Data security and the Marine Corps

18 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Fleischman

Every day, tens of thousands of Marines log on to their workstations, conduct their daily tasks and log off without incident, but what do you do when faced with the question of what you can or cannot use Marine Corps computers for?
Marine Corps computers and networks, specifically the World Wide Web, are valuable tools for obtaining and disseminating information. When used productively, it can fill Marine Corps information management needs and enhance connectivity, according to Marine Administrative Message 162/00.

Although valuable, these tools cost Camp Lejeune $90,000 in addition to its annual technology budget to maintain due to spam, virus and other internet-based security measures that must be taken, said Tony Gillespie, director of the Information Assurance Division.

“Some of our largest internet concerns are the distribution of Social Security numbers through e-mail, transferring of large unofficial videos and photos, saving and sending of pornographic materials, usage of computers for personal gain, playing games and most amusing – as a dating service”, said Gillespie.

Identity theft is rampant in our modern day. Social Security numbers and any data covered under the privacy act, such as medical records, should be encrypted when sent through e-mail, said Ray A. Letteer, chief of Information Assurance for Headquarters of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.

There has been an increase of Marines and Sailors sending unencrypted documents with Social Security numbers on them, epically fitness reports and leave papers, which contain your address making it even easier for someone to steal their identity, said Gillespie.

“You can receive training on how to encrypt e-mails using your Common Access Card, which is by the way very easy, from your Information System Coordinator” added Gillespie.

Identity theft affects the individual Marine but as MarAdmin 162/00 explains the Marine Corps Enterprise Network that connects to the internet has limited capacity.

A user sending unofficial video or pictures degrades network performance and can actually cause servers to crash, said Gillespie.

“We are not asking you to stop sending videos or photo’s of events that have been approved by the command. We just want to stop the excessive distribution of joke videos or large photo files that reduce other user’s ability to access the network systems that Marines need to accomplish their mission,” added Gillespie.

Network degradation is a problem, but it’s the viewing, storage and distribution of pornography the Naval Criminal Investigative Service will actually investigate, according to the Marine Corps Policy on inappropriate usage.

There are three colors representing Internet usage according to the INUPE. Green is any appropriate official business, yellow is for things like morale, news, weather, sports and banking and red is broken down into four levels of inappropriate use, which can be obtained from a Marines chain of command.

“The network is paid for by the taxpayer and costs in excess of $60 million a year to maintain. Would you appreciate it if your money was used to send pornography across an official network used to support critical operations?” said Gillespie.

There is some gray area when it comes to determining inappropriate usage like using online auction houses or purchasing clothing that is not for official use, said Gillespie.

“The Marine Corps is not saying Marines cannot use the internet to do things like buy flowers for a sick Marine or to purchase official equipment. Just use some common sense while doing so,” added Gillespie.

Lastly, deployed Marines can become lonely during deployment and the Marine Corps understands, but the spam filter is currently removing 340,000 e-mails a day from things such as dating services, online communities and forums so please remember that this is against Marine Corps policy and will result in the suspension of your e-mail account, said Gillespie.

“Common sense is the first step towards genius when it comes to the web,” added Gillespie.