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Iraq base plans left on open servers

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Reporters trawling un-indexed FTP servers have recently been able to download large amounts of secret US military data, it has been revealed.

Documents found included plans of a new military prison camp in Iraq and a fuel dump in Afghanistan - both likely to be targets for insurgents.

Associated Press hacks who carried out the investigation suggested that less tech-savvy people in the US military-industrial complex thought it safe to put the files on open FTP(File Transfer Protocol) machines because they were not crawled by search-engine bots and thus could not be Googled. However, the AP scribes could get to the files in many cases by simply substituting "ftp" for "http" in their browser address bars.

Many of the embarrassing sites appear to have been run by contractors rather than the US military itself, however the Army Corps of Engineers did put some Iraqi airbase plans up for free download, as did the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

The Los Alamos and Sandia nuke labs apparently made similar blunders. In one case a sensitive document was password protected, but the password was revealed in another unsecured document on the same site. Whoops.

AP quoted security guru Bruce Schneier as saying: "For some, there's sort of this myth that 'if I put something on the net and don't tell anybody', that it's hidden. It's a sloppy user mistake. This is yet another human error that creates a major problem."

Well, kind of major.

It is mildly worrying that Iraqi or Afghan insurgents can download full maps of US base layouts without leaving their bedrooms, just like they could before Google Earth got all patriotic. But they'll still need to put their trousers on and go outdoors to actually do anything with the info: and at least in some cases they could get much of the info in question just by doing that.

It's recently been revealed, for instance, that most Iraqis seized by the US military simply get released again - which argues that in fact the layout of US prisoner-holding facilities is quite well known. Also, most US bases are constantly visited by local contractors - and sometimes are even built using local labour.

This could just be sour grapes from the Reg, but you could almost say that if this is the only classified stuff America has accidentally left on open FTP servers, the US military-industrial complex is actually relatively secure and tech-savvy.

The full AP report, complete with light dusting of hype, can be read here. ®

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