AF sees push-pull apps as threat and keeps ban

Lt. Gen. William Donahue says
push-pull applications consume bandwidth and threaten security.





The Air Force’s ban on push-pull applications will remain in effect indefinitely,
the service’s director of communications and information has decided.


Concerned about potential security threats to Air Force networks, the service ordered
the ban late last year. The threat still exists, and the applications put too much demand
on limited bandwidth, said Lt. Gen. William Donahue.


“Streaming news, sports and stock quotes across the desktop may be very
interesting, but it’s hardly the business of the Air Force,” he said.
“That’s not the best use of government time and resources.”


Donahue issued a memorandum to the major commands earlier this month updating an Oct.
15, 1997, policy memo that established the push-pull ban. The service will incorporate the
policy into Air Force Instruction 33129 on the transmission of information via the
Internet.


“The widespread proliferation of commercial network broadcasting technologies is
consuming a lot of scarce bandwidth and opening substantial security holes in our
network,” Donahue said. The Air Force must curtail this activity so that critical
network assets are available for day-to-day operations, he said.


The decision to make the ban permanent follows tests of push and pull products by the
Air Force Communications Agency at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.


The agency looked at two Web browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape
Netcaster 4.0. It also studied three data gathering applications: BackWeb from BackWeb
Technologies Inc. of San Jose, Calif., Castanet from Marimba Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.,
and Intermind Communicator from Intermind Corp. of Seattle.


Donahue’s memo did not include the results of AFCA’s evaluations. But he said
the findings will be circulated internally within the Air Force with disclaimers
“because we’re not Consumer Reports.”


The ban will continue until the service can eliminate security risks to its networks
from such products, Donahue said.


Banned products fall into three categories: auto-pull applications such as WebRetriever
from Folio Corp. of Provo, Utah; auto-push applications such as Intelliserv from Verity
Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.; and channel changer applications such as PointCast from
PointCast Inc. of Sunnyvale.


Ultimately, the Air Force would like to use some of these technologies, Donahue said.


To find ways to use such tools, the service is evaluating the use of proxy servers and
other methods of reducing the bandwidth load on its networks, Donahue said. It will also
continue to evaluate push-pull products for security risks. 

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