NSA wants speedy IP encryption

NSA wants speedy IP encryption

This year, the National Security Agency expects to release a request for proposals for a high-speed, high-assurance encryptor on virtual private IP networks.

Military and intelligence users need to secure communications on networks faster than Fast Ethernet, said Chris Kubic, NSA's technical director for global networking information assurance. The RFP will call for an encryption product supporting rates of 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps.

Kubic made the announcement at the RSA Conference 2001 last month. He outlined NSA efforts to create high-assurance VPNs, optical networks and hardened infrastructures.

NSA uses commercial products when possible, but they do not offer enough assurance, he said.

Besides strong encryption, NSA requires strict security policies, redundancy and rigorous testing.

Need for speed

As network backbones reach gigabit rates, and with 10- and 40-Gbps Ethernet in the wings, 'we're constantly pushing the envelope,' Kubic said.

NSA's industry partners and trade groups are working to develop standards that the agency can adapt for sensitive but unclassified data. The goal is dual-use products that can be sold commercially and used by the military with minimal change.

Although IP encryption now accommodates only 10-Mbps or slower VPNs, NSA has fielded encryption products for asynchronous transfer mode and Synchronous Optical Networks operating at 622-Mbps OC-12 speeds. It expects to have encryption for 2.5-Gbps OC-48 within the year, Kubic said. Work also is under way on encryption at 10-Gbps OC-192.

NSA scientists also are working to 'crack the technology barrier' of photonic logic at the upper end, producing the equivalent of 'today's VPNs on steroids,' Kubic said. Direct encryption at the photon level in optical networks would produce very high-speed encryption.

'We believe that is still five to 10 years away,' Kubic said.

'William Jackson

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