US Navy Uses Secure Wireless to Take Control


In October 2009, the secretary of the Navy laid out aggressive goals to improve energy security and efficiency, increase energy independence, and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.

Following that guidance in 2010, the Navy initiated a SmartGrid Pilot Program composed of interconnected technologies that could securely, collectively and intelligently monitor, predict, control and respond to building and utility management systems.

Navy leaders knew integrating these systems was a significant undertaking that required the assessment of myriad dependencies and technological factors. Because of federal mandates and the scale of the objectives, the Navy’s requirements list was formidable. To achieve success, a fundamental smart grid platform network was necessary to support the collection and transformation of raw data from facility components into meaningful information that enables informed decision-making.

First, the network must manage and control energy usage from local and remote sites while integrating disparate products and protocols into the Navy’s existing network structures.

Second, the network architecture must be scalable to accommodate additional sites and capabilities as the Navy expanded the program.

Last, the solution had to comply fully with Department of Defense (DOD) information security requirements, including directives for information assurance (IA) during activities that involve data and information interchange. Meeting all these requirements was critical to enabling a successful integration and program success.

The Navy is deploying two systems that use wired and secure wireless mesh technology on the smart grid platform network. The first system is the Enterprise Industrial Controls System (EICS), an advanced, cybersecure, wired and wireless sensor networking system that integrates disparate industrial control systems across several Navy bases into a centralized facility operations center. The second system, the Virtual Perimeter Monitoring System (VPMS), is a wired and secure wireless critical infrastructure protection and perimeter-monitoring solution.

The need to deploy sensors anywhere in distributed environments requires a tremendous effort, and the Navy was quick to recognize the cost and time benefits of integrating advanced wireless solutions into its existing network infrastructure. For example, wireless integration could accommodate various topologies and meet the needs of specific applications while increasing productivity and providing a path toward lower operational costs. The DOD’s stringent security requirements, however, limited the Navy to those solutions that offered FIPS 140-2 validated encryption and Common Criteria-certified levels of security.

Although many companies offered wireless solutions, few had robust products that met the DOD’s information technology security requirements at affordable, COTS pricing. 3eTI provided the secure wireless mesh solutions that met DOD standards and offered a path to an accreditable, IA-compliant architecture. In addition, the products could simultaneously integrate wired and wireless network connectivity components of EICS and VPMS to provide for facilitywide remote management over redundant links while ensuring data confidentiality, integrity and availability under demanding operational conditions.

Leveraging the integrated network enabled through the use of secure wireless technology, the Navy is moving to adjust energy distribution and controls to achieve cost savings and efficiencies, ensure critical infrastructure operations and enhance situational awareness. More than 5,000 secure wireless devices are being installed to network sensor systems on DOD installations. They will measure energy usage and energy allocation while enabling real-time energy resource management to reduce energy consumption at the building level while supporting the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Industrial Control Systems, Smart Energy

The EICS integrates facility direct digital controls (DDC) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems into an enterprise network used at the installation and regional levels. EICS uses 3eTI’s EnergyGuard Appliance, a real-time wireless energy-monitoring and control device with built-in cybersecurity components that enables an expanded IA accreditation boundary. The solution provides intelligent automation and control and was easily integrated and deployed, becoming a key component of the architecture that underpins the Navy’s SmartGrid Program at Naval District Washington. The system can respond to external drivers such as current energy supply challenges and weather, as well as internal demand signals such as military operations and facility maintenance. These applications are not just about energy management; they have the capability to effect operational improvements, which generate measurable efficiencies.

As part of an overall strategy to achieve large-scale energy efficiencies in shore operations, the Navy continues to seek innovative ways of improving buildings’ water, gas, electricity, HVAC and steam systems. Unfortunately, many of these systems are in remote areas without connectivity—locations that historically required expensive (wired) cabling to achieve sensor-to-network connectivity and collect data. Further complicating the challenge, many key locations along utility distribution systems are not near power sources and historically have been evaluated as beyond the capabilities of economically viable standard data collection techniques.

Solutions designed to leverage lower-power sensors that provide flexible integration options can be deployed with various sensors (pressure, temperature, vibration, etc.) to remote network locations to meet this need. Industrial wireless mesh networks enable system operators to improve regulatory compliance while achieving greater visibility over system operations with configurable sensor sampling and reporting. These offerings create a long-term opportunity to alter the paradigm on dispersed system control and monitoring to maximize system efficiency and operation at minimal cost.

Physical, Cybersecurity Systems

Today’s solutions require multilayered security—both physical and cyber—to protect against various threats including terrorists, sabotage, hackers, hacktivists, and Internet extortionists. Critical control systems and infrastructure must be shielded by secure authentication, encrypted communications, firewalls, deep packet inspection and supplemented by physical security with automated intrusion detection.

On top of its already robust cybersecurity protocols, the Navy also is deploying significant capabilities in the physical security arena to protect critical systems and infrastructure. The VPMS system that incorporates 3eTI’s VirtualFence System is an interactive perimeter defense capability that detects intruders and alerts personnel of potential threats. VirtualFence incorporates cameras and other intrusion-detection equipment, along with necessary analytics, to provide enhanced security for perimeters and critical infrastructure.

DoD Best Practices Help Industry Defend Against Cyberthreats

The Navy is realizing the major benefits of deploying integrated systems that leverage secure wireless technology. Their success achieved while complying with the DOD’s restrictive security requirements demonstrates that secure wireless technology can be adopted by operators of critical systems looking to adopt more robust, secure, reliable, cost-effective systems.

In the absence of any commercial or federal cybersecurity standards or requirements, the industrial sector has looked to the military for an example of best practices and security requirements. Although integrated networks provide undeniable benefits, some critical infrastructure operators are still in denial about cyberthreats’ targeting, disrupting and damaging industrial control systems. Recent threats such as Stuxnet and Flame have demonstrated that once theoretical threats are reality. Cyberattacks that threaten to penetrate and sabotage critical control and monitoring systems with significant consequences exist.

Ironically, many of these threats can be countered and defended against with changes to key security processes and organization. Cyberwarfare is a not just a threat for the future; it is a real threat today, forcing an increased need for robust security to ensure the continued operation and protection of critical systems worldwide.

Olugbenga “Benga” Erinle is president of 3e Technologies International (3eTI), an Ultra Electronics company and provider of government-validated, cybersecure network solutions that enable security for critical information systems, infrastructure protection and industrial automation. Erinle was appointed by NATO’s Civil-Military Planning and Support Section (CMPS) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) as an Electronics Communications Expert in Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP). He also is a selected Subject Matter Expert (SME). He has an MBA from the University of Maryland, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in math from Bowie State University.

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