Fifteen months after banning thumb drives, the U.S. military says some drives can be used again. But they must be more secure drives, and users must follow stricter security measures, say industry sources.
"They're going to allow reintroduction [of thumb drives], but not wholesale," said an information technology industry official. "They don't want it to be the Wild West anymore."
Thumb drives were widely used by U.S. troops for storing information ranging from mission plans to PowerPoint presentations. Their small size and large storage capacity made them convenient for transferring information from computer to computer.
But in November 2008, thumb drives infected by viruses infected and disrupted military networks, prompting the ban.
Under the decision to lift the ban, the use of thumb drives, memory sticks and other "removable media" will be permitted only for "mission essential applications," the industry officials said.
And the drives themselves must contain security features, two industry sources said. Troops will have to get specific approval to use the drives, and only approved drives from a handful of manufacturers can be used, they said.
The approved drives are designed so that they can be tracked by system administrators, they will require a password or some other form of identification to be used, and the information put on them will be encrypted, they said.
The drives must be able to work with Department of Defense "malware scrubbing kiosks," one source said.
Other features may include anti-virus software in the drive and security features that prevent copying or forwarding certain information from the drive or saving unapproved information on the drive.