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29.11.2017

US military secrets were not protected with a password

UpGuard Director of Cyber Risk Research Chris Vickery has lately specialized in unprotected data stored on Amazon cloud. He has already collected a lot of materials, which due to incorrectly configured access to the cloud server could end up in anybody’s hands. However, the new discovery of the researcher it seems has shocked him as well. “What are we doing wrong when 'top secret' data is literally two mouse clicks away from worldwide exposure? How did we get here, and how do we find a way out?” was the emotional response of Chris Vickery to the discovery of the Army and National Security Agency’s secret materials stored in the open access.

Vickery stumbled upon a virtual disk image on one of the Amazon Web Services servers. As it turned out, it contained over 100 gigabytes of data related to a secret Red Disk project. The US Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), a division that reports to both the Pentagon and the NSA, developed the Red Disk project. It was created as a cloud-based sharing system, which was meant to guarantee maximum information support for large-scale military operations. It was assumed that ideally the system would immediately provide all connected participants with the most up-to-date intelligence (including information from satellites and drones). This would allow the field commanders and the high commanders in Washington to see the full picture of the events at the same time and plan combat operations as efficiently as possible.

However, in reality the system ended up being too slow, difficult and often out of order. In a memo from 2014 one of the US Army unit commanders called Red Disk “a major hindrance to operations”. The project cost about 93 million dollars; however, it wasn’t fully implemented. Nevertheless, the information discovered by Chris Vickery is highly classified. The materials were labeled NOFORN, which means that the information was not disseminated even among the US foreign allies. But they simply forgot to protect this information with a password.


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US military secrets were not protected with a password