Military pushes for wireless security

Military leaders agree that wireless communication is the wave of the future, but they also agree that it needs far greater security features to become deployable and reliable on the battlefield.

Air Force Maj. Gen. John Bradley, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command's joint task force for computer network operations, said the Defense Department not only needs more secure wireless tools, it also needs them to be smaller with solid encryption and authentication features.

The joint task force, created about 18 months ago, is responsible for defending DOD networks from attack, according to Bradley, who was speaking during a Nov. 19 panel at the AFCEA International's TechNet Asia-Pacific International 2002 Conference and Exposition in Honolulu.

There's still a long way to go in securing wireless products, said Brig. Gen. John Thomas, Marine Corps chief information officer. But he was glad to see that the National Security Agency had approved the use of some commercial products to protect classified communications up to the top-secret level using the Type 1 encryption algorithm available to authorized personnel.

Thomas said the Marines are using Enhanced Position Location Reporting System radios to communicate securely on the battlefield while they await the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), which uses software-centric radios that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies.

For now, all of the military services must rely on their own solutions until JTRS will be ready to link them at end of decade, Thomas said. To help address that problem, the services need "top-down" leadership from the Pentagon, he said.

Rear Adm. Charles Munns, director of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, said that the Navy has begun to address the problem by making the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar) the system architect for the service's command, control, communications, computers and intelligence -- including wireless. Now, the Naval Air Systems Command and Naval Sea Systems Command go to Spawar for governance, he said.

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