[ISN] DOD's wireless safety net

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Oct 08 2002 - 00:03:24 PDT

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    By Christopher J. Dorobek and Rutrell Yasin 
    Oct. 7, 2002
    A Defense Department policy released late last month provides what 
    security experts describe as a workable strategy for eventually 
    allowing the use of wireless communications within the Pentagon 
    without compromising security.
    The policy calls for development of a Pentagon-wide wireless network 
    infrastructure, while also prohibiting wireless access to classified 
    systems. And wireless devices used within the Pentagon must 
    incorporate technology for securing such communications, including 
    authentication and encryption.
    DOD officials, who last week renewed their moratorium on wireless 
    devices in the Pentagon, also have asked the National Security Agency 
    to develop a database of known security flaws in wireless technology, 
    according to a Sept. 25 memo signed by DOD chief information officer 
    John Stenbit and Howard Becker, DOD's acting director of 
    administration and management.
    And officials will work to promote an enterprisewide wireless 
    knowledge management process to promote the sharing of wireless 
    technology capabilities, vulnerabilities and vulnerability mitigation 
    throughout the department, according to the memo, which accompanied 
    the policy. 
    The policy applies only to the Pentagon; DOD officials are working on 
    a wireless policy that will cover the entire department.
    The policy "establishes a balanced approach for mitigating 
    vulnerabilities and security risks while supporting the responsible 
    introduction of new technologies into the workplace," according to the 
    Experts largely agreed with Stenbit and Becker's assessment.
    "It's a conservative approach, but it ought to be conservative," said 
    Daniel Ryan, an independent security consultant based in Annapolis, 
    Md., and former director of information systems security at the 
    "It's not Draconian," Ryan said, noting that the policy does not 
    prohibit wireless communications altogether. "It just says, 'Let's be 
    careful.' "
    It's also doable, he added. Creating a vulnerabilities database, for 
    example, should not be a big deal for NSA, which already maintains 
    many databases of security vulnerabilities, he said.
    Experts said the approach represents a viable framework for mitigating 
    some risks and, at the same time, ensures that the emerging technology 
    can be deployed throughout the workplace in a measured and responsible 
    DOD officials recognize that the use of wireless technology is surging 
    and are developing a plan for securely integrating it into existing 
    systems, said Peter Lindstrom, research director with Spire Security, 
    based in Malvern, Pa. 
    It makes sense to not allow the technology to be used for classified 
    information, for example, but there are plenty of other ways to deploy 
    wireless technology, Lindstrom noted. "By no means has the Pentagon 
    banned wireless devices."
    The end result is that organizations will want to look closer at the 
    risks involved in using certain devices and develop appropriate 
    Fortunately, the Pentagon does not have to build its wireless 
    infrastructure from scratch, said Tony Rosati, vice president of 
    marketing at Certicom Corp., a developer of secure wireless 
    If an organization has an existing security infrastructure - and DOD 
    does - it can build on that infrastructure and the existing security 
    standards to begin securing wireless technology, he said.
    A virtual private network can be used as a secure tunnel into a 
    wireless network by using IP Security, a proven standard for 
    authentication, he said, and secure e-mail can be added using the 
    Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension encryption standard. 
    Over time, standards such as elliptic curve cryptography, designed for 
    smaller devices such as PDAs and wireless phones, will play an 
    important role in securing wireless technology, Rosati said. n
    Safe Airwaves
    The Pentagon's wireless security policy:
    * Prohibits connecting wireless communications devices to classified 
      networks or computers.
    * Prohibits synchronizing with devices that have not been approved by 
      Defense Department security officials.
    * Allows use of wireless devices only in areas in which unclassified 
      information is electronically stored, processed and transmitted. The 
      devices can be used in classified areas when there is a documented 
    * Requires punitive action for employees who repeatedly violate the 
      policy in a way that jeopardizes the security of Pentagon networks.
    * Will be reviewed annually to keep up with technological changes.
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