Cyberdefense students using PKI

Students and alumni of the Defense Department's school to train investigatorsin computer crime techniques are using public-key infrastructure technologyto communicate via a protected Web site.

The Defense Computer Investigations Training Program in Linthicum, Md.,started handing out digital certificates to its students three weeks ago,said Greg Redfern, the program's director.

More than 1,300 DOD, federal, state and local law enforcement officialstook DCITP's course during the past 18 months. The program's basic courseenables students to conduct forensic investigations on computers by dissectingthem for data and clues.

Students download a one-time activation file onto a floppy disk thatthey can use to obtain their digital certificates online. A certificateis also stored on the disk and contains a public and private key pair foreach user.

Once on the site, users can chat with fellow students and graduatesof the program, learn about course updates and engage in threaded discussions.All data on the site is sensitive but at the unclassified level, Redfernsaid.

Users can connect to the Web site from any Internet address. Accessis a key issue because some state and local law enforcement officials participatein DCITP, and some users will connect from home.

"We're ahead of DOD" in using PKI technology, Redfern said. "They senttraining and reviewed our network topology."

The site was tested for security vulnerabilities by having a "blackhat" team of hackers from Computer Sciences Corp. battle DCITP's "whitehat" protectors.

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