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AMC to make CAC logon mandatory

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Team McChord employees will soon be required to use Common Access Cards to log on to the Air Mobility Command network. 

The Air Force is moving away from using passwords to log on to unclassified computer networks in an effort to thwart hackers, saboteurs and terrorists from putting critical information systems at risk through unauthorized access, fraud, e-mail tampering and eavesdropping, according to a recent AMC news release. 

"This is a move in the right direction," said 2nd Lt. Wayne Solley, 62nd Communications Squadron. "The new system adds a much higher level of security when it comes to accessing the [unclassified computer] network." 

According to the release, the switch to the new system is necessary. One of the weaknesses of the network is the use of passwords that are stored on and transmitted over the network. 

There have been more than 5,000 attempts to hack into the McChord network this year, Lieutenant Solley said. Using the Smart Card Logon greatly increases network security through "two factor authentication," which requires users to have both a CAC and personal identification number. 

By mid-September, the primary method for logging on to an AMC unclassified account will be by CAC logon, according to the release. To log on to the AMC network, users will insert their CAC into the reader and enter the associated six to eight digit PIN they created when the card was issued. 

Initially, not all users will be able to use a CAC for logon, according to the release. Such examples include personnel not eligible for a Department of Defense identification card or locations where use of the CAC is impractical or impacts mission effectiveness. 

These and other issues such as instituting CAC logon outside of the normal work place are next steps in the Air Force-wide initiative. 

As McChord moves closer toward the mandated CAC logon to the network, those users who are not CAC-enabled must be exempted from the policy by their commander, according to the release. 

However, exempted individuals may be prompted to increase the length of their passwords to avoid unnecessary risks to the network. 

(Information from an AMC news story was used in this report.)