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CHIPS Articles: Data security behind computer switch

Data security behind computer switch
By Keith Hayes, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow - August 28, 2017
Teams from the S-6 Communications Department aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, are currently switching all computers to the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system.

Cyber Security Manager Michael Simko said right now the entire base is using the Windows 7 operating system, which is no longer best security practice.

“Windows 10 is much more stable with enhanced security features,” he said, “It also has a much more user friendly graphical user interface, or GUI.”

That GUI is displayed as “tiles” on the start page that can take the user to any program or file they want, Simko said.

“We’ve been testing it here. We have a pilot group in S-6 that has been running Windows 10 and troubleshooting issues as they came up, and so far so good,” he said.

Everyone who has a computer aboard base will either have their computer upgraded to the Windows 10 OS or refreshed with a Windows 10 qualified laptop computer.

“We have a list of all the computers aboard base, and there are hundreds of them, and we know which ones will be suitable to be upgraded and which ones have to be ‘tech-refreshed’”, Simko said. “That’s tech-speak for replacing the computer with a new one.”

Juan Rivera, director, S-6, said the new operating system is all about security.

“The current operating system, Windows 7, has some vulnerabilities which could allow unauthorized access to the system. The Windows 10 system has built-in security that will make it much harder to infiltrate,” Rivera said.

Even with the much more secure and stable Windows 10 environment, the Marine Corps policy prohibiting removable memory devices will stand.

“Thumb drives and SD cards (Secure Digital) are still not allowed for use on Marine Corps computers because they present a significant security threat,” Simko said.

External hard drives that have been scanned, signed, and classified by the Cyber Security section can still be used, he said, because they are assigned to a specific computer and can’t be used on any other device. Simko explained the changeover to Windows 10 will take four to eight hours per computer to complete.

“A technician from S-6 will contact the user and set up a convenient time for them,” he said. “S-6 will then back up their data, image the machine, upgrade to Windows 10 and then put their data back on the computer.”

“In the next month or so we should be getting the new laptops and replacing them one for one with all departments requiring a refresh,” Simko said.

A majority of the computers aboard base that do not meet minimum requirements will be swapped out, he noted.

“On MCLB Barstow we’re in the double digits on the number of upgraded machines currently in use,” he said. “Other regions such as Camp Pendleton, the number of machines in use is already in the thousands.”

Unlike some other bases that are having the customer back up their own data, S-6 technicians will do that for you.

“Customer service is key for us,” Simko said. “We want to make sure that you can use the new system and that all of your records and files are there.”

He said those employees who get the new laptops with the Windows 10 environment will still be able to use all of their current peripherals.

“The laptop will be installed with a docking station if required, that hooks up to your existing keyboard, mouse and external monitor,” Simko said.

Rivera urged employees to give the new system a good look, and S-6 will be there to help.

“During the migration to Windows 10 we’ll be providing user tips to help make the transition much easier,” he said.

“Be flexible before you judge a book by its cover,” Simko said. “It takes time to get use to anything. S-6 is here to answer any questions and concerns, and provide any how-to’s that might be needed.”

The switchover to the new Windows 10 operating system is expected to be completed by the end of January 2018 for MCLBB, and Corps-wide by March 31, 2018.

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The computer face of the new Windows 10 upgrade now sweeping across Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., presents informational “tiles” that direct the user to various programs and functions on their computer. The change is expected to be completely implemented for MCLBB by late January 2018, and by 31 March 2018 for the entire Marine Corps.
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