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

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.

TOPICS: Security, Hardware

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


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • hold it 2 sec

    what Manning as to do with this first

    second there solution, after all damn it we are speaking about USA military why the hell , those guy never developed a intelligent thumb drive Shiit ....
    They can put 32 or 64 gig in a thumb drive ..... Make it secure damn it password , three strike your out , three strike the data is toast ,

    a thumb drive that when plug in a army system it keep it log so you know who was on the machine , you make a special jack

    Man your the freckking US army , not freccking Zimbabwe .

    Ok the fact that the guy lied well.... nice try no cigar thx your for playing , welcome to the civilian life buddy .

    But as long as there will be a human factor there will be change of mishap period . so banning the thumb drive may not be the issue . Making sure that it use wisely and securely that a other matter .

    welcome 2011 lets have some debate
    • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive


      There is security encription available for drives such as these. They also make military-grade drives that are both ruggedized and encrypted. This isn't the point. Thumb drives, (any storage medium really) poses a threat to security. The fact that people aren't checked when they enter and leave a facility that contains sensitive data is not only bad practice, it's neglegance. Thumb drives should be banned for anything sensitive, period. Portable HDDs should not be alowed to leave a sensitive area unless moved by someone qualified to do so too
  • Lost is highly unlikely. More likely stolen by the little north korean

    spy honey he schupted on the way home. we pretty much have to take foregranted that it's in north korean hands now and everything that was on it is now known to them. Act accordingly...
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

    There are no forward deployed US Army Battalions in Gangwon Province. The last US Military post Camp Page closed years ago. (Chunchon, Southern portion of Gangwon)<br> <br>Yonhap is known for fabricating news regarding US Military in South Korea. Bottom line protect your USB drives.
  • Yeah, well I heard that....

    ... in the 1960s a SAC bomber got lost during an exercise on a bitterly cold day in the winter, and mistaking the Red River as a runway because of icefog. Anyway, there is - apparently - a fully armed nuke sitting in the middle of Winnipeg at the bottom of the river because the US Airforce, according my cousin who heard it from her housekeeper's brother's mother's same-sex spouse's sibling, who runs the Canadian side of NORAD. Well, he paints the house across the street from that guy. But it's gotta be true, 'cause they all swear to it.

    Really David. You make a good point about security, and then completely muck it up by citing innuendo and back-fence gossip. You would have been better just calling it fiction.
    • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

      UPI reporting as US Army, Yonhap reporting as Army Battalion.
      Sounds like someone got pissed and wanted some pay back.
  • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

    Like my local dry cleaner tells me "no, nothing is lost, It's here somewhere...."
  • Disinformation

    Didn't the Brits in WWII plant a corpse with secret documents about the invasion at Calais for the Nazis to find?

    Much easier to "lose" a thumb drive than turn a wino corpse into a dead officer.
  • Not Likely

    As a retired military officer, I find it unlikely that the story is true. Classified information resides on the secure SIPR net, which is segregated from all systems outside the SIPR net network. SIPR net computers are also housed in secure rooms and I believe that the software has the usb ports locked out. There is no way to download info onto a thumb drive. Additionally, most secure facilities, for example USJFCOM, do not allow external writable media in from the outside world. If you could put classified data onto a thumb drive, you would be violating a host of DoD regulations, AND every access to electronic or written classified information is recorded. You can't cover it up. They know who looked at what and when. The story of tossing a defective classified thumb drive is BS. If it did happen, then that also violates a host of DoD regulations pertaining to destruction and demilitarization of classified hardware.
    • I Agree

      @wgrimes I agree.<br><br>Because it is impractical to expect zero possibility of external media, the simple policy is to lockdown or physically remove all media devices and ports on the machines (i.e., USB, FireWire, CD/DVD, etc.). Keyboard and mouse I/O are either locked or built-in, or use PS/2. (This also constitutes a reason to go back to PS/2 in the private sector.)<br><br>This means that if anything did make its way onto portable media, and the alleged perpetrator has not been punished in any way, then either that facility was not following the above (standard) IT policies, or the media were intended to be used and leaked.
  • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

    Flash Drives remain banned on all USMC network assets...

    (This is a real pain in software development environments where ATE is not allowed on the Network.)

    Gaurdian Edge is required on all Network Assets. This is a whole drive encryption system that precludes moving data to portable devices without having the decryption key.

    I agree that **ALL** portable drives, need to be banned from any area that handles data greater than FOUO Classification.

    (Guardian Edge is supposed to preclude or limit aggregate data issues with low or non-classified data.)

    But, what *really* needs to happen is people who knowingly and intentionally violate security protocols be punished, severely.

    If you access Classifies Information...

    You KNOW BETTER, you are AUTOMATICALLY culpable. Period!
  • Ugh, ridiculous

    Banning the little suckers is impractical. They should facilitate encrypting all information written to them. When I was moving around large volumes of patient information it was my rule, and many of the apps to do so were free. I lost the damn keys more than I lost the flash drives, but hey, it's not like they're meant to be the sole repository only, so it's easy enough to reaquire the info. The military is broken, and they seem a long way from getting sorted out, but in terms of practical solutions getting them to encrypt 100% of their data is more practical than banning portable devices. As Manning demonstrated, since so many systems apparently rely on physical media banning flash just means they'll burn CDs, which is intrinsically even less secure. Stupid.
  • RE: Bradley Manning stole national secrets, but this turkey lost them on his thumb drive

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