DARPA Launches Wireless Network Defense Program
March 20, 2013

DARPA Wants A New, More Secure Wireless Network

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

The label “military grade” is often assigned to products and technologies that are capable of not only withstanding harsh environments, but also of working in areas where such products and tools aren´t often found. In today´s modern battlefield, many of these technologies also require a wireless network to connect with one another and other points offsite. This can´t be a normal network, of course. It needs to be of military grade, capable of providing access to these modern technologies as well as becoming the network itself. It must be strong, secure and stable. Without such a network, the entire operation could crumble to pieces. To find this network, DARPA has started the Wireless Network Defense program and will begin working with laboratories and researchers to build the proper protocols and technologies needed to create a military grade network.

“Current security efforts focus on individual radios or nodes, rather than the network, so a single misconfigured or compromised radio could debilitate an entire network,” said Wayne Phoel, a program manager with DARPA in a statement.

“We need to change how we control wireless networks by developing a network-based solution for current and future systems that acknowledges there will be bad nodes and enables the network to operate around them.”

Any network proposed should be able to know when a neighboring node is safe and trustworthy. Additionally, any proposed network should be able to adapt to its surroundings and work itself through any issues. DARPA says the network should work like a neighborhood watch: it should be familiar enough with its territory to know when nodes could be malicious. Likewise, it should alert the operators to such unfriendly nodes and protect itself from intrusions.

DARPA isn´t picky about where they find their inspiration, either. According to the press release, they expect their new network to operate similar to existing economic and even social networks. The security aspects of this new network could take a page from financial institutions, said Phoel.

“Credit card companies use various indicators for trying to determine if someone has stolen your credit card and is posing as you. Unexpected purchase locations, amounts and other factors could raise an alert. Online social sites for buying and selling personal items use seller ratings to help you decide the trustworthiness of someone before you make a purchase. Similar concepts of reliability estimation and control methods could be applied to wireless military networks by calling out specific areas of the network that may have untrustworthy nodes.”

Phoel says any proposed network needs to operate like nothing before, but should operate on existing technologies and wavelengths. By working with existing tools, Phoel believes future wireless networks could become more robust, secure and able to stand up to a wider barrage of attacks. Once these technologies and protocols are developed, they could one day make it into commercial applications.

DARPA will listen to the new network proposals on April 1 during Wireless Network Defense Proposer´s Day.

Here, proposers will be able to meet with DARPA engineers and program managers and learn from other proposers. Though applicants don´t have to make their proposals during this event, they will be able to schedule one-on-one meetings with Wayne Phoel during this conference.