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Thumb drives, flash media still prohibited on Air Force Network

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The ban on flash media use in the Air Force is still in place. USSTRATCOM issued an order Feb. 12 allowing limited use of removable flash media devices under very specific circumstances and "according to service guidelines." Consistent with this order, the Air Force has decided to continue its service-wide ban on flash media devices until Air Force specific guidelines and procedures are determined.

"The Department of Defense banned flash media devices over a year ago due to network threats," said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Basla, Air Force Space Command vice commander. "These threats have not disappeared. There are a number of military and government agencies working to mitigate these threats. The Air Force will be a partner in these mitigation strategies as we work to allow the limited use of flash media for mission essential requirements.

"This will not be a return to 'business as usual'," said General Basla. "There will be strict limitations on using flash media devices when the Air Force returns to limited access and use. These limitations will be vital to our cyber security."

Headquarters AFSPC is the Air Force Designated Approval Authority for the Air Force Network. In this capacity, AFSPC is responsible for the policies, procedures and approval of flash media devices. According to Lt. Col. Donovan Routsis, AFSPC Net-Centricity division deputy chief, the staff is working with the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, the Air Force Network Integration Center and 24th Air Force to develop the policy and processes to allow use of the devices under carefully controlled circumstances.

"What we do not want is Airmen thinking they can go out and buy a thumb drive or USB or any flash media device and start using it," Colonel Routsis said. "In all reality, even when a policy is in place, that will still not be permissible. The use of any flash media device will only be authorized for mission-critical requirements and will be strictly managed."

"We are currently conducting research in order to provide for the Air Force's safe return of flash media devices," General Basla said. "Relentless adversaries continuously attempt to infiltrate our networks and systems trying to steal, compromise, degrade or destroy information, disrupt networks or communications, or deny service - so we must take all precautions to ensure we, as Cyber Wingmen, protect our networks at all cost."