Navy urges use of the Net for most data comm
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Mar 16, 1998
Though security concerns recently led the Air Force to limit Internet use, the Navy is
encouraging online data exchange for most communications.
A joint message issued late last month by the Pacific and Atlantic fleets established
an Internet policy promoting the widest permissible use of systems to access the Internet,
surf the World Wide Web and communicate through Internet e-mail.
"We all must become proficient in accessing and transferring information in an
automated environment, including the Internet," the joint fleet message said.
"To that end, we recognize that the best way to develop your information technology
skills is to get on the Net and make it your preferred and routine choice to access,
de-velop and exchange information."
The Navy until recently restricted the use of government information systems to
official business only. But under the new guidelines, even personal use is OK.
But common sense must prevail, Navy officials said. Certain uses are still prohibited
by Navy regulations.
For instance, a user cannot view classified data from an unclassified system.
Federal rules also ban pornographic, racist and subversive materials on government IT
systems. Software pirating is forbidden, as are partisan political endeavors, fund
raising, gambling, chain letters and personal home pages.
The Navy's relaxed Internet policy is a far cry from the Air Force's five-month-old ban
on all push and pull data-gathering applications.
The service will lift the ban as soon as product evaluations show no security risks to
Air Force networks, service officials said.
"We intend to make this technology available to users but must achieve an
acceptable corporate Air Force level of risk for these auto push-pull products," Lt.
Gen. William Donahue, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for communications and
information, said in an Oct. 15 memo.
Banned software falls into three categories: automatic pull applications such as
WebRetriever from Folio Corp. of Provo, Utah; automatic push applications such as
Intelliserv from Verity Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.; and channel changer applications such
as PointCast from Point-Cast Inc., also of Sunnyvale.
The Air Force Communications Agency at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is testing software,
in-cluding BackWeb from BackWeb Technologies Inc. of San Jose, Calif., Castanet from
Marimba Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., Intermind Communicator from Intermind Corp. of Seattle,
PointCast, Netscape Netcaster 4.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0.
The Communications Agency expects to finish the tests this month, Air Force officials
Some makers of the banned products are trying to convince the Air Force that their
products are not security threats.
"Because PointCast has a closed architecture, it's not entirely obvious [to the
Air Force] how the company implements security and bandwidth management," said Max
Mancini, PointCast's product line manager for corporate products.
Netscape officials said Netcaster provides security, too, as well as an integrated push
client and offline browsing.
"Netcaster doesn't mandate pulling information from a central site like PointCast
does, where everything has to originate from their site, which is a big security
problem," said John Menkart, regional sales manager for Netscape Government Group.
Menkart said PointCast's invention of new protocols for push fails to create a secure
But PointCast officials said they had not invented the protocols used in their apps.
"We've built on existing protocols. We didn't reinvent TCP/IP," Mancini said.