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NEWS | Aug. 24, 2006

Air Mobility Command to improve network security

By Kevin Nettrour AMC Public Key Infrastructure

Every day, thousands of computers are utilized in the day-to-day operations of Air Mobility Command. Our networks are essential to the success of our warfighting missions. 

However, these networks are under daily attack by hackers, saboteurs and terrorists, who can compromise the integrity of the network and put critical information systems at risk through unauthorized access, fraud, e-mail tampering, eavesdropping and data theft. 

A key weakness of the network is the use of passwords that are vulnerable because they are stored on and transmitted over the network and are easily hacked. Our adversaries know how to capture passwords and use them to access military systems at will, posing as legitimate users from the safety of their own base of operations. 

To prevent this, the Air Force is migrating away from using passwords to logon to unclassified networks. 

At Charleston AFB, the primary method for logging on to a AMC unclassified account will be with smart card logon as of Sept. 15, said Capt. Scott McGovern, 437th Communications Squadron information systems flight commander. 

For most people, the smart card is the standard DOD identification card, a common access card. To logon to the AMC network personnel will insert their CAC into the reader attached to their workstation and enter the associated six to eight digit personal identification number they created when the card was issue. 

Using the CAC for logon greatly increases network security through "two-factor authentication," requiring something Airmen have, their CAC, and something they know, their PIN. Airmen will need both to gain access to the unclassified network. 

"It's an effort to better secure the network," said Captain McGovern.
Since the PIN works differently than a password, Airmen don't have to change it unless they think it has been compromised. PINs should not be shared with anyone. If a CAC is lost or stolen and another person tries to guess the PIN, the CAC will be locked after three consecutive unsuccessful attempts. 

Initially, not all users will be able to use a smart card for logon. The first step is instituting SCL from traditional work places. Later phases will include finding alternatives where use of the DOD ID card is impractical like personnel not eligible for DOD ID card, enabling applications for secure remote access and implementing SCL in deployed environments. 

SCL represents a change in our business processes that affects every member of the Air Force community. However, it is a necessary change required to protect critical information and systems and ensure they are available to the warfighter where and when needed. (Airman 1st Class Sam Hymas contributed to this article.)