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The U.S. Department of Defense is so concerned about the potential
for problems associated with the Y2K millennium bug that it is
considering unplugging itself from the Internet to defend against a
simultaneous cyber assault.

That word comes from Marvin Langston, the deputy chief information
officer for the Pentagon, who says the discussions about the plan are
“as serious as a heart attack.”

“We need to close down back doors around the year 2000 to prevent
hacking during Y2K confusion,” he said during a panel discussion at an
Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference last
week.

In the event of a cyber attack, Defense would switch from the public
Internet to the Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network, or
NIPRNET, the military’s own Internet with external connections. The
military also maintains a Secret Internet Protocol Router Network of
classified material without external connections.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, who uses many military websites as
if they were his own personal public relations pages, has been
cautioning for months that too much information about defense forces and
capabilities is available publicly on the Internet.

“The rapid growth of the Internet has created the potential for
vulnerabilities in DOD networks,” says a Pentagon draft policy that
mandates the termination of many unauthorized military Internet
connections. “The Defense Science Board warned that networks might be
susceptible to more frequent attacks as hackers attempt to masquerade
their activities as Y2K bugs. A reinforced policy is needed to protect
the security” of the NIPRNET from potential information warfare and Y2K
consequences.

The Pentagon’s Y2K Management Plan updated this month states that
millennium bug remediation efforts can expose systems to information
warfare attacks and that some groups or individuals may “take advantage
of Y2K problems to implant backdoor software routines, viruses, etc.
During Y2K fixes, some individuals may gain full access to systems
previously protected from external attacks.”

I guess we should be thankful that some people in the Defense
Department are making plans to tighten security during an upcoming
period of possible instability. But this information from the Pentagon
raises a number of questions:

  • Is the Pentagon really using Y2K as an excuse to move more
    information readily available to the public into the semi-classified
    files, making the Defense Department even less open and less accountable
    to the people?

  • Is the Department of Defense truly concerned about threats from
    foreign powers, terrorists, rogue states and domestic enemies, or is
    this preventative measure more geared to insulating itself from
    legitimate criticism and the efforts of whistleblowers who monitor
    activities in government?

  • By making such provisions, just how bad does the Defense Department
    anticipate the Y2K bug to be?

  • If the only threat posed by hackers is temporarily knocking some
    public information off its public Internet sites, does it really make
    sense to move all of that public information into non-public sites?

  • Is the military planning to use these non-public sites as a means of
    communicating information internally during a possible national Y2K
    emergency?

  • Does the Pentagon have any specific knowledge of efforts by groups or
    individuals planning to use the Y2K bug as cover for cyber terrorist
    attacks on U.S. sites and installations?

  • If Y2K terrorists are likely to target the Defense Department, what
    else can we look forward to them targeting?

Though we’re only a little more than six months away from Y2K D-Day,
no one in or out of government seems to be offering much reassurance to
a public wholly unprepared for major disruptions or long-term
inconvenience. Reports like this from the Pentagon only serve to raise
more suspicion that government bureaucrats are taking care of themselves
but not really doing much of anything to serve the people.

The American people are completely in the dark. Plans are being made
– some of them ominous plans — around possible Y2K breakdowns. But
they are not being readily shared and discussed with the people. That
tells me the government doesn’t trust the people. If that’s the case,
the people would be very wise not to put too much trust in the
government.

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