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US Air Force bans removable media

Thumb drives? Blank discs? Uncle Sam says no.

In the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal, it appears the US Military is taking extra measures to ensure sensitive materials stay out of the wrong - or right, depending on how you look at it - hands.

Wired reports that commander of Air Force Network Operations Maj. Gen. Richard Webber issued a ''Cyber Control Order'' on December 3, banning the use of all removable media on machines attached to SIPRNET, also known as the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.

“Unauthorized data transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat uses to exploit classified information. To mitigate the activity, all Air Force organizations must immediately suspend all SIPRNET data transfer activities on removable media,” the order reads.

Wired claims that similar orders have gone out to other branches of the military, and personnel who do not comply can face a court-martial under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Removable media was last banned from SIPRNET in 2008 as the Defense Department struggled to contain the SillyFDC worm. That ban was lifted in February after a cleanup operation was completed.

PFC (Private, First Class) Bradley Manning, 22, allegedly used rewriteable CDs falsely labelled as music CDs to download more than 250,000 classified embassy dispatches which he claimed to have then passed to WikiLeaks. PFC Manning has been charged with downloading the cables, along with a classified PowerPoint presentation and a classified video of a military operation in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. He has also been charged with communicating the video and at least one of the cables to an unauthorised source. PFC Manning faces a maximum sentence of 52 years jail and is expected to appear before a court-martial in spring 2011.

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