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Air Force Emails Sensitive Information to Tourism Site 242

Khuffie writes "The US Air Force has been sending sensitive information, including flight plans for Air Force One, to a website promoting the town of Mildenhall in Suffolk. When told of the error by the site's owner, the Air Force did not attempt to fix it at first. When reminded at a later time, instead of fixing the issue, they advised the owner to 'block unrecognizable addresses from his domain and have an auto-reply sent reminding people of the official Mildenhall domain and blocked his website from access on base.'"
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Air Force Emails Sensitive Information to Tourism Site

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  • by megla ( 859600 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:17AM (#22648242)
    ...because it's always someone elses problem.
    • Oh please, "security breaches"? What enemy could possibly challenge the US air force?
      • Re:The Airforce... (Score:4, Informative)

        by megla ( 859600 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:30AM (#22648362)
        I'm guessing being emailed confidential deployment plans and the route for Airforce 1 would get them off to a good start!
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by ozmanjusri ( 601766 )
          the route for Airforce 1

          Are you kidding?

          An attacker who took that turkey down would get a pat on the back and free beers in every bar across the United States. Any sensible enemy of the US will make damn sure that's the last bird still in the air.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            That's not only ignorant, it is also blatantly incorrect. Regardless of the feelings for the man in the office, the office itself is symbolic of the United States. Just think of how long we've spent after the destruction of symbols of US capitalism, the World Trade Center Towers. Multiply that by 1000, and you'd have the reaction if someone were to take out the President of the United States.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              Like the reaction and 'intense' investigation that took place after JFK was assassinated?

              No one even crashed a plane into a building with that, or shot down a plane...they just brought a rifle to a political event, aimed and fired. I think many Americans would be happy to watch him die, as a clear enough separation has been made between his personal incredible stupidity and the honor and distinction of the office itself during his terms in office.

              I personally, think that no one should 'die' for their
              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by operagost ( 62405 )
                I think it's sad that so many people are driven by hatred.
              • Re:The Airforce... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by innerweb ( 721995 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:16PM (#22651622)

                .there is a level of accountability that should be enforced both during, and after your time in office

                Yeah - nothing against you, but come on. Bill Clinton got caught with an extra-marital affair, and was put up for impeachment for lying under oath about it. The current president lied, manipulated people in positions of authority and created an environment where his business allies could earn billions off of the war and he is not even being investigated. *accountability* Give me a break. Pres Bush Jr is the one who finally showed me the futile light of our current governmental/business systems.

                The current president has done more damage to our future than any other force, person or organization in the US's history. There really is a price to pay for the incredible amount of debt we have and the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. It creates instability in the regions, the world, the markets and it weakens our governments ability to deal with a real crisis when it occurs (and they do occur). Saddam was evil, but not a crisis and through GW's actions, we have given fundamentalism another strong foothold in the Middle East. We can not afford (financially) to stick around long enough in Iraq to fix the problems that are there now.

                He has made thousands of people incredibly wealthy (not just wealthy) with his politics. If there has been a President in history who needs to be investigated for the well being of our national future, if not only for the strong potential for serious criminal conduct, it is President Bush Jr.

                Accountability is only possible with transparency and memory. People have to be able to see and then want to remember what they have seen. As we have neither in sufficient quantity, we do not have accountability. I think Bush will walk away from this a wealthy man with no fear of being prosecuted for what he has done.


            • There *could* be a *WO*man in the office someday.

              Personally, when I was in uniform and when I was taken in hand for criticizing a sitting president (84-88, and this happened around 86) I was told (or probably given an implied order) to RESPECT THE MAN IN OFFICE. To hell with that. If an idiot or dunce is in office, call a spade a spade. But, if fools someday (or in the past) take/took office, it would be tragic to not challenge that. I take GREAT offence at being told to unwaveringly GIVE my support for *th
            • by rkanodia ( 211354 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:05PM (#22655150)
              Just think of how long we've spent after the destruction of symbols of US capitalism, the World Trade Center Towers. Multiply that by 1000, and you'd have

              'Jesus, that's...'
              'Yes. Nine hundred and eleven thousand.'
          • You're crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jgoemat ( 565882 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:02PM (#22650412)

            An attacker who took that turkey down would get a pat on the back and free beers in every bar across the United States.

            Who among us would be happy to have Dick Cheney as president?

      • Re:The Airforce... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:32AM (#22648378) Journal
        The budget.

        Military spending is a huge contributor to the US's debt problems, and anything that reduces the efficiency of the military contributes to the problem. Consider how expensive the air force is to maintain -- when it comes time to curtail the military budget, the air force has a lot of low-hanging fruit.

        Security breaches and awareness of systemic ineptitude will just increase the likelihood that the air force will be targeted with more cuts.

        Never mind the fact the a security breach, if taken advantage of by the wrong people, could be *very* expensive.
        • Re:The Airforce... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 172pilot ( 913197 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:31AM (#22649038) Homepage
          How I wish that were true, but you miss a fundamental difference between private industry and the government... When a private company has such efficiency problems, it goes out of business, but when a government agency has trouble, the trouble is presented as "evidence" that "the problem is bigger than we thought" and that more money needs to be allocated to correct the problem. Of course, the fundamental problem which is ignored is the leadership of the organization wasting the money, so the problem never gets fixed, but budgets get bigger and bigger.. At least in the Military's case, their function is one which can be justified by the Constitution - Most of the other government waste is in programs that the government has no right to be spending a dime on in the first place...
          • Very good point.

            I'm just wondering how much of it applies during times of budget contraction, as opposed to the status quo of annual expansion... because we're going to need to shrink the military budget in the next few years... whether it's done via inflation or visible cuts, I'm not sure.
        • I was in the US Air Force for 12 years, and and have now been in private industry for about the same, and I can tell you the USAF is reflective of all organizations. It makes mistakes like all others, exceeds standards in a lot, and at the end of the day gets the job done using the resources allotted to it. If there is low hanging fruit there, it is generally no more or less than anywhere else.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Red Flayer ( 890720 )
            You understand what a low-hanging fruit is, right?

            It's no reflection on the quality or caliber of people and projects in the AF.

            When your goal is to pick fruit from a tree, the low-hanging ones are the easiest to reach and thus the first to get picked.

            When your goal is to cut costs, the low-hanging fruit are the ones that are easy to cut because they are 1) big-ticket items where a small reduction in qty yields a large cost-savings and 2) there is little direct elimination of jobs.

            Naval yards, for examp
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mushdot ( 943219 )

        If you read the article you would know that sensitive information, including flight plans for the president and military tactics were received. So with that information it may not be such a challenge.

        • Re:The Airforce... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Serious Callers Only ( 1022605 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:25AM (#22648964)
          The real question is what is sensitive information like that doing being sent over email without encryption. If they're sending things like flight plans and military tactics via plain email, it should be considered a security breach no matter who the recipient is. Anyone could easily read it on the way between the two servers, it might get forwarded to someone who shouldn't see it, it can be changed by servers en-route or bogus data inserted etc etc. I imagine most security services would find it easy to infiltrate an ISP here and there and watch traffic as it goes through, and no one would be any the wiser.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            The real question is what is sensitive information like that doing being sent over email without encryption.

            You only need to send stuff encrypted if you have something to hide ... oh, wait, heck, idiots.
        • Re:The Airforce... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by richlv ( 778496 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:48AM (#22649246)
          he should simply autoforward those mails to wikileaks
      • I'm hoping that was sarcasm? The fact that it's so ludicrous hints at it, but I'm worried you were serious..
      • The aliens in Independence Day did. Threatened them, but didn't defeat them. But how do you know that they haven't disguised themselves as tourist operators in Suffolk? This could be chance they need to retake the earth.

        And I don't know about you, but I don't think I could stand a sequel to ID4.
      • by callistra.moonshadow ( 956717 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:02AM (#22648648) Journal
        I think that this may have to do with bravado, but more likely it has to do with plain old ignorance. I seriously doubt the Airforce has good IT personnel. Maybe I'm being an IT snob, but from what I've heard from family members that work in government and other civil service (one is pretty highly ranked) is that (as we all know) woefully behind the times. I suspect that an email about data being sent to a public URL may have been seen as cryptic to whatever administrator ended up with the information. On a different thread I was talking about identify theft and how the government is one of the largest areas where proprietary data is stolen from. I think that it's just another symptom of a much more systemic problem within government agencies in the US.

        • by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:24AM (#22648950)
          I was bothered by the Air Force's casual response to this problem as well. Not to mention their mistreatment of the domain owner, telling him to rewrite his 550 SMTP reply to inform senders of the base's domain. Why didn't a "Communications Squadron" offer to work with the domain owner to resolve these problems? The fact that the USAF shrugged off this rather simple problem onto the domain owner tends to confirm your suspicions about the quality of their IT services.
          • by deniable ( 76198 )
            It could be funny if you don't select for the sending domain. This is roughly the error message I'd use:

            That address doesn't exist here, please check it and send it again.

            If you are with the United States Air Force please use other-domain.uk instead of ourdomain.uk.

            Thank you, have a nice day.

            Not likely to do anything, but I'd wonder if I got that message.

          • Not to mention their mistreatment of the domain owner, telling him to rewrite his 550 SMTP reply to inform senders of the base's domain.
            If you RTFA, you will see that it was RAF Mildenhall who gave this advice. As the intended recipients, not the senders, this was probably a good thing to do. One can only hope that they also notified the USAF of the problem.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by corbettw ( 214229 )

            Why didn't a "Communications Squadron" offer to work with the domain owner to resolve these problems?

            Why didn't someone just update the distribution list in Exchange? How freakin' hard is that?

            Besides, these emails should have been going over SIPR (secret military VPN), not NIPR (public Internet). The SIPR machines can't route email to NIPR networks, so the problem never would've happened in the first place if proper OPSEC had been followed. Someone needs an Article 15 for this.

            (I'm a former IT1 in the Navy, and worked with Air Force guys in Operation Northern Watch, and I can state that all of the Air Fo

      • That's an easy one : China

        How good are the Air force at hitting Suicide bombers, without killing civilians?

        How good are they against submarines

        How good are they against ICBMs

        Go and put the Jingoism away and realise and airforce cannot win any war on their own, and do not even have a role in many battles?
    • by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:33AM (#22648394) Homepage
      In other news, the Air Force has requested that prostitutes, drug dealers and off-licences refuse money from US Airmen, and tell them to spend it on something moral and all-American instead.
    • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:58AM (#22650340) Homepage
      is still an oxymoron.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Eil ( 82413 )
        One thing you have to understand about the military is that for every uniformed soldier, airman, sailor, or what-have-you, there are 3 more civilian government employees doing the routine stuff like keeping the base facilities repaired, managing the supply system, or (unfortunately) maintaining the base's entire I.T. infrastructure.

        At every single Air Force base I was stationed, the network staff was entirely comprised of should-be retirees who had been working for the federal government since the stone age
  • more sites (Score:2, Funny)

    by Goffee71 ( 628501 )
    quickly signs up for:

    just to see what comes my way
  • Wait a minute. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jikrschbaum ( 920529 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:21AM (#22648270)
    Isn't the Airforce the branch that has been tasked with Cyberspace security? Some kind of Cyber Command? Military Intelligence at its highest magnitude.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

      Military Intelligence at its highest magnitude.

      "The military intelligence
      Two words combined that can't make sense"
      -Megadeth, Hangar 18
    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )
      They would like to have that role. But if this is how they handle security...heh...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dcollins ( 135727 )
      Have you seen the new recruiting ads on TV that are precisely that, some guy at a screen in a bunker protecting the Pentagon from "3 million intrusion attempts a day?"

      Tag line is now "Air - Space - Cyberspace".
      • There was also a full page ad in yesterdays (dead tree) New York Times saying the same kind of thing. Too bad we can't arrange for the Times to do a story on this and arrange it to be on the facing page from the USAF's next ad.

  • by DeeVeeAnt ( 1002953 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:23AM (#22648282)
    It's the only way to neutralise the tourist threat!
  • Conspiracy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:23AM (#22648284)
    It's almost as if they WANT someone to kill the president....
  • by Chief Camel Breeder ( 1015017 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:23AM (#22648286)

    I see from TFA that the owner finally took his site off-line because of the problem. So the USAF probably considers the problem solved. Another triumph for American diplomacy.

  • Stable doors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:23AM (#22648288)
    It was only after sensitive information had leaked that anything was done about it.
    • by WK2 ( 1072560 )
      To be fair, according to the summary the Air Force never closed the stable doors. Perhaps they were thinking, "Oh well. What's done is done." The thing is, they really should stop sending sensitive information via email in order to lessen future threats.

      On the other hand, this will make it easier to kill the president.
  • by TheSixth1 ( 81935 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#22648318)
    The Vice president accidentally shoots a man in the face, and it's the mans fault for getting in the way of the buckshot. The Air Force emails sensitive information to a website owner, and it's the site owner's fault for receiving it.

    The Cheney Effect is spreading!
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      Just as it was the fault of that lighthouse getting in the way of that battleship.
    • There was that one time I was the cameraman shooting a "video" and I got "shot at". Certainly didn't call that the Cheney effect then.
  • OPSEC and COMSEC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#22648320) Homepage Journal
    This from the mighty mighty Air Force which banned blogs, which accidentally flew nukes cross-country, which wants to start a "Cyber-Command." Not trying to flame, but why do they insult their own intelligence by banning the viewing of blogs [wired.com] while allowing this sort of crap to happen?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by qoncept ( 599709 )
      They blocked access from military computers. You can read what the slut next door is doing from home, but at work you're supposed to work. If they blocked something useful, you say "hey, I need to read this web page" and they unblock that one. Smart Filter can be funny though. They blocked wikipedia. Category? "Education/Reference"
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:46AM (#22649228)
      We fuck up more before 8 a.m than most people fuck up all day.
  • by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:29AM (#22648354)

    If the Air Force is sending that info over unencrypted e-mail, they have bigger problems than just the e-mail going to the wrong domain.

    This kind of makes me suspicious that he article might just be hyperbole.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )
      One has to wonder about that...

      However, having said this, it's not the first time someone screwed up bigtime on a DoD system.

      We've had other sloppiness come to light from some of the Titan Rain hack announcements-
      basically, we've had a bit of low-grade (thankfully) leakage of things that are not classified
      but not for general public consumption, stuff classified Confidential and Secret out of
      boxes that should NEVER have had the information on them in the first place as they weren't
      trusted systems.

      As it stand
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Mod parent up.

      If flight plans of Air Force One are being sent over a public network in plaintext, it doesn't matter in whose mailbox they end up really.
    • I also was thinking about that too! If they are so dumb as to think sending an e-mail out constitutes private communication as it passes across who knows how many servers that can all make copies of it on the way there, we're screwed. I would think things like Air Force One flight plans and confidential information should be sent through encrypted satellite connections run by the government or for really sensitive items carried in person via diplomatic couriers.
  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rolfc ( 842110 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:34AM (#22648408) Homepage
    I wonder if taking down the website will stop the emails from coming?

    Nope, I dont think so.
  • preemptive move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atreide ( 16473 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:37AM (#22648432)
    'block unrecognizable addresses from his domain'

    isn't it more effective if air force domain names are removed from world wide dns ?
    • It wasn't the domain name it was the 'To' email address. The owner of mildenhall.com had it setup so all email address went to a single, or a couple, email boxes so send email to Iknowthisisanonusedemailaddress@mildenhall.com would be received by the owner.
      The air force solution was to block all but the email addresses the owner of the site knew were valid and being using on the site.
  • How you tell them also matters... what if the messages were more or less like:

    Tourism site: All your air bases are belong to us
    USAF: Measure 1
    Tourism site: All your air bases are still belong to us
    USAF: Measure 2

    Is so outrageos this way.
  • It's the only way to be sure [wikileaks.org]!

    (Wait, technically, that *would* be effective in this case. Reprehensible, but effective.)
  • BBC... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mathimus1863 ( 1120437 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:36AM (#22649110)
    I love how I have to read other country's news reports to find out what's going on in my own country...
    • I love how I have to read other country's news reports to find out what's going on in my own country...
      This was going on in the same country as the news agency. This isn't the BBC reporting on events in America, it's the BBC reporting on events in Suffolk [google.com].
      • Sorry to reply to myself, I got distracted by actual real work (good grief!) and submitted by mistake without saying the actual point.

        That is, although Mildenhall is in the UK, I think strictly speaking you may still be correct, as USAF Mildenhall may be technically considered US soil. I don't remember the details of international agreements on this (I'm sure Wikipedia will give you a start, if you really care), but I know my band were hired to play a gig there about 10 years back, and entering the base
  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:39AM (#22649140)
    Dear Media Agency,

    It has come to the attention of the Air Force that it is likely your e-mail servers may have inadvertently received confidential Air Force e-mails. These e-mails were sent in error. We beg and plead with you to not consider this a "leak" to your organization. These "leaks" will arrive to you though regular channels. As you may have received several thousand e-mails we ask that you forget everything that you read and delete everything. If you print a story about this and decide to publish some example e-mails, please contact us as we will help you find some really juicy e-mails. Again, we did not do this on purpose.

    Since our e-mail servers are already having some serious problems, if you are not the intended recipient, please discard this e-mail immediately. We do not have any serious problems with our e-mail servers. If this is the tourism site again, please redirect these e-mails to major news organizations - and then delete.

    Thank you,
    US Air Force
  • Mildenhall is the site of an RAF base, actually now a USAF base. Not totally random sending it to this recipient, where I could see them somehow mistaking one Mildenhall for another. But still dumb as a blade of grass.

    Maybe they need a new mail server? FC7 should do, or something from IBM, all wrapped up in a pretty $MM mainframe?


  • Mildenhall Village (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Inda ( 580031 ) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:35AM (#22650006) Journal
    I laugh because this concerns little emails.

    When I lived in the small Wiltshire village of Mildenhall, we often had convoys of military vehicles being misdelivered.

    "Where's the air base?" the lead driver would ask.

    "150 miles North East of here!" we'd all reply.
  • by shking ( 125052 ) <babulicm&cuug,ab,ca> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:39AM (#22650082) Homepage
    From 2001 to 2005, CIBC, a large Canadian bank [theglobeandmail.com] sent faxes containing customers' fund transfer requests to a West Virginia scrapyard. The faxes didn't stop until the bank was publicly embarrased in the national media.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court