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Mullen: Thumb drive ban won’t end soon

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 20, 2009

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Don’t expect a letup in the global war on thumb drives.

In November, the Defense Department banned the use of removable storage devices and flash media on government computers. Wired Magazine reported the move came after the worm virus Agent.btz was discovered on some department networks, and was believed to be spread through the portable drives.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday he does not have a timetable to reverse the ban, which includes thumb drives, memory sticks and camera flash cards.

“I do not see the thumb drives going back here in the immediate future,” Mullen said.

During a town hall meeting with soldiers, Mullen said the restrictions were put into place to protect Defense Department systems from a growing threat in the cyber realm.

“One of the ways these worms move around is you just take your thumb drive, which is in your unclassified computer, and all you gotta do is plug it into a classified computer,” Mullen said.

“The potential there from a national security perspective is huge.

The “Agent.btz” virus degrades computer performance by copying itself to multiple programs, slowing the system.

External hard disk drives, CDs and DVDs are not included in the ban. The ban also does not affect troops’ personal laptops or home computers.