Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

Summary:For today's lesson in "Please cut this crap out," let's turn to one U.S. Army Major stationed in South Korea.

I've said this over and over again, and I'm going to say it again. Small personal electronic devices must be banned from secured facilities. I've written about this in mainstream media and in national security publications. I've advised our national leaders and rank-and-file security workers.

And, yet, still, thumb drives and other portable media are allowed near our secured information.

Is it any wonder that the stupid keeps coming out to play?

For today's lesson in "Please cut this crap out," let's turn to one U.S. Army Major stationed in South Korea.

Now let's be clear. This is about as second-hand, whisper-down-the-lane as a story about national security can get before it just becomes a lint monster living under the bed.

The U.S.-based news service UPI is reporting on a report by the South Korean news service Yonhap News Agency, which cites no definitive sources, nor names the officer they say lost the information. Yonhap further claims there was some cover-up, but declines to provide specifics about that, either.

On one hand, writing negative reporting about the U.S. is nothing new, even if it's completely fabricated. I'm not saying this is fabricated (in fact, I believe it to be true), but I wouldn't put it past a news agency in a foreign country from saying bad things just because they need the LULZ.

That said, here's why I believe this report is believable: people are stupid. People are particularly stupid around small thumb drives.

I know. I'm stupid, too. I misplace things all the time, and the memory of where those items are is taken up in my brain by an unyielding and extensive database of actors and their roles. It is not important that I know that Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai, Robocop) is studying renaissance history. It's important I remember where I put my #$%@ keys!

So, anyway, apparently Major Disaster was an officer at a front-line battalion in Gangwon Province when he lost the drive last July. According to an "anonymous source," says Yonhap News, the USB stick contained "strategic plans for the battalion" and its parent regiment (a regiment often contains several battalions).

In other words, way to go, Major Loser!

But it gets better, and here's where it starts to be completely believable. Apparently, shortly after Major Liar-Liar-Pants-on-Fire lost his drive, he lied to his bosses, telling them he'd subsequently found it, but he'd gone ahead and tossed it, because it was damaged.

Now that's what I call human nature, and that's exactly the sort of thing some dweeb would do when in trouble.

So here's where we stand.

Apparently a thumb drive of dubious parentage got lost last July and has yet to be found. Yonhap claims that the military, the Defense Security Command, and the South Korean Ministry of Defense were all informed of the security loss, but no one took any action.

As far as we know, Major Numnuts is still a U.S. Army officer, the thumb drive is still located in parts unknown, and our high security military secrets are -- once again -- just a little less secure.

On the other hand, there's always to possibility the thumb drive made it all the way to Kim Jong-Il. If that's the case, we're probably safe, because he probably erased the drive, filled it with a few choice Liz Taylor flicks, and is happily watching National Velvet on his prized PS3.

Okay, time to get serious for a moment.

Once again, I must state that it is imperative that the U.S. government permanently ban the use of portable electronic devices in secured facilities. This Korean incident is far from an isolated incident and one thumb drive, as we all know, can hold far more data than Bradley Manning is alleged to have stolen -- and we know how much trouble that breach caused!

Topics: Security, Hardware

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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