NSA signs on for multiple-level workstations

The National Security Agency has hired VMware and General Dynamics C4 Systems to develop high-assurance platform (HAP) workstations intended to let users access data requiring different security clearances from one machine.

Members of the military services and intelligence analysts with multiple security clearances must use multiple, separate workstations to access information according to clearance level, said Aileen Black, vice president of federal sales at VMware. This creates an expensive and logistically cumbersome information technology environment, she added.

Through the joint HAP projects, government agencies would be able to purchase secure workstations developed by General Dynamics C4 Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, with integrated VMware virtualization software that provides secure access to multiple clearance levels.

The HAP workstations could also reduce the size, weight and power requirements for mobile equipment, allowing users to share secure information across communities of interest, VMware officials said.

The Special Operations Command is partnering with NSA to adopt an early release of the HAP workstation for operational testing.

'The HAP program is interested in developing the next generation of standards and technologies that will be the foundation of secure platforms that allow access to different classified domains and the ability to securely share data between different classified enclaves,' Prescott Winter, former director of the NSA Commercial Solutions Center and now the agency's chief technology officer, said in a statement.

VMware's partnership with NSA started in 2000 with a project that produced NetTop, a predecessor to the HAP workstation based on VMware workstation software that allows simultaneous access to top-secret and secret information on the same platform.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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