Lab for testing security of top-secret wireless systems opens

Government defense and intelligence agencies have taken the wraps off a lab opened in the first quarter of this year for testing and evaluating wireless systems that transmit classified data.

The lab, developed by systems integrator Lockheed Martin, allows the agencies to test 802.11 Wi-Fi or broadband satellite links on a top-secret/sensitive compartmented information network.

The agencies will be able to test a broad spectrum of wireless networks, including Bluetooth, 802.16 WiMax, cell phones, and Ku- and C-band satellite communications. The lab is sealed and reinforced to ensure that signals from the systems stay within the chamber.

The Wireless Cyber Security Center, based in Hanover, Md., will allow agencies to define and evaluate wireless security strategies, policies and concepts of operation. The facility also will support projects to evaluate next-generation security technologies and assess vulnerabilities. Officials can also use the installation to evaluate mobile ad-hoc networks, which play an increasing role in battlefield communications.

Government agencies already are using the lab to conduct vulnerability testing, said Lockheed Martin spokesman Mattt Kramer. Results from the lab and the processes are secured, and they can potentially be labeled top secret, he said.

'We provide an actual classified environment using those technologies'. You can simulate it, but it's no substitute for the real thing.' Testing these technologies over an actual network would potentially expose risks, Kramer said.

Wireless networks in use by the government today are not necessarily connected to a classified network, said Kramer. Defense and intelligence agencies are interested in testing these wireless networks to potentially transfer top-secret information over them.

The lab is one of only a handful capable of testing commercial wireless cybersecurity, said Kramer.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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