OGIS Information Technology Solutions: Technology can make a difference

This week’s guest blogger is Gery Huelseman, Principal Technical Advisor to the Air Force’s Knowledge Ops Branch, National Air & Space Intelligence Center and key member of the OGIS-facilitated FOIA Information Technology Working Group. IT Working Group members will occasionally use the FOIA Ombudsman to share their thoughts on technology solutions.

CAPTION: Better SAFE than sorry. ON WITH THE JOB. GET IT DONE THE SAFE AND SURE WAY, 1941 – 1945 (ARC Identifier 515117).

Do you need to send someone a large amount of records but you can’t e-mail the files because they are too big?  Are you tired of preparing packages to be mailed out and then taking days or a week for them to reach the recipient?  Thanks to Safe Access File Exchange (SAFE), it is now possible to transfer records in minutes; you can quickly and securely share very large files (up to 2 gigabytes, or GB) with those that you do business with. You can share very large files, via the internet, without setting up special accounts or network access permissions — it’s easy to do and it is freeCheck it out!

 According to the U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) they developed SAFE to allow employees a fast, secure alternative to e-mail.  SAFE allows for much larger files to be sent than is normally allowed via e-mail. Since many organizations that do business with the Army have limits on the size of attachments that can be sent via e-mail, the Army created SAFE as an alternative file sharing method.

 Who can use SAFE? While SAFE was intended for the use of all within the Army community (employees and contractors), anyone can use SAFE to send files to someone with a .mil or .gov e-mail address. However, only users with valid DoD Common Access Card (CAC) can send files to other addresses such as .com or.edu.

What about security? With SAFE, your files are safe.  SAFE uses the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol — 128-bit encryption — when a file is uploaded and downloaded. The SAFE server automatically scans all files as they are uploaded to the system.  If a file contains a known virus, it is not written to the file system.  Also, due to its design, SAFE is not susceptible to worms or other e-mail viruses.  The virus detection software is updated on a regular basis to ensure that any new viruses can be detected; however, no system today is 100% secure from viruses, so normal precautions should be taken.  If you receive a notification to download a file from someone you do not know, or were not expecting, call them to verify.

I need to share files that contain Privacy Act information. Can I use SAFE? The Army Information Assurance Office has approved SAFE for Privacy Act transfers; however, you may need to check with your Information Assurance Office and Privacy Act Office before using SAFE for this purpose. When sharing Privacy Act information the recipient will be notified that the data they are about to download is protected by the Privacy Act and the recipient is responsible for its protection in accordance with Department of the Army guidelines and policies. Again, you should check with your Information Assurance Office and Privacy Office before using SAFE for Privacy Act information.

So how does SAFE handle such large files so quickly? With SAFE any form of file(s), including a zip file, may be sent to anyone with a valid e-mail address.  Files of up to 2GB in size may be transferred through SAFE but the actual size is dependent on various factors such as connection speed and the network’s congestion.  If you are transferring multiple files, then the sum of all the files cannot exceed 2GB.  With SAFE there is an option where up to 25 files may be uploaded at one time; however, it is STRONGLY recommend that you ZIP or archive multiple files before sending them.

What does SAFE have to do with FOIA? While the Army uses SAFE for all sorts of purposes, we at the FOIA IT Working Group think that this technology could be particularly useful for those working on FOIA. In particular, SAFE can streamline referrals and consultations, a process that can be notoriously slow. Of course, no technology is one size fits all, but we believe that free, road tested technologies such as SAFE deserve a look. If you have questions about SAFE or if you would like to set up a similar system for your agency please send an e-mail to the AMRDEC Public Affairs Office.

The FOIA IT Working Group encourages you to post your suggestions, recommendations and concerns here on the FOIA Ombudsman.  Your comments can make a difference.