New Wang PC with secure OS earns NSA's B3 security rating
- By Shawn McCarthy
- Oct 15, 1995
Wang Federal Inc. has received the National Security Agency's
highest B-level security rating, B3, for its XTS-300 computer system running Wang's
Unix-like Secure Trusted Operating Program (STOP).
The new XTS workstation is the first such system to run on standard PC hardware. It
carries the Wang label and is built on an Intel Corp. 486 50-MHz DX2 processor and
commodity PC parts.
The XTS-300 is the successor to the only other workstation to win a B3 rating. The
older XTS-200 was put together by HFS Inc., which merged with Wang earlier this year. The
XTS-200, built on old DPS minicomputers from Bull HN Information Systems Inc., is still
listed in NSA's Information Systems Security Products and Services catalog.
The B3 rating came in May, but Wang didn't announce the approval until early this
month. The XTS-300 had been under evaluation by NSA's National Computer Security Center
The company plans to introduce a series of upgrades to the system over the next several
months. The first enhancement is a Motif-like graphical user interface that's already
available as an unofficial beta version. By early next year, Wang plans to move to Intel
Pentium processors, and then to a multi-Pentium design.
Bob LeBlanc, business development manager for Wang's secure systems and services
operations, said the FBI already uses XTS-300 systems for second log-in control between
FBI terminal users and Justice Department network applications. The Naval Research Lab in
Washington also uses several XTS-300 units for application development, he said.
Prices start at $33,000 for a system with STOP, 16M of system memory, a 500M hard
drive, a tape drive, a 3 1/2-inch floppy drive and one parallel and two serial ports. A
"guard" version that sits between two networks and contains a coded security
policy is available for about $44,000. Removable disk drives are an option on both
Each future upgrade to the XTS-300 design will require separate NSA approval, but new
approvals should not take two years. Establishing an upgrade path was part of the initial
NSA requirement, LeBlanc said.
Until the GUI is approved, the system is command-line driven.
LeBlanc said "unprivileged" users will see a very conventional Unix-like
environment. "It uses a significant number of Unix commands, excluding those that are
security-related, like "superuser' or "root,' he said. "Privileged users
will see an interface that's somewhat like Unix, but it's very proprietary as far as its
Division B is the second highest federal security level, and B3 is the highest rating
within that level.
A B3-rated system is highly resistant to penetration and is tamperproof. It establishes
a trusted path between the user and the system that is maintained after initial log-in.
Each object on a B3 system maintains a list of users or groups that can access that
A B3 system needs a security administrator and an audit mechanism for all
security-relevant events. The system must be able to monitor events that breach the
security policy and notify the security administrator.
The A security level for federal systems has all B3 requirements, plus a formal model
of the system's security policy. An A1 system must provide mathematical proof that its
model supports the security policy.
A basic tenet of secure systems today is the Compartmented Mode Workstation scheme that
supports multiple secure windows and network connections. LeBlanc said the XTS-300
includes CMW functions, plus "a significant amount of additional security
features," including the trusted path, sensitivity labels and device labels.
Contact Wang Federal's Bob LeBlanc, tel. 703-827-6910.
Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.