Navy drops ban on commercial WLANs

The Navy dropped its more than two-year-old ban on the use of commercial wireless local-area network technology both afloat and ashore in a message that went to all commands in September but was not publicly distributed.

Stephen Orr, a senior consulting system engineer at Cisco Systems, said the WLAN policy change will help the Navy change the way it does business by allowing the same kind of campus or base installations that commercial enterprises use.
 
The Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) has already started installing WLANs on the first of a new class of replenishment ships. Fortress Technologies hardware and software secure the networks. The equipment meets requirements laid out in the message that all Navy WLANs conform to Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, which requires encryption and authentication based on the Advanced Encryption Standard.

In a Sept. 6 message that Federal Computer Week obtained, the Naval Network Warfare Command rescinded a moratorium on use of commercial WLANs, Bluetooth devices and long-range commercial WiMax equipment.

Navy WLANs must use intrusion-detection systems that can monitor networks to ensure that only authorized users can gain access to Navy networks, according to the message.

The policy guidance also applies to commercial wireless devices, services, technologies, and voice and data capabilities that operate as part of the Navy enterprise network or as stand-alone systems, the message states.

The command must accredit all wireless systems, which must comply with wireless standards promulgated by the Defense Information Systems Agency, according to the message.

Shortly after the Navy lifted the WLAN moratorium, Fortress received an order from General Dynamics NASSCO for its FIPS 140-2 security gateways and software to provide security for WLANs on eight next-generation Dry Cargo/Ammunition Ships, said John Dow, vice president of business development and marketing at Fortress.

NASSCO has already started to install the networks on the first ship in the class, the USNS Lewis and Clark, Dow said. Michael Godwin, a Cisco systems engineer, said the Lewis and Clarke is equipped with the company's 802.11 access points, which provide 11 megabits/sec transfer rates in the 2.4 GHZ band. A Catalyst 4507 switch connects the access points, he said.

Fortress is providing the Navy with its security gateway hardware and software for the shipboard installation, in addition to encryption software that the Navy will use on bar code readers to track cargo.

The security gateway handles encryption, authentication and intrusion detection, Dow said, and the bar code scanner software works with a variety of handheld devices.

Although Cisco is providing the WLAN infrastructure, including access points for the first of the new replenishment ships, Dow said, Fortress plans to pitch its new line of WLAN hardware for the other seven ships in the class.

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