On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps blocked all access to Web-based email services, including Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Google’s Gmail, and America Online, from overseas government computers, according to Stars and Stripes.
And not just at office workstations.
The block includes access to e-mail services from computers at base libraries and liberty centers that are connected to an official government network.
“This concerns us, because so many of our patrons won’t be able to access their e-mail, and many come to the library to do just that,” said Ciro Giordano, supervisory librarian at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.
But access to such services leaves the unclassified government network too susceptible to hackers and computer viruses, said Neal Miller, a senior plans and policy manager with Naval Network Warfare Command in Norfolk, Va.
“By going through some of the commercial Web-based e-mail accounts, it opens up vulnerabilities to government-run networks and presents too high [of a] risk to be acceptable,” Miller said.
The policy covers sailors, Marines and DOD employees and contractors using Navy Department computers, and applies to those downrange who operate on Navy computer systems. — Stars and Stripes
The Army announced it had no plans to implement such a block.
Those affected will be required to use their assigned, unclassified .mil address; however, dependents aren’t assigned such an address. “[The base library computer] is the only way I can check my e-mail,” Patricia Rovito, 40, told Stars and Stripes. “This is going to be a pretty sizable hit to morale. I understand the Navy has its concerns, but this is not going to be favorably accepted.”
Government computer security still sucks, it seems. And instead of actually installing security measures, such as anti-virus software, on the at-risk computers, they instead block access to e-mail?
Especially when there are better ways. Installing Linux desktops in the library for sailors’ personal use is one option, for instance, which would virtually eliminate the threat and still allow for access to Web-based email services. But at minimum, these computers should have anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. And with the hundreds of billions of dollars going into the Department of Defense, I’m sure they can find the money for it.