Net conniptions

The Internet continues to give agencies fits.


I hear a refrain. Something bad happens—perhaps one isolated incident—and
agencies backtrack until they can devise new policies. Or, like Justice, they plow ahead
with a heavy-handed policy.


The danger is real; the velocity and unruliness of the Web resists security. An
agency’s ability to ensure that it posts accurate information reflects well on the
organization.


Still, in the case of Justice, you’d think that attorneys, investigators and FBI
agents need unfettered access to the Web. A better answer here is to bite the bullet on
firewalls and proxy servers that can constrain applet damage. Cutting access to Web
resources is a temporary fix at best, like putting a car on blocks in order to change the
tires.


At DOD, it’s still not clear why the brass is wringing its hands over unclassified
sites. Isn’t a policy of having commanders responsible for content merely stating the
obvious? Looking at every page, every piece of data hardly seems like a smart way for
brass to spend their time. Let’s be honest: Independent publications and Web sites
devoted to defense hold reams more information than is typically available on unclassified
DOD Web sites.


BLS faced a more discrete problem. It had posting policies, but it didn’t apply
them to all postings, which permitted a goof that temporarily affected the bond market.


Now 6 years old, the Web is old hat to many users. In reality it is an infant medium
built on crude tools, such as browsers that are transparent to mischievous code.
Nonetheless, agencies must proceed and figure out how to tap its potential. Just use
caution.


Thomas R. Temin
Editor
editor@gcn.com

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