Is Bootleg Porn Threatening National Security?

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES — Of all the headlines coming from the "war on terror," one that hasn't had much media play is the security threat posed by illegal file traders and bootleg-porn DVD collectors within the U.S. armed forces.

Recently, Washington Post military correspondent Tom Ricks reported on the problem of a "porno virus" being spread by both American and Iraqi military personnel that have obtained and are now trading illegally copied DVDs.

The discs are typically obtained at Iraqi markets known as "souks," but their true origins are less clear — although most reports single out China as the dominant source of pirated adult materials.

Regardless of where the duplication takes place, however, it is clear that an opportunity exists for terrorist networks and foreign governments alike to inject malicious software into these discs that may be used to cripple military networks — and/or reveal sensitive materials to the malware's authors.

Ricks quoted Army Reserve Capt. Michael Noonan on the seriousness of the problem and some of the mechanisms by which it is spreading throughout the Iraqi theatre.

"I left behind my collection of 'souk' DVDs to my replacement, but guys who watched them on their laptops didn't seem to have problems with them — of course, I warned guys that they were risking giving their PCs 'RAM rot,' to coin a phrase, from doing so, because who knows what else was on those CDs," Noonan said. "Due to the average Iraqi Army soldier's love of pornography, my memory stick would be filthy with viruses every time I had to go and get documents from my counterpart or his section NCOs."

While the video files contained on these discs, such as .vob files, are typically not executable, other files, such as a malicious autorun.inf file, may be included on the disc and automatically executed at runtime without the user's knowledge.

Memory sticks and other removable media types are also vulnerable, and commonly shared among personnel. They then can connect these tainted devices to computers containing classified materials or performing mission-critical tasks.

Compounding the problem are the efforts of misguided American legislators and the dictates of our military leaders that seek to placate the official cultural sensibilities of the host countries, which often prohibit adult materials on religious grounds.

For example, Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun recently introduced a bill banning the sale of softcore adult magazines on military bases, stating that, "Allowing the sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes, feeding a base addiction, eroding the family as the primary building block of society, and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad."

Broun's ideology won't change human nature; it will, however, work to the benefit of our enemies and to the detriment of our troops' morale.

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