WikiLeaks incident shouldn't chill info-sharing, ex-CIA chief says
Easy access to data is vital to security, says retired general Michael Hayden
Computerworld - The recent publication of classified military documents on the whistleblower site WikLeaks should not be allowed to chill information-sharing that's been going on within the military and intelligence communities, the former director of the CIA said Tuesday.
In an interview, retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who led both the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), expressed concern over the potential for knee-jerk restrictions on data-sharing in response to the incident.
"Senior leadership in the country will have to guard against over-reaction," Hayden cautioned. "Clearly, we need to be careful. We have to pay more attention to security," he said.
Wikileaks last week posted more than 90,000 military and intelligence documents about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who has already been accused of supplying WikiLeaks with a video allegedly showing a deadly U.S Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, is the prime suspect in the leak of the Afghanistan war documents.
Their release prompted widespread criticism from those who believe that the move needlessly put critical U.S. intelligence and military assets in Afghanistan in harm's way. Since the documents were published, critics have called for WikiLeaks' Australian-born founder, Julian Assange, to be held accountable for his actions.
Others meanwhile have rallied to WikiLeaks' side and argued that its actions are a legitimate exercise of free speech.
According to Hayden, the incident highlights the risks associated with the information-sharing that has been going on within the military for some time. Networks such as the U.S. Department of Defense's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network or SIPRNet, which Manning is alleged to have accessed, are designed to pass along important information as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"You can't be hierarchical. Information has to be accessible at the node and be available and retrievable in a way as to allow our nodes to be as agile as our enemy," Hayden said. "We are an information-based military."
Over the years, there has been a substantial emphasis on pushing "as much information as possible" into SIPRNet and on sharing and providing access to that information he said. "Anybody who was doing this knew there was a dark side to this," Hayden said, referring to the potential for insider abuse. "This is like a ship which removes all its water-tight doors. Once you get a leak, that's pretty much it."
The way forward is not to curtail information-sharing, but to explore the use of better technology controls for monitoring access and use of the data, he said. "It's about applying the right technologies" and revisiting the clearance policies for providing access to data, he said.
Robert Rodriguez, a former Secret Service special agent and founder of the Security Innovation Network, said the WikiLeaks incident has the potential to put the skids on information-sharing inside the intelligence communities. The incident could result in a policy that will "create more stovepipes instead of more open information-sharing," he said,
"The intelligence community has always been beat up for not sharing information and for being segmented and stovepiped," he said. But when you start to open more access and doors, you put information and people more at risk," he said. "What WikiLeaks did was very harmful" and will likely lead to new dictates on how information is shared.
"The worst thing that can happen is an over-reactive policy that locks down and completely stovepipes the intelligence community's efforts," Rodriguez said. "It would reverse the success and advancements of information-sharing."
The key is to have the right controls, said James Lewis, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "I think they will have to revisit the question of access to information. There are real benefits, but there will be some pressure to push back on easier information-sharing and there will also be the question of whether there are technological fixes that could reduce risk."
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- The Truth About Virtual Computing for CAD
- If you're a user of graphics-intensive software such as 3D modeling, simulation and analysis, and visualization, you might be skeptical about moving to...
- Going Paperless? Here's What You Need to Think About
- As makers of some of the world's most popular PDF solutions, we often consult with businesses & governmental agencies that have the goal...
- ESG Lab Report: Virident FlashMAX Connect
- Performance Advantage with vCache on a single Oracle instance View Now>>
- ESG Lab Report: Virident FlashMAX Connect
- Performance Advantage with vCache on a single Oracle instance View Now>> All Government IT White Papers
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Why Are Customers Really Deploying an NGFW? It seems every IT Security expert is talking about the NGFW, but what are people really doing? This webcast covers 5 real-world customer...
- Charting Your Analytical Future - "Making predictive analytics part of your business processes" Webinar This session will show how predictive analytics can be used throughout the organization by anyone looking for answers and how organizations can make...
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success!
- Transform Your IT Service Management Watch this webinar, to learn how EasyVista can increase IT productivity & efficiency and deliver streamlined & integrated IT Service & Asset Mgmt.
- All Government IT Webcasts