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Vigilance Also Needed in 'Cyber Domain,' Says DoD Official

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2001 – The World War II-era adage "Loose Lips Sink Ships" underlined the peril of uttering privileged defense information in public -- possibly within earshot of enemy spies.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
J. William Leonard, deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations, uses a defense website to check out DoD-related commercial press articles. Leonard said the need to safeguard classified - and even unclassified - information over the World Wide Web is especially acute during the war against global terrorism. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The United States today is engaged in a war against global terrorism and the need to safeguard classified -- and even unclassified -- information is especially acute over the World Wide Web, the Defense Department's senior information security official noted Nov. 9.

"I think every American today is being asked to be more vigilant," said J. William Leonard, deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations. "That vigilance needs to exist not only in the physical domain, but in the 'cyber domain' as well."

DoD has myriad systems in place to mitigate possible probing of information-rich conduits such as e-mail traffic, Leonard remarked in an interview with the American Forces Information Service. Nevertheless, he said, information security is everyone's responsibility.

"The best eyes and ears we have out there are our service men and women, civilians and family members," he said.

For example, military members, government civilians, contractors, and family members should be suspicious of e- mail that requests information about DoD operations, Leonard said. All personnel, he added, should be aware of the security impact of information in their business e-mail and avoid including official information in personal e- mails.

"They need to look from the perspective of a potential adversary," Leonard said. Situations of concern, he remarked, involve information that might have force protection or operational capabilities implications.

People who suspect a breach of information security through DoD e-mail traffic or Internet sites "should immediately bring it to the attention of the appropriate person in their command, to make sure it is looked at in that context," he said.

Even unclassified information can be gathered and used by America's enemies, Leonard noted.

"We're in an Information Age. Information is an asset in and of itself," he noted. "Whether it is classified or unclassified is immaterial."

Defense Department leaders and rank-and-file employees alike have a responsibility to safeguard information, Leonard said, just as DoD safeguards its technology, people and equipment.

"The more eyes and ears we have out there exercising vigilance -- to include in the cyber area -- the safer the environment for all of us." he concluded.

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