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Virus Prompts Flash Drive Ban At Pentagon

November 21, 2008

A virus threat detected on Defense Department networks resulted in a temporary ban of external computer flash drives at the Pentagon, officials said on Friday.

Defense officials have not yet publicly confirmed the ban, but messages were sent to department employees informing them of the new restrictions.

One message distributed to employees said the Pentagon was collecting any of the small flash drives that were purchased or provided by the department to workers.

Officials said it is not clear how long the ban will last and workers are being told there is no guarantee they will ever get the devices back.

No details have been released, but the culprit was described as a “global virus” that has been the subject of public alerts, according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

“This is not solely a department problem, this is not solely a government problem,” Whitman said.

The Pentagon’s vast computer network is scanned or probed by outsiders millions of times each day. A cyber attack last year forced the Defense Department to take as many as 1,500 computers off line.

That specific penetration of the system was detected, but the attack had no adverse impact on department operations, officials said.

However, military leaders have consistently warned of potential threats from a variety of sources including other countries – such as China – along with other self-styled cyber-vigilantes and terrorists.

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