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Info-tech industry targets diverse threats: fears of network vulnerability fuel market for improved security systems.

Emerging technologies in the communications and electronics sector should be exploited to fight the war on terrorism, said U.S. officials.

"We need to use all instruments of national power," said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a conference of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Myers explained that as the United States' means of acquiring information increases, so does its intelligence.

"We hear from some law enforcement official in London, who has seen something, or someone makes an arrest in Morocco. Pretty soon you start to piece this together and connect the dots, and you can take action against financial networks, against the leadership, or rake actions to disrupt the weapons flow," he said. Myers explained that it is currently an arduous process to "put it all together," but with new capabilities and technologies, "we can make the cycle go much faster," he said.

"If you think it's true that this is the most important thing those of us in uniform have ever done ... then we also have got to expect to make some sacrifices," and work harder to thwart another attack, he said.

Shoring up technology in the areas of fiber optics, computer programs, biometrics and network-centric warfare improvements, companies are working to market new products to the Defense Department and U.S. allies.

News reports about al Qaeda's attempts to launch cyber-attacks are likely to spur business opportunities for the network-security industry. Opterna, a Quakertown, Pa.-based company that manufactures fiber optic network equipment, has developed a new technology that can prevent an intrusion based on the hacker's attempt to log onto the network from the fiber optic line, before the intruder even reaches the network. Opterna's Fiber Sentinel system uses artificial intelligence and optical digital signature recognition to monitor fiber connections, and can detect and deal with intrusions, said Michael Cohen, vice president of Global Marketing for Opterna.

"We have seen a tremendous upsurge in interest among government and military customers for a system that can eliminate their fiber optic network vulnerabilities," said Bret Matz, Opterna's president.

After detecting the intrusion, Fiber Sentinel denies access to the intruder, simultaneously re-routes legitimate traffic to a backup fiber path and then notifies the network operator of the intrusion. The system, which has no known competitor, provides continuous, real-time monitoring of the network connections without any disruption of the data stream, said Cohen. Fiber Sentinel identifies such intrusions as Trojan Horses, worms, denial-of-service attacks and other hacking attempts, he said. "The system shuts down the hacker's path in milliseconds."

The company recently completed a proof-of-concept study for the Fiber Sentinel system, and has had favorable reviews from the military users, Cohen said. "Our target markets are embassies, financial services communities, air traffic controllers, the Defense Department, Border Patrol and the White House Communication Agency." Other potential customers are companies concerned about industrial espionage, he said.

Denial-of-Service Attacks

Denial-of-service attacks on computer networks can result in a complete network shutdown, which can cost companies a lot of money and time. "In the national defense business, you've got people in the battlefield," said Ted Julian, chief strategist and co-founder of Arbor Networks, a two-year-old small business based in Lexington, Mass.

"A few minutes of them having no information is completely unacceptable. It's literally a life or death scenario," he said.

Arbor Networks is commercializing a program whose underlying technology was developed at the University of Michigan, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The company's flagship product, Peakflow, helps detect, trace and filter denial of service attacks. Usually, once a denial-of-service attack occurs, network operators need to be on hand to get the system back up.

Denial-of-service attacks are not difficult to detect. "If there's one thing nice about a denial of service attack, it's that it's not subtle, it's like a freight train crashing through your network," said Julian.

Peakflow proactively monitors for distributed threats within the network, and responds with focused, rapid resolution of attacks. Network engineers can direct the program to shut down attack traffic, without blocking legitimate traffic, said David Olverson, an Arbor Networks senior product engineer.

"Given the dynamic nature of denial-of-service attacks, we sought an anomaly-based solution that would enable us to proactively detect and respond to both known and previously unseen threats," said Girish Pathak, vice president and chief technology officer for a Canadian communications company called Telus. Telus chose Peakflow "for its scalable, non-intrusive architecture," he said.

Julian explained that it's easy to launch a denial of service attack.

"There are thousands of sites on the net that have point and click tools to teach you how to launch a denial of service attack. The level of sophistication required to launch these is minimal," he said. "Peakflow filters information closer to the source. It automates detection, tracing and filtering so that it goes from taking a day or so to a minute or two."

Anti-virus systems are usually signature-based, Julian said. Programs usually look for signatures to defend against attacks. "Peakflow uses algorithms to flag when things aren't normal and to tell you exactly how they're not normal," he said.

One other technology that is gaining attention in the security business is biometrics.

Biometrics technologies are based on the notion that measurable physical characteristics or personal behavior traits can be used to recognize the identity or verify the claimed identity of an individual. Examples include speaker verification, iris scans, fingerprints, hand geometry and facial recognition.

In 2000, the Defense Department designated the Army as the executive agent for developing and implementing biometrics technology. The Biometrics Management Office currently is testing technologies for potential adoption.

Firms such as Biodentity, based in Ottawa, Canada, are in the process of developing facial-recognition software. It recently secured a $7 million deal with Germany to install a face-recognition security system. The Defense Department Biometrics Management Office has yet to purchase any systems, but is evaluating new technologies at the Biometrics Fusion Center, based in Bridgeport, W. Va.

"The BMO is directed by Congress to lead, consolidate and coordinate the development, adoption and institutionalization of biometric technologies throughout DOD," said Linda Dean, director of the Army's C4 Enabling Technologies Directorate.

Network-Centric Warfare

Protecting information is a top priority for military agencies and units in the field, officials said. "We are beginning to connect data in ways we couldn't do before," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Charlie Croom, vice director for C4I systems on the Joint Staff.

The soldier fighting in the mud is a sensor, and there is information that he sees that others need to know, Croom said. "With network-centric warfare, we think like a street gang, swarm like a soccer team, and communicate like a Wal-Mart."

"We are enabling our war fighter through actionable information," tying together logistics, intelligence and C4ISR, said Army Maj. Gen. Steve Boutelle, director of information operations, networks and space at Army headquarters. "We need to marry up ground-based terrestrial infrastructure with air-breathers, to only give the warfighter information that is actionable," he said.

Security remains a problem, even when dealing with allies, said Rick Rosenberg, program executive for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. "We don't yet have the technology to fully connect an ally and still protect our secrets. We fight wars with our allies; obviously, we'd like to see them on our networks. But there is some information on our networks that we don't want them to see. So we do it through a family of guarding solutions," he said.

RELATED ARTICLE: Backpack System Captures Streaming Video

The U.S. Marine Corps has purchased four man-pack receiving stations, which would allow front-line troops to receive live video from reconnaissance aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles.

The manufacturer, Tadiran Electronic Systems, in Holon, Israel, says that the Corps plans to buy up to 64 MRS (man-pack receiving station) systems.

The device weighs 7 kilograms, plus 2 kilograms for the terminal. It performs the same functions typically expected of a ground station the size of a trailer, said Hai Ben-Israel, president of Tadiran.

The system, unveiled at the 2002 Eurosatory exhibition, has a Pentium III computer that displays situational awareness information, such as maps and the location of friendly and enemy forces.

"Commanders will use it to get the UAV picture," said Ben-Israel. During a live demonstration at the exhibition, Tadiran used a Sony Playstation to simulate the UAV streaming video.--Sandra I. Erwin
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Article Details
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Author:Book, Elizabeth G.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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