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Air Force officials to implement hand-held device changes

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Air Force officials will be implementing changes in March to services available for use on all Air Force-issued BlackBerry hand-held devices to bolster the security of the devices. These Department of Defense-directed changes will be overseen by security specialists in 24th Air Force, the operational warfighting organization responsible for defending Air Force network operations.

"Just as physical security measures at forward and stateside bases are constantly being improved to meet current threats, so also are cyber protection measures taken to protect DOD information," said Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, 24th Air Force commander.

The Air Force mission depends on the availability, integrity and confidentiality of information systems interconnected through cyberspace, officials state. Adversaries are constantly seeking to find and exploit potential vulnerabilities of these vital information systems. All Air Force personnel are responsible for safeguarding these systems, and improvements to network security procedures help them to do so.

The following configuration changes will be implemented within the month of March:

a) Users no longer will have the capability to send or receive text messages with attached photos or videos. Text-only messaging will remain enabled.

b) If a device is being synched and its software is out-of-date, a "Force Load" message will appear. The user will have only one opportunity to decline updating the software. Any subsequent syncing attempts will render the device inoperative until the software is updated.

c) Users will not be able to download additional applications to their devices over the Internet.

d) Most Bluetooth functionality will be disabled. The only Bluetooth feature that will continue to function will be linking the device to the smart-card reader cradle.

e) Users no longer will be able to connect their smart-card reader cradle to their computers.

Air Force people who have questions about these changes can contact their local client support administrators. People who notice abnormal operations of any communications devices or equipment are encouraged to contact their local information assurance officer or CSA.

"Mission assurance is the goal for which all changes are enacted to our network and the services provided with it: to protect the Air Force, its people, and its capabilities," General Webber said.