DARPA moves ahead on protecting military wireless networks

The Wireless Network Defense program looks to lay the foundation for the next generation of wireless systems.

The military services’ efforts in developing wireless tactical networks have focused mostly on reliability, efficiency and interoperability. Researchers now are working on bringing security into the mix.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has issued a solicitation for Phases 2 and 3 of its Wireless Network Defense program, which seeks to secure networks by gaining better control over them.

The program’s goal is to protect the protocols at the network and medium access control layers of the network stack, specifically the protocols that coordinate the management of resources such as spectrum, time, power and information delivery among the mobile devices in use, DARPA said.

Phase 1 of the program, announced last year, is under way, working on techniques for estimating the reliability of information on the network and minimizing network degradation. Phases 2 and 3 will focus on developing and building a prototype network and defending it against a Red Team attack in laboratory tests (Phase 2) and a field demonstration (Phase 3).

The baseline system will be an unprotected system using the Naval Research Laboratory’s Extendable Mobile Ad-hoc Network Emulator (EMANE) environment. A government entity will provide the Red Team, DARPA said. (Developing a Red Team was one of the initial goals of Phase 1, but DARPA did not choose one from among the vendors who submitted responses.)

Ultimately, the program is looking to lay the groundwork for the next generation of wireless systems, with a robust network capable of defending itself against attacks on network control and with the ability to observe and attribute attacks.