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Wi-Fi ‘CleanAir’ Coming to Defense Industry in 2011

January 20, 2011 - 0 Comments

A key segment in the Public Sector wireless market to keep an eye on in 2011 is the U.S. DoD and Global Defense industry which is in the early stages of a major transformation around secure mobile communications and next-gen wireless LANs.  One such transformation is the U.S. Department of Navy’s transition from NMCI to Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) which supports over 700,000 users in over 3000 locations and includes requirements for 802.11a/g/n for voice and data support.

The ramp of WLAN technology into large Military installations (Air, Land, and Sea) and Defense operations is being driven by the obvious benefits associated with secure 802.11n networking along with critical WLAN functionality such as purpose-built Spectrum Intelligence for Wi-Fi communications (i.e. Cisco CleanAir). For the Defense industry, Cisco CleanAir changes the game for wireless in a big way as it delivers on the promise to run mission critical communications over the unlicensed (and sometimes messy…) RF spectrum of Wi-Fi. But there is a catch…without the required product approvals and security certifications, Defense agencies are limited in what they are allowed to deploy…but that’s soon to change in 2011–more on this later.

Unlike private industry which was quick to embrace WLAN technology for the better part of  the last decade, the U.S. Department of  Defense first issued WLAN policy in 2006 which mandated the use of standards based security (IEEE 802.11i), for unclassified WLANs. This policy was later updated in DoD Instruction 8420.01. Of course, having ratified policy in place that supports wide-scale deployment of WLANs into unclassified Defense networks was only half the battle since compliance to that policy required vendors to deliver systems that were DoD certified for Information Assurance (IA), Cryptographic Validation and System Interoperability. The Cisco Unified Wireless Network was the first Centralized WLAN system to be FIPS certified with 802.11i security back in 2006, but the big news coming in 2011 will be the availability of the first DoD certified 801.11n solution with built-in Spectrum Intelligence – Cisco CleanAir.

The Wi-Fi Spectrum Intelligence story for the Defense industry in 2011 gets even better…as of TODAY, Cisco’s CleanAir system with Unified Wireless Network (UWN) 7.0 release complies with all 3 of the major Defense product certifications (FIPS 140-2, DoD Unified Capabilities Approved Product List and Common Criteria), thus allowing agencies to confidently move forward with planning that includes the innovative technology of Cisco CleanAir for next-gen Defense deployments.

To recap, here is a breakdown of the 3 major Defense certifications for the Cisco Unified Wireless Network (UWN) 7.0 release with CleanAir:

  • FIPS 140-2 Validation – The Cisco CleanAir Access Points and WLAN Controllers were awarded FIPS 140-2 certificates in the Fall of 2010 along with Cisco UWN 7.0 release. FIPS is applicable to all Federal agencies (U.S. and Canadian) that use cryptographic-based security systems to protect sensitive information in computer and telecommunication systems (including voice systems). The U.S. DoD requires WLAN products with crypto modules to have FIPS certificates as a prerequisite to Common Criteria and DoD JITC certification.

The Cisco Clean Air FIPS certs and NIST validated Security Policies can be found here:

FIPS 140-2 Cert #1448 (Cisco Clean Air 3502i and 3502e Access Points)

FIPS-140-2 Cert #1447 (Cisco 5508 WLAN Controller)

FIPS-140-2 Cert #1434 (Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series WiSM Controller)

FIPS 140-2 Cert #1446 (Cisco Aironet Outdoor 1522, 1524PS and 1524SB Access Points)

  • DISA JITC Certification – The Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) issues special interoperability test certifications for systems or system components (e.g., network infrastructure components, voice/video/data components) that require interoperability test certification. Upon successful completion the WLAN products are placed  on the DoD Unified Capabilities Approved Products List (DoD UC/APL) which allows U.S. Defense agencies to make WLAN acquisitions for these products.

The Cisco UWN 7.0 release with Clean Air was placed on the DoD UC/APL in June 2011: [Note: Use Firefox browser or latest version of IE browser to access these links]
Cisco UWN 7.0 UC/APL Certification #1019302

Cisco UWN 7.0 UC/APL Product Memo #1019302

  • Common Criteria (CC) EAL 4 Certification – The U.S. Department of Defense requires WLAN systems to be “in evaluation” for CC certification as a prerequisite for IT acquisitions. The Cisco Unified Wireless Network 7.0 release with Clean Air was submitted for Common Criteria EAL 4 certification in August 2010 thus complying with DoD policy. Common Criteria is a globally recognized Information Assurance certification required by the U.S as well as Global Defense Ministries including the UK, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Turkey and Australia.

The Cisco UWN 7.0 release Common Criteria EAL 4 evaluation with Cisco CleanAir

For more information or questions about Cisco Wireless product certifications for the Defense industry and support for Federal agencies feel free to contact me:

Brian Mansfield
Product Manager, Public Sector
Wireless Networking Business Unit
Cisco Systems, Inc.

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