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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A few hundred users of the base computer network were locked out when 35th Communications Squadron implemented a 100 percent Common Access Card logon last week to meet a Saturday deadline for the change.

The switch made obsolete the traditional user-name and password logon. Users who had not updated their CAC cards could not log on to their work station as of 5 p.m. June 26. About 226 users out of 3,867 accounts still were locked out as of Wednesday, base officials said Friday.

Squadron commanders were informed two weeks prior to the switch, said Capt. Roy Rockwell, acting communications squadron commander.

“We’ve been pushing this since February and we’ve been pushing the squadrons to get this done,” he said.

The Defense Department has mandated a July 31 deadline for CAC logon. But earlier this month, Pacific Air Forces ordered its bases to be ready by July 1, Rockwell said.

“When we went 100 percent compliant, nothing broke,” Rockwell said. “Other than the users who got locked out, there were no major issues.”

The squadron chose to make the switch June 26 to allow a few days to work out any bugs, he said.

Also called a “smart card,” the CAC features an embedded computer chip that stores a person’s electronic identity. It allows users to sign documents digitally and to protect messages from being intercepted and read by unauthorized individuals. Users access the Defense Department unclassified network with a personal identification number and a CAC reader.

“The biggest push for this (is) we were increasingly across the Department of Defense having user IDs and passwords compromised,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Corbett, Information Systems Flight commander. “‘(Dallas) Cowboys No.1’ is the most common password in DOD,” he said.

With a user ID and password, a hacker could access an e-mail account through the Internet, Corbett said. The CAC carries an encrypted, randomly selected 128-character password that protects such information, he said.

To log on to their DOD computer, users need to visit the Military Personnel Flight in Building 653 to get additional digital identifying information loaded on their card and be assigned a personal identification number. A unit computer administrator then has to authenticate the card, matching it to the Misawa network domain, Corbett said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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