To ban or not ban MySpace, that is the question.
Surprisingly, of all the decisions the Department of Defense had to make in recent years, I bet you this one ranked right up there.
On Friday, Gen. B.B. Bell issued a memo
detailing restrictions to 13 social networking or file-sharing sites on the internet, including enormously popular MySpace and YouTube.
Bell says the sites pose bandwidth problems and a "significant operational security challenge."
To the IT security observer, this should come as no surprise. As incidents of bogged-down networks, web 2.0 identity theft scams and malware, and the posting of possibly sensitive information to these social networking sites become more pronounced, organizations across the globe will be cutting access to these hot web destinations in the same way they've banned traffic to porn sites in the past.
But here's where a policy like this gets tricky. If I were a security professional, I'd care less if Tom from accounting couldn't access MySpace between 9 and 5 because I know Tom's got a nice pretty computer waiting for him back at his house when he leaves my network.
But Pvt. 1st Class Tom, whose home is a bunk bed in the middle of Iraq, well that's a different story.
My girlfriend is best friends with a woman named Bridget, who is a captain in the Army. Bridget and I, incidentally, are MySpace friends.
Anyway, when I told my girlfriend about this new policy, she flipped. She said morale in Iraq is deteriorating every day, never mind taking away soldiers' links to their family and friends. Poor Bridget, she thought.
She's got a good point, but when these same soldiers who want to stay connected are clogging networks and opening them up to potential security problems, I'm not so sure the Army made a bad decision.
Bell says soldiers still can access the 13 sites from their personal ISPs but they should be careful not to forward any links or files to Defense systems over fears that could "create an opportunity for hacking and virus intrustion."
It will be difficult for the Army to find a young soldier who is not upset by this news. Heck I would be furious.
But when you're faced with the already daunting task of training tens of thousands of young men and women to guard against insurgent attacks and roadside bombs, somehow I don't think also educating them on safe computing is an efficient undertaking.