DOD net aids in war on drugs

The Defense Department is fielding a mobile virtual private network product that will
keep Mississippi drug investigators in touch with their central databases and with each
other over a variety of network connections.


The Viatores Software Suite, from Ecutel LLC of Alexandria, Va., is the first
commercial product to implement the emerging Mobile Internet Protocol. The protocol
dynamically changes IP addresses so that mobile users can move with ease from one type of
network to another.


Information also can be pushed to mobile users who are connected to any IP network.
Remote users can make point-to-point connections without knowing each other’s
locations, instead of meeting at a server.


“DOD is looking at the Ecutel product for a variety of modes to provide
communications on the fly,” said Dennis Wilk, program manager for the Gulf States
Initiative.


GSI is a DOD program set up to provide military equipment and support to four Southern
states to stem the flow of illegal drugs. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi applied for
GSI funds in 1991 under the Military Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities section
of the National Defense Authorization Act. Georgia joined in 1996.


GSI supports a command, control, communications and computer infrastructure that lets
the states share mapping data and motor vehicle, land and police
records—“anything that would help them track someone in the field,” Wilk
said.


Mississippi is buying 200 notebook PCs for field users, and Viatores eventually will
link them to the C4 network. Beta testing on 20 of the notebooks began last month.


“We expect it won’t be long until we field it fully across the state,”
Wilk said. He hopes there will be money in next year’s budget to implement Viatores
in the other states but, he said, “All we’ve got funds for this year is the test
phase and the implementation in Mississippi.”


The Viatores client-server software suite takes advantage of the Mobile IP addition to
the TCP/IP stack. Once a remote client connects to an IP network, it can be located by a
Viatores server and linked to any other PC on the network, or to any other
Viatores-equipped remote client.


Remote access through the Internet is usually one-way; remote users retrieve voice mail
and other data from a server, said John E. Harrison, Ecutel co-founder and chief executive
officer. Viatores can forward data to remote users much like forwarding a phone call.


The process is transparent to other users, who do not have to know the remote
user’s location or network type. When a message or meeting request comes through, a
dialog box pops up on the remote user’s screen. The user can accept or reject the
call.


Viatores works on remote LANs, over wireless connections, and with direct dial-up or
dial-up connections through an Internet service provider. The remote user can move from
one type of connection to another without interrupting the session, whether it involves
voice, video or data applications.


Viatores, introduced in May, averages $70 to $100 per user depending on the number of
clients purchased. 

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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