Axent lands AF contract for intrusion detection

The Air Force has tapped Axent Technologies Inc. to supply all its bases worldwide with intrusion-detection and security management products in the first known deployment of commercial security technology by an armed-services branch to protect its entire infrastructure. The Air Force will install Axent's Omniguard/Enterprise Security Manager and Omniguard/Intruder Alert products at its more than 100 bases worldwide. The products are designed to protect the bases' information systems against information warfare attacks and security threats by performing network vulnerability assessments and by responding to unauthorized activity across a wide variety of distributed computing platforms.

The award which was made through the Unified Local-Area Network Architecture II contract is part of the Air Force's Base Information Protect initiative a component of the $1 billion Combat Information Transport System (CITS) program under way to overhaul Air Force information systems.

Lt. Col. David Genovese the Electronic Systems Center's CITS program director at Hansom Air Force Base Mass. said scalability across a wide variety of distributed systems attracted the Air Force to Axent's products.

"No single product or capability is actually going to be rock-solid in today's environment " Genovese said. "We have a layered and distributed approach. It's going to give you the capability to know and do something about someone who's in your network that you don't want there. It's really a big commitment on the part of the Air Force financially to move forward. It's going to pay back in the long run to be able to conduct information operations in the future."

He said this is the first instance that he knows of a branch of the armed forces installing commercial security products to guard a global infrastructure. He noted however that similar classified deployments may have taken place.

The purchase reflects the Defense Department's growing realization that unlike many unauthorized intrusions of the past that were the handiwork of teenage pranksters military networks may soon become the target of enemies during wartime according to John Negron U.S. government sales manager for Rockville Md.-based Axent.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan director of the National Security Agency said last month that the number of attacks on DOD unclassified systems would double this year from the more than 250 penetrations in 1996.

NSA has evidence that "real-world" attackers are exploiting known DOD information system vulnerabilities Minihan said at the Association of Former Intelligence Officers' annual convention.

As part of the CITS effort the Air Force is creating network control centers at every base. Axent's enterprise security product which is a client/server-based product will be launched continuously from this network nerve center to ensure the proper security configuration of the varied pieces of the base network. Axent's Intruder Alert product will be used to detect and deny in real-time internal and external unauthorized use of base networks Negron said.

"The key here is real time " Negron said. "In order to prevent the attack from doing harm you have to have a real-time component or else you know after the fox has left the henhouse that you're 12 chickens short."Although he declined to reveal the value of the award Negron said it was a "multimillion-dollar" deal for the company and its largest federal government win.

Axent's other federal customers include the Environmental Protection Agency the Food and Drug Administration the Office of the Secretary of Defense the Navy the Army and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

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