Van­der­bilt Univer­sity work­ing on se­cur­ing mil­i­tary smart­phones


Soldiers in Afghanistan are ex­per­i­ment­ing with smart­phones en­gi­neered to bet­ter pro­tect op­er­a­tional data de­signed by sci­en­tists at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for Soft­ware In­te­grated Sys­tems (ISIS). Van­der­bilt ex­perts and re­searchers are work­ing with the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA), on a pro­gramme called Trans­for­ma­tive Apps, an ef­fort de­signed to de­velop a fam­ily of mil­i­tary-rel­e­vant soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions, or apps. Dou­glas Sch­midt, pro­fes­sor of com­puter sci­ence, is quoted.

The pro­gramme is aimed at im­prov­ing the se­cu­rity or in­for­ma­tion as­sur­ance tech­nol­ogy of smart­phones in or­der to al­low for their use in rugged, tac­ti­cal com­bat en­vi­ron­ments where there are of­ten no fixed in­fra­struc­tures such as cell tow­ers.

“One of the things you find when you move into a tac­ti­cal en­vi­ron­ment is that you can­not rely on any kind of fixed in­fra­struc­ture,” said Dou­glas Sch­midt, Pro­fes­sor of Com­puter Sci­ence at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity, ISIS.

The army has worked on a pro­gramme called Nett War­rior to get smart­phones in the hands of soldiers in com­bat. Cur­rently, soldiers with the 10th Moun­tain Di­vi­sion are us­ing them on a de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan.

Find­ings from the Trans­for­ma­tive Apps pro­gramme would be fed to the Nett War­rior pro­gramme to bet­ter se­cure those de­vices, Sch­midt said.

Sch­midt said his lab­o­ra­tory has been work­ing on de­vel­op­ing en­hanced soft­ware and mid­dle­ware that bet­ter pro­tects in­for­ma­tion.

“There are people in Afghanistan us­ing our soft­ware. We found ways to con­nect the smart­phone to mil­i­tary-grade ra­dios so they have a se­cure link. Then the ra­dio as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel al­lows the soldiers to use the smart­phone for chat, blue force track­ing, video and text – while on pa­trol,” Sch­midt said.

Sch­midt said his lab­o­ra­tory de­vel­oped a small ca­ble that con­nects the smart­phone to the ra­dio, al­low­ing the phone to be teth­ered to the ra­dio, Sch­midt ex­plained.

“The ra­dio is used for se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the smart­phone is used to give soldiers the same type of smart­phone ex­pe­ri­ence we have come to take for granted here in the US,” he said.

The ra­dios are con­nected to one an­other through mo­bile ad hoc net­work­ing. Last year, Van­der­bilt’s ISIS re­search lab re­ceived about $25 mil­lion in fund­ing, about two-thirds of which came from DARPA and the De­fense Depart­ment, Sch­midt said.

“DARPA’s big goal is to bridge the gap be­tween fun­da­men­tal re­search — crazy pie in the sky stuff — and the needs of the warfighter. They work to demon­strate the fea­si­bil­ity of tech­nolo­gies,” Sch­midt said.

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