WikiLeaks docs a poison pill for contractors

Does your company work for the government? Do you ever want to? If so, best avoid any classified documents from WikiLeaks

Federal contractors are looking for ways to prevent their networks and employees from tasting forbidden fruit: the classified documents leaked by WikiLeaks.

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget notified federal agencies that access to classified documents, even leaked documents, is a violation of policy and, potentially, federal law. The memo made clear that the prohibition extends to contractors as well.

Calls have begun pouring into security firms that deal in content inspection and data analysis. Companies are worried any access to the leaked State Department memos by employees, even those contained in public press reports, could jeopardize federal contracts, says Kurt Bertone, vice president of strategic alliances for Fidelis Security Systems.

"We are getting a lot of calls from our existing customers ... they are really afraid of consuming information made public by WikiLeaks," Bertone says.

The worries over classified data extend to students as well. Some university officials are warning their students that posting links to documents leaked by WikiLeaks on Facebook and other social networks could cost them a future job with the government, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.

The concerns have come after federal agencies notified their contractors that any access to classified documents will not be tolerated.

"Federal agencies collectively, and each federal employee and contractor individually, are obligated to protect classified information pursuant to all applicable laws, as well as to protect the integrity of government information technology systems," reads a memo to federal agencies from the Office of Management and Budget.

For information security systems, the moratorium on viewing the data can be tricky to implement because the prohibition extends to systems that automatically capture network data, says Bertone.

"The really interesting thing is they can’t capture that classified information, even in systems that monitor the network," Bertone says. "It will contaminate the forensics system. These agencies are really, really concerned about that. So much so that some of them are turning off their forensics systems because of it."

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