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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A locally created proposal to protect sensitive data earned an Armywide award and might be the future of data protection for the service.

A civilian team comprised of one contractor and six members of the Regional Chief Information Office-Korea earned the 2007 Information Assurance Professional Award for the most innovative project.

Wendell E. Moon Jr., a contractor with STG Inc., completed most of the work with the assistance of Trinidad Capelo, Sharon Stairs, Jeffery Wares, William Lane, Rodney Wagar and Kyu Han.

Moon explained Friday that there has been a push in recent years to protect sensitive data — especially “Personally Identifiable Information” that aides in identity theft — and that was the focus of their project.

Technology is part of the problem, Moon said. The size of portable data drives has continued to shrink in recent years as the amount of data that can be stored on them has exploded. Finger-sized data drives now can store tens of thousands of pages of documents.

Moon said those small storage devices make it easy for people to bring “larger amounts of information” back home to work. But what happens when a disc drive is lost or a laptop computer stolen?

“There can be a great amount of damage caused by that,” he said, adding that it’s a common occurrence.

Moon said he was on a trip to Dallas when a news channel featured a story about a local resident who found a portable storage device and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Federal agents discovered that the drive belonged to a U.S. Air Force troop from a Texas base and contained all the electrical diagrams for a fighter plane.

The Department of Defense has been pushing for strict security measures, and the U.S. Army has released even more restrictive guidelines, Moon said.

Their project encompasses all of that guidance, focusing on identifying the types of information and storage devices; ensuring the devices are properly configured and marked; requiring users to get permission and submit a security plan; educating all soldiers as to the policies during annual training sessions; and making sure they learn to report any problems.

Moon used the example of a soldier heading from Seoul to Daegu for a training exercise.

“If he gets permission, the device is properly encrypted, and he does his security plan, he can travel with [the data],” Moon said.

Moon said the plan was well received at the Department of Army level, and many other organizations — including the Pacific Command — are looking to incorporate elements into their own developing plans.

The plan will be officially adopted by U.S. Forces Korea and the 8th U.S. Army in upcoming months, said Moon.

He said the soldiers have mixed feelings about the plan because it creates extra steps and work.

But they “understand the importance” of the system, he added.

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