Government Tightens Desktop Data Security

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Government Tightens Desktop Data Security - 12/08/04 06:03 AM

Despite the considerable amount of money and effort already spent on protecting sensitive U.S. government data, the threats keep getting more sophisticated and the stakes higher. But several government agencies are working hard to tighten up IT security.

The U.S. Department of Defense (news - web sites) is leveraging PC blades to address a long-time concern that electromagnetic waves containing key characteristics of classified data could be intercepted by enemies of the United States and then used to compromise national security. The Energy Department has been shoring up its security ever since the troubles at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where several hundred computers were stolen, lost, or improperly inventoried between 1999 and 2002.

At Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida, the Defense Department is rolling out PC blades to engineers who design and test software for the F-15 fighter jet. Using PC blades from ClearCube Technology Inc., Eglin has created a "pristine environment for people to work in," says Roger Chilcott, a retired Air Force captain and senior engineer for engineering-services provider Sentel Corp., which provides IT-support and management-services for Eglin.

Since October, 15 test engineers have been using PC blades. Instead of five PCs in their work area, they now have five ClearCube C/Port devices, each the size of a videocassette, stacked on their desktops. Each one is connected via fiber-optic cable to a back-end blade housed in racks in a separate room. The configuration saves space, but, more important, it helps Eglin meet the Defense Department's electromagnetic emissions requirements. These guidelines are designed to prevent the emanations generated by microprocessors, PCs, and other devices from being propagated via means such as telephone lines, power lines, water pipes, or grounding wires, where they could be intercepted.

ClearCube's PC blades exchange an analog signal with the C/Port desktop device that radiates no emissions, as opposed to the signal emitted by IP packets in a more conventional thin-client desktop setup, says Ken Knotts, ClearCube's director of marketing.

Eglin's PC blade implementation isn't cheap. The base is spending about $2,200 per network, meaning that an engineer requiring access to five networks runs up a bill of $11,000 for desktop equipment alone, Chilcott says. A comparable PC configuration costs about $7,500.

The Energy Department's Oak Ridge, Tenn., Y-12 National Security Complex is deploying VenturCom Inc.'s BXP software to create a centrally managed IT environment and cut local desktop storage. That eliminates the need for hard drives, flash memory, bootable CDs, or any other form of data storage. BXP-enabled systems address persistent storage requirements through network connectivity and what amounts to a virtual disk drive on a back-end server.

BXP keeps the central PC image on a server and streams the operating system and applications to desktops. Oak Ridge is certifying these BXP-based workstations for design and manufacturing and by year's end will begin testing several BXP-based workstations. If successful, Oak Ridge will deploy an additional 40 workstations by May, with plans for 350 workstations in its office and manufacturing areas.

The benefits should expand beyond security. "Once you've got the data back on your server, you have the ability to do things that weren't possible before because you had stovepipes," says Curt Holmes, Oak Ridge's technical computing manager. "We're going to come out of this with a very modern approach to data capture and decision support across our complex."

Source: Yahoo News