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Many people know that U.S. Army Europe prohibits the unauthorized downloading of software onto government computers.

But they may not be aware that it is also prohibited to play personally owned music compact discs on computers using the military secure and nonsecure network, according to USAREUR regulations.

The prohibition took on new significance with the discovery that some Sony CDs come with hidden anti-piracy software that users must download to play the music.

“This is an issue of basic computer security,” said Tim Madden, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Global Network Operations, a component of the U.S. Strategic Command that oversees the operation and protection of military networks.

“The expectation is you’re not going to do it. If you’re using a government computer, you’re not going to do these things. It’s part of the expectation of you as a professional.”

The software does not affect stereos or Walkmans. But when installed on a computer, the software creates a hole in the Windows operating system that could allow hackers to steal any data, including e-mails, stored on the computer.

Persons who have downloaded the software on government computers to play the affected CDs should contact their local systems administrator, according to Steve Lappe, an information assurance security officer with the 52nd Signal Battalion in Stuttgart.

“It’s better to let us know you’ve done it so we can correct the problem than to leave the risk on the work station,” Lappe said.

Anyone who wants to play music at work should use a stereo and not a computer, said Frank Santos, one of the battalion’s information assurance specialists.

“There’s a possibility in the future that the music industry might decide to use some other method of copywriting their material,” Santos said, “and it may introduce other exploits similar to this one, or worse.”

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