Navair gets plenty of wireless experience

For now, the Naval Air Warfare Center is using a virtual private network (VPN) solution to secure a wireless link between its enterprise network and a set of handheld computers carried by about 100 Navy officers and managers.

Soon, however, because of a Navy program to standardize certain computer systems, Navair will be required to move off the VPN and instead use Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry wireless handheld messaging devices, which comply with the government security standard Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 and use Triple Data Encryption Standard to secure transmissions.

"Today we are using our [personal digital assistant] of choice, which is a [Hewlett-Packard Co.] Compaq iPaq running [Microsoft Corp.'s] Windows CE, and the Certicom [Corp.'s] movianVPN" security software, said Ken Chrismond, a senior technical consultant at contractor MIL Corp. and a network manager at Navair.

Navair needed a secure, mobile computing and communication platform for admirals and other executives who must often make quick decisions. "They need to look at data in spreadsheets and to view PowerPoint presentations in order to communicate with one another in a collaborative decision-making process," Chrismond said.

With the current setup, Certicom's movianVPN client establishes a secure connection via a wireless network from the handheld computer to the VPN gateway at Navair's enterprise network. Navair uses the Cisco Systems Inc. Concentrator 3000 server on that network as its VPN gateway. As soon as the keys match between the movianVPN client and the Cisco Concentrator, the Certicom product opens a secure tunnel. "It takes two minutes," Chrismond said.

"Certicom works with about 12 VPN gateways that are on the market today," said Brendan Ziolo, Certicom director of marketing.

Still, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet program is requiring Navair to move off the Certicom VPN and use BlackBerry, the only PDA currently approved by NMCI.

Ironically, Research in Motion licensed part of BlackBerry's cryptographic module from Certicom. Navair, which tests products and manages projects for the Navy, chose to use Certicom's VPN for a number of reasons, including the company's FIPS 140-2 certification, its use of Advanced Encryption Standard and its customer support.

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