Dual-drive computer gets high NSA security rating

Dual-drive computer gets high NSA security rating

SuperNet 2000 protects sensitive information with a removable hard drive that cannot be accessed through public networks


A dual-drive PC from Electronic Engineering Systems Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., has received the highest security rating yet under the Common Criteria for information technology security.

'The SuperNet 2000 is the first desktop computer to receive the Evaluation Assurance Level 4 rating,' a spokeswoman for the National Security Agency said.

An electromechanical switch segregates the two hard drives, one of which is reserved for sensitive data and cannot be accessed through public networks.

Sensitive data resides on the SuperNet 2000's removable 20G hard drive, shown with a black handle.
The Common Criteria security standards are agreed to by the governments of the United States, Canada and several European nations. Approved independent laboratories evaluate the products and issue certifications, which all the member countries recognize. There are seven levels of certification, and SuperNet 2000 is the first access control device to receive a Level 4 rating.

The Common Criteria Testing Lab of Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego carried out the testing.

'They guided us to the highest level we could shoot for based on the current configuration,' Electronic Engineering Systems chief executive officer Jim Critides said.

What's inside

The standard SuperNet 2000 has a 600-MHz Pentium III processor, 128M of RAM and two 20G hard drives, the secure one in a removable bay. A key switches operation from one drive to the other, putting the machine through a soft reboot. The sealed midtower case has a high-security lock and two 10/100-Mbps Ethernet network cards. It runs multiple operating systems, although the standard is Microsoft Windows NT.

The only similar product on the Common Criteria evaluated products list is the 2in1 PC from Voltaire Advanced Data Security Ltd. of Vienna, Va. It is a PC Card with a hardware controller that manages connections to a computer's partitioned hard drive. It received an EAL 2 certification in 1999.

Critides said his company has developed a prototype computer for an EAL 5 rating and will try for the higher certification if sales of the current model justify it.

'If we can't sell it at EAL 4, why bother to go higher?' he said.

Changes in the higher security configuration mostly involve enforcing access policies on the secure side of the computer, he said.

The largest initial market for the SuperNet 2000 will likely be government agencies, some of which use two-PC user setups to guard sensitive information. Most commercial users rely on firewalls, however.

The SuperNet 2000 starts around $4,000, about the same as two comparable separate computers, but only a single-seat software license is needed rather than two licenses.

Contact EES at 757-382-9069.

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