Mildenhall probes prohibited computer use
RAF MILDENHALL, England — An increase in unauthorized computer usage within the military Internet network at this air base has security experts concerned that such violations could leave the system vulnerable to viruses, ad ware and all types of computerized malfeasance.
For the past few months, those watching the cyber-stream on the base’s official military computer network have picked up a rise in prohibited usage on Air Force computers, from simple time-wasting to pornography viewing, said Master Sgt. Brian Niemi, the noncommissioned officer in charge of information protection for the 100th Communications Squadron.
Since late December, there have been about 30 instances that include online shopping, streaming media and other non-work activities, he said, numbers that are high for the Mildenhall base population and more frequent than what his airmen are used to detecting.
The base supports 3,500 military members and 4,900 dependents.
Earlier in 2006 and through mid-December, one to two violations a month were standard, Niemi said.
That rose to three to five a week by January, but has since started to taper off.
“We’ve had people surfing for wedding dresses for six freaking hours,” Niemi said. “How is the mission getting done?”
But of more concern to Niemi are the eight instances that have involved viewing pornography or bypassing the base’s computer security networks, violations of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that have been referred to the base’s 100th Security Forces Squadron.
“Most people think porn is no big deal,” said Stacey Moore, a civilian security forces investigator.
“But it’s being taken seriously. And with Internet security, it’s a lot more serious than people are giving it credit for.”
No cases have involved child pornography.
Porn sites and bypassing security protocols open the base’s system to all kind of computerized nastiness, Niemi said.
“People who are revisiting sites they shouldn’t be visiting increase our chance of infestation or infection,” Niemi said. “You’re visiting the seedier side of town.”
Of the cases referred to security forces, a few were repeat occurrences and five individuals overall have been investigated, Moore said.
Last year at this point, Moore said, he had only investigated two such cases.
Cases are referred for possible criminal action when they involve pornography or violations of network security, Moore said.
“Everybody signs an agreement with ‘Comm’ of what you can and can’t view,” he said.
There have been no such instances in the same time period of improper usage within the recreational computer network that serves such locales as the library or community center, said Lisa Allen of the 100th Services Squadron, which oversees that system.
Of those five investigated thus far this year, two were civilians, two were airmen and one was a noncommissioned officer stationed at Mildenhall as an individual mobilization augmentee, Moore said.
One case is ongoing and involves the NCO, he said, adding that violations occurred while the airman was on and off-duty.
The remaining four were resolved administratively.
Some level of Internet abuse is inevitable, but bypassing the system to get to banned sites or viewing pornography through a work computer can welcome unwanted visitors, Niemi said.
“It makes us a softer target for people who want to hack into a military base,” he said.
“It’d be like having the Brownies guard the gate.”