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The Military Aims to Develop 'Smart' & Secure WiFi 91

Krishna Dagli writes to mention a Network World article about a military project to create a self-configuring, secure wireless network. From the article: "Academic concepts such as artificial intelligence and Tim Berners-Lee's 'Semantic Web,' combined with technologies such as the Mobile Ad-hoc Network (MANET), cognitive radio, and peer-to-peer networking, would provide the nuts and bolts of such a network. Although the project is intended for soldiers in the field, the resulting advances could trickle down to end users. 'Military networks are going to converge as closely as we can to civil technologies,' says Preston Marshall, the program manager of DARPA's Advanced Technology Office."
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The Military Aims to Develop 'Smart' & Secure WiFi

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  • Does it use (Score:3, Funny)

    by WilliamSChips ( 793741 ) <full.infinity@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:17PM (#15937348) Journal
    reverse-engineered Goa'uld technology?
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Google gets the contract. They practically hire every smart person in the world, so the military must be desperate to get this going.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The technology was first called the Online Occupation Infrastructure and Logistics network, but they thought the acronym would not be wise.
  • by Douglas Goodall ( 992917 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:29PM (#15937407) Homepage
    Well, when I was a youth I worked on the ARPA Network, a DARPA funded experiment in how networks recover from individual route failures. Well the technology grew up into the Internet. The US government wasn't pleased when they couldn't bomb away Saddam's communications network. It came out later that he used internet technology and that's why his network recovered so well. Now DARPA would like to do the same thing with inexpensive wireless devices. The technology is coming anyway, the genie is almost out of the bottle for good. Wirless networking is a disruptive technology that is inexpensive and flexible, I like it. I had a dream the other night about being a wireless guru and working with the south american rebels in the forest on their wireless network. Very exciting and dangerous. It would make a good movie.
    • They will probably use other frequencies. And I wonder how long it will take someone to build a device that blankets all the frequencies killing their network in an instant.
      • What's the frequency, Kenneth?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Snarfangel ( 203258 )
      The technology is coming anyway, the genie is almost out of the bottle for good.

      The military knows they can't stop the genie from getting out of the bottle. They just want their three wishes first. If a technology provides an advantage in even one conflict, it is usually worth it from a military standpoint.
      • That's a good point. So they use nuclear powered helmets using depleated uranium to overcome the power problems and they transmit microwaves using the soldiers head as the antenna, and ... ;-)
  • The military doesn't want to rely on wireless technologies during warfare because they can be so easily jammed. All it takes is for someone to send noise on your frequency, and everything stops working.
    • by vinn01 ( 178295 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:40PM (#15937471)

      Don't assume that it is so easily jammed.

      You assume that the wireless will be on a normal frequency. They could use spead spectrum or UWB. They could use light frequencies like infrared to carry the signal.
      • Yep..

        The more wideband you can get, the more money your adversary has to have in order to jam you. The downside to this of course, is how exponentially the power requirements grow for you as you become more and more wideband. :)

      • They could use light frequencies like infrared to carry the signal.

        Yes, because infrared is REAL hard to jam...

        You might need... a piece of paper.
    • "Ass-u-ming" that you only use one frequency. That's a huge assumption. I can think of half a dozen ways around the problem and that's just off the cuff and using tech that I can talk about.
      • "Ass-u-ming" that you only use one frequency. That's a huge assumption. I can think of half a dozen ways around the problem and that's just off the cuff and using tech that I can talk about.

        Given that the standard radio voice communication systems we boots on the ground have used for the last 10-15 years (SINCGARS) has been capable of freq hopping, I'd say that it's a really stupid assumption. Honestly, when people bring up the possibility of jamming as if the US military hadn't even thought of it, I gott

      • by mu22le ( 766735 )
        "Ass-u-ming" that you only use one frequency.

        You could only transmit a sine wave and no information at all.
    • Re:Ah, yes. (Score:4, Informative)

      by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:26PM (#15937664)
      in theory, this is precisely what the cognitive radio (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_radio [wikipedia.org]) would fix. assuming you've got a sufficiently wide spectrum that it can't all be jammed at once, the radio will detect which portions of the spectrum are being jammed and transmit in clear bands. of course, that's all in theory. in practice, who knows?
      • Alternatively, you could use missiles that would home in on the jammers and blow them up so they couldn't be used anymore. We could call them high-speed anti-radiation missiles HARM [wikipedia.org].
        • i'm partial to solutions involving lots of robots (but then i'm somewhat biased given that my job is teaching robots how to see)
      • by Alsee ( 515537 )
        assuming you've got a sufficiently wide spectrum that it can't all be jammed at once, the radio will detect which portions of the spectrum are being jammed and transmit in clear bands.

        Then obviously you just use a precognitive radio jammer. It simply jumps to that clear part of the spectrum and starts jamming it just before the cognitive radio gets there.

        -
    • In military radio communications, there is something called frequency hopping. Maybe this can be implemented here.
    • "And strawberry too!"
    • Actually, there are several field uses for the "future soldier" to employ wireless technology. Two that are most obvious to me are:

      The military plans to relay video from the individual soldier's rifle scope to the C2 (Command and Control).
      The military plans to relay GPS and operational data from soldiers and vehicles.

      Currently, the military relies on radio broadcasting and satellite feeds for this, however enabling a flexible wireless networking device in vehicles would be far more cost effective and fl

  • "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms."

    Just think what they could do with WiFi.
    • As much as the military loves acronyms, why not give the Francophobes in the Pentagon something they would like even less--a French name Manet (manA). (Drum roll---pllllease)
    • by remembertomorrow ( 959064 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:44PM (#15937492)
      "But who'd suspect,
      A military intelligence.
      Two words combined that can't make sense."


      Megadeth - Hangar 18
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by saskboy ( 600063 )
      MANET
      Hmm that doesn't sound sexist in any way. Why not call it the WOMANET?
    • Too bad I don't have mod points, otherwise this would get the obligatory (-1 Troll). You can't be a warrior today and be in any way, shape, or form stupid. Not and live. Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.
      • Oh, trust me, there are some pretty dumb ones. Many of them are pretty smart, but some of them are really really stupid... The military has just done a good job in making complicated things idiot proof. And yes, I am in the military.
        • Yeah, I've met my share of the stupid ones as well. Fortunately, most of them torpedo their careers somewhere along the way, although there are some pretty extreme exceptions (thinking of a couple of generals and admirals I know). Amazing what the right political connections will buy you, although again they usually manage to frag it up somewhere along the way.
          • One of the best stories ever was when a General called my friend in to repair his AC. My friend went there, looked at it and it's not turned on. He turns it on and it works perfectly fine.
  • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) * on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:34PM (#15937445)
    Wireless ad hoc nets have two major points of vulnerability: they are vulnerable to routing protocol attacks, and they consist of nodes with finite energy reserves.

    I would disagree with the assertion in the article that current routing protocols are insufficient to handle MANETs. MANET routing protocols are slightly different (most are adaptations of traditional protocols), but if implemented correctly, they can support networks with very high rates of topology change... this has been supported by the literature for years now.

    What the protocols are lacking is resistance from spoofing attacks that confound or exploit the "intelligence" of the adaptive routing protocols, and attacks on battery energy that coax nodes to use more energy or target and overwhelm key nodes. This has to be addresses in the lower layers as suggested by the article. So it's no surprise that the trend has been to develop "underlay" meshing protocols instead of traditional layer 3 routing schemes, because all of the security has to be built into layers 1 and 2 anyway on account of the fact that traffic can be easily sniffer or injected by passers by.
    • I would disagree with the assertion in the article that current routing protocols are insufficient to handle MANETs
      Uh he said the current IP based routing protocols are insufficient for MOBILE/VEHICLE BASED MANETs. Get your facts right. Oh wait this is /.
    • Again, you are "ass-u-ming" the use of existing routing technologies just as someone above "ass-u-med" the use of one frequency. The article points out that existing routing technologies are inadequate in this regard. I can easily envisision a routing technology that uses public-key encryption for the hand-shaking which would be unspoofable in this context. Your other "ass-u-mption" is that only finite amounts of energy are available to the routers. If they were battery-powered this might be true, but t
      • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) *
        "Ass-u-ming"... how hilarious. Do you use that one a lot? You must be the funniest guy in your basement.

        > I can easily envisision a routing technology that uses public-key encryption for the hand-shaking which would be
        > unspoofable in this context.

        If it's so easy to "envisision", I'm anxious to see your paper/RFC/code etc. Truly.

        You're confusing "existing" with "traditional." Ad hoc routing protocol which work fine in practice have been existing for years. It's layer 2 and below that need to catch up,
        • Actually, yes, I've been using it for thirty some odd years. Secure routing would be a simple extension of the same techniques that are used for secure DNS, but hey, I don't know anything, I'm just an engineer.
          • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) *
            Well, I don't know what to tell you except that it's time to get a new joke writer... and some manners, if you can manage it.

            I'm arguing in view of the fact that key exchange and the higher probability for node (and key) compromise (due to both increased number and exposure of nodes) makes the ad-hoc routing problem a bit different that the problems alleviated by DNSSEC et al. The problem lies, practically, in the lower layer protocols. Fix those (as they should be fixed anyway) and the upper layer problem
          • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) *
            ... I forgot to concede that, of course, you may be right and the solution will be to simply incorporate PKE into the protocol. It's just my opinion that it won't go down that way... at least, not solely, because the problems run deeper than MitM attacks.

    • I would disagree with the assertion in the article that current routing protocols are insufficient to handle MANETs. MANET routing protocols are slightly different (most are adaptations of traditional protocols), but if implemented correctly, they can support networks with very high rates of topology change... this has been supported by the literature for years now.

      My impression is that this project is intended to move from MANET being supported in the literature to being supported by tech support.

      • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) *
        I agree, but IMHO they're going at it from the wrong end. Making a highly dynamic MANET route reliably is a problem which has been more or less solved. Preventing DoS, spoofing and energy attacks... not so much. That's (partly) why there are no MANETs. You can't trust the existing MACs to be safe against attacks (authentication, association, eavesdropping, jamming, etc) for which they should have some built-in resiliency (things that are, by the way, being built into the newer standards). The other reason i
    • Wireless ad hoc nets have two major points of vulnerability: they are vulnerable to routing protocol attacks, and they consist of nodes with finite energy reserves.

      While true for generic networks, your first point does not apply to the network in this situation.

      In a normal MANET, untrusted nodes are able to connect to the network and provide/receive services. However, in a military network, only trusted nodes will be allowed to join the network since you don't want an enemy to have access to your reso
      • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) *
        I agree... but my first point was more aimed at the summary's notion that the benefits will trickle down to ordinary users, who don't have fuel cells and the Wild Weasels on call, and have to deal with an open and heterogeneous network... although of course I do hope something (better energy density, improvements on protocols, better ideas for MACs) comes out of this project.

  • A networking protocol called "L2R" has been doing this for well over 10 years,
    it is stable, very mature, evolved, and installed in dozens of places.

    It was also shown to the US Military back in 2001 around the time of the trade center stuff.
    They were interested, but couldn't understand it.

    yes, that's right, the best the US DOD (at the time) had from their research facilities
    couldn't understand the damn thing.

    They even had a prof from the UC try and steal it and he made an RFC out of his understandings,
    unfort
  • Or has that name already been used?

    :-)

  • by wwiiol_toofless ( 991717 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:29PM (#15937676)
    "wardriving"
  • As if the government, or for that matter the military, could develop something complicated like a computer network.
    .
    .
    .
    Uhhhh wait [freesoft.org]....
  • So the design is oging to be great but someone is going to mess it up by setting the password to USA.
  • In the meantime, here are some reasons this is (even?) harder than it sounds.

    "we'll probably keep the security work a little more isolated": offhand that sounds like it will never work. They're going to need security from the MAC layer upward and it's going to affect almost every decision they make.

    It's a well studied problem, but one example of what you need to think through is the "hidden transmitter problem". It is possible to interfere with someone that you cannot hear.

    TCP needs to be tweaked or replace
  • ...already makes this stuff.

    Microwave Data Systems [microwavedata.com]
  • I though i read this a while ago on /. but maybe not. It's a DARPA project that uses wireless technology in anti-tank mines to "fix" themselves once breached. http://www.darpa.mil/ATO/programs/SHM/htmldemo.htm l [darpa.mil]
  • Wireless: Either everyone can access it most of the time(open connection), or most people, not including you, can access it most of the time, and you can access it a small percentage of the time("Secure"). I don't know about you but this is my experience. I think it'll prove disasterous in the military.
    • by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
      This is all interesting considering the internet and wifi were both creations to come out of military organiztions.
  • The low-level details of these decentralized networks will be critical, but I am personally much more interested in the problems of applying this network to decentralized Command and Control in near-future urban combat. Squads will likely be temporary formations managed by decentralized algorithms. Dispersion of combat data will likely use gossip-like protocols and other ideas taken from modern P2P. The use of probabilistic flooding search will likely be more difficult because while networks like Gnutell
  • MANET? It sounds like the government is developing an advanced gay porn site.

  • With anonymity and encryption? GREAT! Let's ALL switch over now! I'll tell you what, you install the whole thing, give us real electronic voting while you're at it, and I'll LET you wiretap all my conversations and video chats starring thai strippers on pornotube.

    Or how about getting senior members of government have a clue on what the internet even IS before you do one more god damned thing. Ted Stevens embarrassed us in front of the whole world a couple weeks ago.

    Wait, series of tubes, pornotube.... I
  • Omninet (Score:4, Informative)

    by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @07:17AM (#15939851) Homepage Journal
    Idea: Use this, or a similar technology together with IPv6 to build a omnipresent network for everything. Ditch all the old crap - TV over cable, FM radio, POTS, GSM - everything.

    Use this network, which essentially configures and extends itself where needed, as needed, to deliver HDTV, phone and Internet over IP. Wired, wireless or satellite - the network should be smart enough to use whatever means it has, but dumb enough to not care about what kind of traffic it routes, just that it does as good a job as possible with the available hardware. Automatically multi-link, it would route most of your p2p traffic through fibers while your VoIP goes wireless to your headset. Built-in authentication and encryption to keep your gadgets in touch and your data secure, even though you use someone elses hardware as well as let other use yours.

    It's mesh networking, FON, cellphones, multicast and wimax, all the hype rolled into one big network. And no, we shall not call it Skynet.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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