In Memo, Mattis Warns Pentagon Staff to Guard Against Hackers

(US Army photo/Andrew Kosterman)
(US Army photo/Andrew Kosterman)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis never mentioned the Russians or the Nigerian "princes" in an all-hands memo Friday to be on guard against hackers and online scammers.

In a hand-written warning at the bottom of a memo to the entire DoD workforce, Mattis warned, "be alert!"

"Your vigilance and dedication to data security helps our Department maintain the most lethal ready and fighting force in the world," Mattis said.

Mattis did not say who it was out there trying to perpetrate online evil, but said the current security environment "demands a clear-eyed understanding of our competitors' capabilities, access and intent across the cyber domain."

"You must be your own sentinel in safeguarding your personal information," Mattis said. "Remain mindful of what information you choose to share, online or otherwise, and where you invest your money."

Pentagon inboxes are possibly the most targeted in the world for emails chock full of malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain access to military systems, according to David Bennett, director of operations for the Defense Information Systems Agency.

At a January conference of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Bennett said that the Pentagon gets about 13 billion questionable emails each year, which are automatically scanned and dumped before they reach an inbox.

"The reality is, we've got to get it right all the time, they only have to get it right once," Bennett said.

In his memo, Mattis admonished employees to "educate yourself on company policies, so you know how your information will be used before you provide it, always remembering that information, once shared, is no longer under your control."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at


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