WiFi Planet says when the Department of Defense pulled the plug on allowing Wi-Fi laptops in government offices, a trio of software and hardware vendors created a STORM: Secure, Tough, Online/Offline, Reliable Mobile.
However, it was soon discovered such control was not easy with Wi-Fi becoming integrated into new laptops using Intel’s mobile Centrino chipset. Centrino employees could not unplug a USB connection or remove a PC Card to kill the link. Wi-Fi is built-in.
In order for commercial wireless gadgets to return to active duty in the DoD, they had to meet several requirements, which mesh with the goals of STORM:
- Classified and unclassified documents must be encrypted before they can move between a Wi-Fi laptop or PDA and the government computer network.
- The Pentagon needs laptops to shut off their wireless networks when connected to the DoD’s wired network. Being able to pass sensitive data from the secure government computer network to the wireless airwaves poses a dramatic security problem, according to the government.
- Finally, DoD directive 8100.2 seeks to prevent wireless devices from being used as a conduit that introduces new security flaws. Any commercial wireless devices must also use anti-virus software.
STORM is “a private sector response to a public sector concern,” explains Kip Meacham, spokesperson for Orem, Utah-based Senforce Technologies, a member of the venture.
“Senforce security technology gives the added value and confidence to agencies seeking Wireless Directive DoD 8100.2 compliance for mobile PCs,” said Rance Poehler, president of Panasonic Computer Solutions Company and another member of the STORM alliance. Senforce’s Enterprise Mobile Security Manager (EMSM) software is embedded in Panasonic’s magnesium-encased Toughbook laptop computer. It disables the imbedded Wi-Fi features and controls wireless usage policies.
Another organization hot on the trail of secure networking is RAINS (Regional Alliances for Infra-structure and Network Security), the consortium of companies has won endorsements from state and city governments, and major companies such as Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard and ESRI.
The Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID), run by Northern Command, the wing of the U.S. military that is charged with defending the United States from land, air and sea attack, is “the Olympics of interoperability,” says Charles Jennings, whose RAINS-affiliated company also has a contract for JWID.
RAINS-Net, a secure emergency notification system, allows first responders to watch current police and emergency dispatch operations from a terminal. Notification messages can also be forwarded to wireless devices. But the messages can’t be forwarded to unauthorized eyeballs. Portland has a large cluster of companies developing security applications and devices.
RAINS-Net is a partnership of 60 IT vendors and more than 300 public and private organizations. The system provides automated alerts from the Portland 911 center to schools, hospitals and downtown corporate building managers.
RAINs can use laptops or Pocket PCs. While Microsoft Pocket PCs are the most popular,and Sony PDA owners without embedded Wi-Fi can also get instant wireless access, the new Sharp Zaurus SL-6000L PDA may be the most flexible. It includes built-in WiFi, a VGA display, loads of memory and Secure Digital and CompactFlash slots for memory expansion. It may make an attractive alternative to Palm and Pocket PC handhelds because it can run WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager software which allows mobile employees to securely roam with high speed access to information across multiple networks without interrupting Web connections or losing an existing session.
Remote workers can access Web applications like PIM and e-mail and also retrieve information from IBM’s DB2 database. The Sharp Zaurus also supports IBM’s WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal Environment for Embedix, which allows end users to run multimodal applications.
The city-wide CAP-WIN network in Washington DC, built with IBM’s assistance, incorporates Jabber instant messaging and Wi-Fi.
Each of the clients connects wirelessly to the Jabber XCP server, making them technically interoperable with other IM and presence networks. Mobile users will ultimately have access to a wide range of real-time enterprise messaging applications across an extensive spectrum of devices and networks. Each wireless client initially offers text-based IM and presence management features, while the RIM client also offers group chat functionality, otherwise known as text conferencing.