Q&A: Xacta Execs Share Wireless Security Insights

hotspot wireless access point

As ridiculous as it may seem, many customers' employees behave in just those mistaken ways. Even when the government is your client. Xacta Secure Networks, a division of Telos (VARBusiness 500 #183), is no stranger to such concerns. During the past 10 years, Xacta has primarily focused on the wireless LAN, helping customers develop guideline and policies in addition to performing product selection, installation and support. Much has changed in the past decade, particularly in the area of wireless security. Mike Horn, director of operations for Xacta Secure Networks, and Tom Badders, business development director for Xacta Secure Networks recently shared with CMP Channel their assessments of challenges in the networking arena, particularly when dealing with wireless solutions.

What is one of the biggest differences between when you started implementing wireless some 12 years ago, and today?

Tom Badders: More people wrote of wireless as something they couldn't do years ago. Today if they write it off it's not because the technology isn't there to ensure security. It is. They're just avoiding it.

Mike Horn: Wireless can definitely provide you the flexibility you need and still protect your data.

Sponsored post

Badders: You increase the level of security through multiple levels of encryption. There are multiple levels of encryption at the Department of Defense [a Xacta client]. Still, I don't think many industries " banking, for instance —understand the vulnerability of wireless networks.

If companies are so worried about security, why do they still go ahead and implement wireless solutions at all?

Badders: OK, we provide solutions for maintenance divisions, for eample, aircraft maintainers. They can access technical manuals and schematics they can use to maintain the aircraft right at the aircraft. They can track and order parts through the wireless network. We've expanded this to base-wide wireless networking.

Horn: The customer wants flexibility. The Air Force and Air National Guard have a mobile concept of operations. They are not always at the home base. Maybe they are flying missions to Asia, or going out with support for a hurricane aid effort. They want to take mobile network with them. We have packaged a secure solution for them to do that.

I see. The advantages outweigh the challenges. What types of devices are commonly used?

Badders: Primarily, these types of projects are done through ruggedized laptops, but also some PDAs and some tablets.

What's a hot tech trend that you're seeing in the government arena?

Badders: There's a move toward unified communications, but it's extremely slow. As with wireless, it's an educational process. It's almost like the days of when we heard customers say, "We can't use wireless." You do have to prove worth the cost. We as the integrator bring value when we go to different companies and see what's out there, what products we can bring together to create a solution, for example, integrating RFID into a wireless LAN that can track orders as well as assets. I do see it happening but it is slow. The ROI is there.

Horn: The ultimate goal is interoperability. I'm seeing a lot of consolidation; having multiple servers, lots of storage can be very expensive. Part of interoperability and convergence is remote management, putting servers in central locations and managing them. Akamai, for example, may continue to host non-sensitive data for the DoD, and spread cost among multiple areas. The DoD will do outsourcing but on a selective basis. The trend is going to be total convergence, including cellular. It's a huge marketplace.

Badders: In addition, we're seeing intrusion detection and protection, not only for wireless, but also on the wired side. Many are putting this in place without even intending on a wireless network. But they are doing it to prevent a wireless hack into the system. You wouldn't believe what we see; the guy that buys the $39 wireless access point from Best Buy and plugs it into the network. He doesn't know better, he just wants some mobility in his office. But you need to be able to detect and stop that.