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IT & Communication: Innovating for the new military

The Norwegian IT and communication industry is becoming a meaningful hub for cutting-edge technologies focused on the defence industry. Long-established companies like Thales and Kongsberg are being joined by a wide range of smaller contractors to shape a dynamic cluster of businesses dedicated to meeting...

The rapidly changing nature of conflicts and the role of security forces in the world have increased the focus on the IT and communications aspects of defence. During recent consideration of the creation of a Norwegian military satellite, Norway’s Chief of Defence highlighted the importance of secure communication with Norwegian forces abroad, as well as with troops on missions inside the homeland. This awareness is now being backed by funding. A recent increase in the Norwegian military budget will increase support for programmes aimed at improving and upgrading the nation’s military IT and communications capabilities

Secure Communications

Thales Norway, one of the leading companies in the sector, recently partnered with the nation’s Defence Department in holding an important event for security system programmers: the fourth Cryptel®-IP User Forum.
The main objective of the Trondheim meeting was to give security-cleared systems engineers and operating staff the chance to meet and discuss challenges in the operating environment of the secure programmes. Topics at the conference included examining the latest trends in real-time applications such as secure video conferencing, and demonstrations of important breakthroughs in mobile installations with secure voice technology.
Thales has a long history in this area of expertise. In fact, the company delivered the very first direct line between Moscow and Washington in the 1950s. Today, Thales stands as NATO’s approved supplier of encryption solutions for the IP network. Company management is in no doubt as to where there credit lies for Thale’s success. “We’ve managed to export our solutions and see that we fare very well in international competition. Much (of our success) is thanks to a long-term perspective and very talented employees,” wrote Thales administrative director Glenn Pedersen on the company’s website.

Tactical & Adaptable

Another important player in the Norwegian Defence IT cluster is Kongsberg Defence Communications. The company provides secure tactical command, control and communication systems to army and air defence programmes around the world, from the arctic north to desert and tropical areas, including several NATO-countries.
Recently, the firm introduced an important new system to the market. EriTacIP is a new autonomous and high-capacity service-integrated tactical communication system which employs secure IP technology. The new system also facilitates multi channel integration with previous generations EriTac systems.
Key advantages to EriTacIP are that it supports deployed tactical networks and shows an ability to adapt rapidly to changes in topology. The new system also features secure IP technology and provides a black (secure) transport network.
Another innovation recently rolled out by the Norwegian company was TacLAN, which provides wired and wireless broadband communications infrastructure to tactical military units in areas of combat. This system features autonomous networks, wireless LAN for command posts and tactic al surveillance and sensor systems.
Ensuring secure data erasure is one key to IT security in today’s military, and Norwegian firm IBAS is becoming an important supplier thanks to its advanced solutions.

Advanced Radio Link

Kongsberg has been recently commissioned by the Norway’s Armed Forces’ Logistics Organisation to deliver a tactical radio link. The two-year contract calls for communications equipment for the high-speed wireless transmission of digital data and voice. The equipment to be delivered will feature higher transmission capacity than earlier generation radio links, and it will offer more connection opportunities including internet protocol. Air Defence and other Command and Control Systems will see enhanced performance by utilizing the new equipment.

Research-based Expertise

One of the main drivers of the creative and innovative process in the cluster is
SINTEF ICT (Information and Communication Technology), one of the largest independent research organizations for ICT in Norway. The facility employs 250 researchers and provides expertise in the areas of microtechnology, communication and software technology, computational software, security and safety.

Shields for Developers

Focusing on the growing desire amongst software developers and their customers (including the defence industry) to avoid security vulnerabilities, SINTEF ICT has chosen to participate in an international project under the title SHIELDS. The project’s central goal is to bridge the gap between security experts and software developers and by doing so reduce security breaches and vulnerabilities.

Correcting the Same Mistakes

Industry insiders point out that, even though many security vulnerabilities are known by experts, there seems to be a pattern that developers often fail to avoid these vulnerabilities. In other words, the same mistakes are repeated over and over again. It is thought that the central cause for this is that information on system weaknesses are not available to developers in a form that is conveniently accessible to them during the time they are designing and developing the software.

The SHIELD project hopes to remedy this by making it quicker and easier for experts to make identified security

The new defence industry is increasingly reliant on the ability to supply and repair crucial information and communication systems, and Norwegian firms are filling the need. © IBAS

vulnerabilities known to the developer community, in a form that is directly accessible via widely-used industry tools.

The effort, slated to run until June of 2010, will also help individual developers to find and remove security weaknesses from directly within their usual development tools. SHIELDS will also work to increase awareness amongst developers about known security vulnerabilities and help software development organizations to verify (internally and to their customers) that they have successfully reduced security vulnerabilities in their products. SHIELDS is a truly international effort, with Swedish, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Hungarian institutes taking part.

Well & Truly Erased

Norwegian firm Ibas is slated to provide secure data erasure on Norwegain defence department computers. A recent four-year frame agreement with Siemens Business Services has been agreed to, and the firm will carry out the work on “restricted” security computers which are due to be recycled. “This delivery reinforces the good customer relationship we already have with Norway’s defence forces,” comments Bjørn Arne Skogstad, President and CEO of Ibas, on the company website. “At the same time, the agreement confirms that we possess important value-enhancing products for key partners in the dealer chain.”
Ibas will supply ExpertEraser, its uniquely-designed tool for data erasure, to the project. The process of erasure will take place at the military sites prior to the PCs being recycled. Due to the structure and design of today’s operating systems, safely deleting all information from a hard drive is a very complex task. Contrary to popular opinion, commands such as “format”, “fdisk” and “delete” do not actually remove the data from a drive. These functions simply change the structure of the drive and leave most of the information intact – which makes it vulnerable to recovery with easily-available software

Protecting Sensitive Data

Lysaker-based Norman ASA is considered to be one of the world’s leading computer companies in the field of computer security, with subsidiaries and alliances in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Norman offers the IT industry a wide variety of risk analysis, virus control, access control, encryption, network security and data recovery products. The company counts more than 12 million users worldwide.

Database Solutions

Jotne EPM Technology (EPMT) is a member of the Jotne Group, specializing in information technology. The company has, since 1990, developed database solutions for ISO 10303 STEP, and PLCS standards among others. These are open specifications with public availability used by aerospace, space and defence-related industries to manage information about complex systems. Jotneemploys some 250 people, and counts clients throughout the world, including agencies such as the US Department of Defence, the European Space Agency and leading aerospace/defence/space contractors.
Antennas for all Situations

Technologies such as the IBAS Degausser are being used to aid in secure data erasure for the Norwegian military. © IBAS

AnCom® is another niche expert in the cluster. The company specializes in developing small, effective and robust antenna solutions. This technology is characterized by various possible applications, with efficiency, reach and radiation characteristics that maximize performance for low-profile antennas.

Wireless Microwave Transmission

A leading supplier of wireless microwave transmission network solutions, Nera Networks AS delivers technology to customers in segments such as defence, mobile, fixed line, carriers, broadcast, ISP & enterprise, governments, offshore and utilities. The company has an export focus, with more than 85% of its total revenue generated by international sales. The Bergen-based firm employs more than 500 people, 100 of whom work in research and development.