The U.S. Strategic Command approved limited use of flash media such as thumb drives on Feb. 18, but all three services have yet to lift their bans until they develop policies and procedures for the devices.
STRATCOM said the services and combatant commands must develop policies and procedures for use of flash media on their computers and networks. The Air Force and Army are still developing their policies.
Maj. Gen. Michael Basla, vice commander of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, said there "will be strict limitations on using flash media devices when the Air Force returns to limited access and use. These limitations will be vital to our cybersecurity."
The Space Command, which has the authority to approve the use of flash media on Air Force networks, will work with organizations to develop policies and procedures, said Lt. Col. Donovan Routsis, the command's division deputy chief for net-centricity. These include the Air Force Office of Warfighting Information, Network Integration Center, Air Force Cyber Command, 24th Air Force and chief information officer, Lt. Gen. William Lord, Routsis said.
This research will "provide for the Air Force's safe return of flash media devices," Basla said.
Air Force personnel should not believe they can buy a flash media device on the market and start using it, Routsis said. "In all reality, even when a policy is in place, that will still not be permissible," he noted. "The use of any flash media device will only be authorized for mission-critical requirements and will be strictly managed."
Officials at the Army Global Network Operations Center said it "is currently conducting mission analysis in order to provide guidance for the Army's safe return of thumb drives and flash media."
The Army will not lift its ban on flash drives until certain conditions outlined by STRATCOM are met, including using only government-approved flash media and operational practices to ensure that malicious code does not infect Army systems.
Navy Lt. Myers Vasquez said the service has an interim ban in effect while its cyber command, the 10th Fleet, conducts a review of the STRATCOM policy. But he did not provide details. But Rob Carey, the Navy's chief information officer, wrote in a blog post in September 2009, "I expect (and support) that only approved, identifiable flash media of known origin will be permitted for use; and only by authorized and trained personnel, in support of mission-essential functions that could not be performed via nonflash media means."