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Los Alamos Launches Monitoring System

Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the main nuclear research centers in the U.S., has set up a new system for tracking top secret data stored on removeable media -- even though it still can't find missing disks containing weapons information.

The New Mexico facility, birthplace of the atom bomb, hit the headlines last year when two disks containing classified information were reported missing during a routine inventory (see Los Alamos Searches for Lost Media and Los Alamos Lessons Loom Large). Department of Energy (DOE) secretary Spencer Abraham ordered all DOE operations using classified hard drives or computer disks to stand down until procedures were improved (see Abraham Orders CREM Stand Down).

Events then took something of a farcical turn. In August, a report from the Associated Press suggested that the classified computer disks may not actually be missing. In fact, they may never have existed at all (see Los Alamos Disks May Not Be Lost).

Real or not, as part of a widespread effort to tighten security, the Lab has created a new system for tracking what it refers to as Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM). According to a note on the Los Alamos Website, the Lab has set up a Web-based data entry form to capture and store data when a disk is handed from one staff member to another. The Web interface, which is currently in pilot stage, captures and stores all the relevant data, enabling staff to query a database and find out who has borrowed the media.

The system is just one of the ways that Los Alamos is trying to improve its procedures. Speaking to employees yesterday, Lab director Peter Nanos stressed that changes in working practices are not window dressing.” Key objectives for the coming year include managing the Lab’s CREM and completing the "red network" -- a new diskless classified computing network.

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