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When in the field, military service members rely on their mobile devices to provide access to wireless networks in areas lacking a communications infrastructure. The protocols used for these networks determine the best configurations, and therefore trust all information shared about the security and operational state of each node. This poses a huge problem for service members.
"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," DARPA program manager Wayne Phoel said in a statement.
DARPA's new Wireless Network Defense program aims to change how wireless networks are controlled by developing protocols that would allow networks to stay operational even if individual nodes are compromised or misconfigured. The new protocols would determine that the nearby nodes are trustworthy and automatically adapt the network to work through problems. DARPA compared the process to a neighborhood watch, where, like attentive neighbors, the protocols would be able to identify unusual activity on the network.
[ The military wants to modernize its use of mobile devices and apps. For more, read Pentagon Unveils Secure Mobile Device Plan. ]
DARPA will host a conference on April 1 in Arlington, Va., to discuss the program's goals. The agency is seeking proposals from companies that have expertise in military and commercial wireless network system design and operation, wireless network security protocols, distributed control theory, and economic and social networking structural analysis.
Private-sector technologies and social networking could be the answer to DARPA's challenges. Phoel gave examples of credit card companies using indicators such as unusual purchase locations to determine whether a credit card has been stolen. He also noted that social sites that buy and sell personal items use ratings to help users decide if a seller is trustworthy.
"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 said.
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