleet, according to the SPAWAR brief.

The briefing also stated that this time schedule is dependent “on the availability of funding.”

Don’t you just hate it when good plans run into the funding issue?

I’m waiting to hear more from SPAWAR.

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