[ISN] Security poses primary wireless challenge

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sat May 04 2002 - 04:28:08 PDT

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    By Dan Caterinicchia 
    May 3, 2002
    The Defense Department faces many obstacles in its attempt to outfit 
    soldiers with reliable, interoperable wireless communications on the 
    battlefield, including battery-life concerns, the need for ruggedized 
    machines and ever-present bandwidth issues. 
    But securing those communications is still far and away the main 
    problem to be overcome regarding such technologies, according to a 
    panel of government and industry experts at an Armed Forces 
    Communications and Electronics Association information technology 
    conference May 2 in Quantico, Va. 
    Marine Corps Lt. Col. J.D. Wilson, team leader for tactical wireless 
    in the program manager's office for communications systems, said the 
    military has a "burning need" for tactical wireless communications and 
    called on the private sector to drive the technologies necessary to 
    make that happen.
    John McHugh, senior member of the technical staff at the CERT 
    Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University, said the problem 
    with the military using commercial off-the-shelf solutions in those 
    cases is that they are being used in environments -- and exposed to 
    threats -- that the developers never planned for.
    "The information I've seen says we're in a lot of trouble," McHugh 
    Wilson said the Marine Corps uses traditional radios to send encrypted 
    "data grams" through modems on voice networks to reach their 
    destination but would like to move to a wireless, peer-to-peer 
    environment that would also enable multicasting and avoid the "manual 
    The solution may come through DOD's Joint Tactical Radio System 
    (JTRS), which is more of a computer with a radio front end. The 
    software-programmable, multi-band, multi-use radio will permit 
    communications across DOD services, something that has been difficult 
    or impossible because of radio frequency problems, Wilson said. 
    DOD is requesting $172 million for JTRS in fiscal 2003, up from $165 
    million in fiscal 2002.
    Still, there will be a time in the near future when traditional radios 
    are working side-by-side with software-programmable models, "and we'll 
    need to be able to route and secure them properly," Wilson said.
    Stephen Orr, a systems engineer for Cisco Systems Inc.'s DOD northeast 
    division, said the company has been working with the Army on providing 
    a secure, wireless local-area network for the tactical battlefield, 
    focusing on reducing the size of the case needed to carry the 
    equipment. Currently, the transit case weighs more than 100 pounds and 
    carrying it is a two-man job.
    Orr also said that even if industry comes up with a new form of 
    encryption or other security device, it usually takes more than two 
    years to get DOD approval.
    That lag time means that hackers and other adversaries probably have 
    figured out a way to beat it, McHugh said.
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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