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U.S. Navy boosts networks, causes slowdowns

Sep. 26, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By KEVIN LILLEY   |   Comments
George H.W. Bush is conducting training and carrie
Cyber-maintenance may slow the Navy's computer network for a few weeks. Here, sailors assess network security earlier this year aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush. (U.S. Navy)
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Sailors who have suffered through recent slow connectivity or limited access to parts of the Navy’s computer network should know the Navy’s top cyberwarriors are aware of the problem.

In fact, they’ve caused it. On purpose.

The fleet is “applying upgrades to enhance its network reliability and cybersecurity,” according to a news release issued Sept. 20 from Fleet Cyber Command — moves that will protect the network in the long run, but could create limited short-term network issues.

Here’s what you need to know while you wait for your page to load:

1. What’s getting fixed. The upgrades include “validating and verifying our network configurations, settings, security and equipment to improve and ensure proper performance,” Fleet Cyber Command spokesman Lt. Joseph Holstead said in an emailed response to questions.

These are in addition to the software and hardware updates the Navy performs on its network on a regular basis.

Holstead wouldn’t offer further specifics, citing operational security.

2. Waiting it out. Holstead would not discuss the length of time sailors could expect slower connectivity or outages, nor the specific areas of the network that could see slowdowns, again citing security reasons. The news release announcing the move says the issues could continue “over the coming weeks.”

Some commenters couldn’t resist getting in a dig on the much-maligned Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. “If the network slowed down, how would we notice?” one Facebook user wrote in response to a Navy Times posting shortly after the announcement.

3. Alternate pathways. Workarounds will be created for sailors who need access to sites experiencing outages, Holstead said. Still having problems? Your usual local or network technical support personnel should have answers.

4. (Cyber) safety first. The upgrades are part of the Navy’s broad cybersecurity push, which recently included the development of the Department of the Navy Insider Threat Program. Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, head of Fleet Cyber Command, said ongoing “network upgrades and network hardening measures” will help combat that threat, and others.

5. Share the burden. Fleet Cyber Command officials continue to stress that a sailors’ involvement in network security shouldn’t be limited to longer wait times. While the fleet’s cyberwarriors will handle the patches, software updates and hardware tweaks, Rogers and others have said everyone with access to the Navy’s network bears some responsibility for keeping it safe.

“Ultimately, cybersecurity is the responsibility of the entire Navy team,” Rogers said.

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