Secure, removable hard drives?

Could federal agencies save money and improve security by adopting removable hard drives as a security feature?
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

How's this for office efficiency? Dept. of Justice employees frequently use two different laptops - a classified machine and an unclassified one. That's expensive, unwiedly and increases the risk of loss (its twice as easy to lose a laptop when you're carrying two.) Now the department's inspector general has issued a list of recommendations for DOJ to handle classified and unclassified info more seamlessly, Federal Computer Week reports.

The IG issued some wild ideas (at least apparently for DOJ), including using removable hard drives, as well as some fairly standards updating of protocols. According to FCW:

"The use of removable hard drives that can process both unclassified and classified information in the same computer shell is an area that the department should consider," the report states. Justice should consider authorizing the use of removable hard drives and developing appropriate security policies for them, it adds.

...  Justice policies require computers that handle classified data to be double-wrapped in paper to show tampering, the report states. Users must unhook all peripheral devices and place the computer in a specially designed, secure container when they are not using the computers. All devices that could possibly store classified information must have warning labels on them stating so.

If the department used removable hard drives, only the drives would have to be double-wrapped instead of the whole laptop. That arrangement would improve security, the IG's office said, because the small drives are easier to secure and are less conspicuous than textbook-sized laptops.

Removable hard drives would also save Justice money because the drives are cheaper than new computers, according to the report. The IG's office shopped for 5G drives and found at least two manufacturers that sell models for less than $200. The drives could hold a multiuser operating system, application software and 4.1G of memory.

For roughly $400 per user, the report states, "this computer configuration would allow both unclassified and classified information processing on the same computer."

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