Army turning up cyber protections of network, data access

Maj. Gen. Chris Eubank, commander of NETCOM, said soldiers and civilians will no longer be able to download data to their devices from outside the Army network.

PHILADELPHIA — The Army is making a major change to how soldiers and civilians access data through their email and other applications in early June.

Starting on June 11, the Army is shutting down the network port that lets users pull data through commercial internet providers onto their laptops or cell phones.

Maj. Gen. Chris Eubank, commander of the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), said the decision to turn off what is commonly known as “Flow 3” came down to two factors. One is basic cybersecurity and protecting data and networks. The second, however, was the maturity of the Army’s virtual desktop initiative (VDI) and overall network architecture.

Maj. Gen. Chris Eubank is the commander of the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM).

“What we’re really going to shut down is the ability to go into the Army’s network and pull the information through the internet to your device, whether it’s a government furnished device or a personal device. What we’re doing is we’re going to cut off that access so you’ll still be able to get to those services, via your personal device using a Common Access Card (CAC) or from a government furnished piece of equipment using a CAC using the commercial internet, but it’s all going to be through virtual means,” said Eubank during an interview with Federal News Network at the Army TEMS conference last week. “Using technologies in our bring-your-own-device, remote capable workforce portfolio like Azure virtual desktop, individuals will still be able to plug in via the commercial internet CAC enabled get to that information, but they will not be able to pull the information out of that environment. It will stay resident in in the cloud. When they disconnect their session, there’s nothing left behind [on the device]. It’s really about protecting both the network and our workforce.”

The Army has provided this type of access through the commercial internet for years, specifically for members of the guard and reserves. This capability became even more critical during the pandemic when more soldiers and civilians worked remotely.

Army needs to increase data protections

Eubank said because the threat landscape has changed so dramatically in the last three or four years, the Army made the decision to shut off the ability to download data through commercial internet providers. Eubank signed a strategic communications message in the beginning of May to initiate this change.

He said NETCOM is trying to make this transition easier for soldiers and civilians by providing them with a QR code to download the VDI application.

“They can click on a link and it’ll sign them up for Azure virtual desktop. They can do the same thing on Hypori. That enables them to get that account setup and then if you have any questions all you have to do is reach out to NETCOM,” he said.

Jared Shepard, CEO and President of Hypori, said in an email to Federal News Network that these steps will make a big difference for how the Army provides secure access unclassified network resources, while also reducing the attack surface and potential loss of controlled unclassified information (CUI) data.

Jeff Duran,  an Army Reservist who also serves as a contractor to Hypori as their Army evangelist, said in an email to Federal News Network that getting his email through is phone makes his reserve job easier.

“As a senior noncommissioned officer, there’s a lot of coordination I have to do and being able to do that without being on an Army computer makes my day a lot easier. If I’m not on my personal computer, a whole day could go by without knowing I had an important email,” he said. “Now, I’m no longer causing delays and people aren’t waiting on me.”

Transitioning from JRSS to SD-WAN

Eubanks said the Army is able to shut down this type of access because of the success of its VDI roll out over the past year or more.

He said the number of users are increasing and the number technology is proving itself out.

“We are still testing a mobile access management solution for mobile use as well,” Eubanks said.

Along with the VDI roll out, Eubanks said he also focused on the move away from the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) and to a software-defined wide-area network. The Defense Information Systems Agency told the services it will shut down JRSS in 2027 so Eubanks said the Army is in the middle of planning to transition to the new capabilities over the next few years.

“All the planning now is the goal and then [implementation] will really, really start in earnest probably in the fall. Behind the scenes what we’re doing is we’re asking all of our theater signal commands, all of our signal brigades and the network enterprise centers, as DISA looks down to shut down the JRSS, here’s the services it gives us, what it means to you and what your timeline looks like to move off of it,” he said.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    Federal News Radio pinwheel icon

    Army nearly ready to move thousands of users to BYOD, virtual desktop programs

    Read more
    Federal News Radio pinwheel icon

    Army nearly ready to move thousands of users to BYOD, virtual desktop programs

    Read more

    Navy used threat of cyber vulnerability to expand VDI

    Read more