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March 18, 2013
DARPA Seeks More Robust Military
Network Defense program seeks to develop new technologies to help make wireless networks more resilient to unforeseen
scenarios and malicious compromise
In areas lacking trustworthy communications infrastructure, deployed service
members rely on wireless devices to perform double duty: they not only provide access to the network; they are the
network. Protocols for these networks require nodes to coordinate among themselves to manage resources, such as spectrum
and power, and determine the best configurations to enable sharing of information. A problem with these protocols
is that they implicitly trust all information shared about the security and operational state of each node, and the
network as a whole. Consequently, inaccurate control or security information can quickly render the network unusable.
This shortcoming could put productivity and mission success at risk as use of military wireless systems increases.
To help address these issues, DARPA has created the Wireless Network Defense program. The program aims to
develop new protocols that enable military wireless networks to remain operational despite inadvertent misconfigurations
or malicious compromise of individual nodes.
“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, DARPA program manager. “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
A key objective of the program is to develop protocols that determine the viability and trustworthiness
of neighboring nodes and automatically adapt the network to operate through problems. Similar to a neighborhood watch
program – where neighbors know each other and can identify suspicious or unusual behavior on their street – the protocols
must help identify unusual activity that may indicate a problem on the network.
Inspiration for addressing
these challenges could come from economic and social networks.
“Credit card companies use various indicators
for trying to determine if someone has stolen your credit card and is posing as you,” Phoel said. “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.”
Wireless Network Defense is specifically not a new
waveform or radio program. Phoel seeks solutions that make existing and future wireless networks more robust and resilient
to compromise, regardless of specific radio node hardware or software.
DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day on
April 1, 2013, in Arlington, Va. For details visit:
Phoel believes expertise in the following areas may likely contribute to the success of the program: military
and commercial wireless network system design and operation, wireless network security protocols, distributed control
theory, and economic and social networking structural analysis.Posted