As communication and networking technologies advance, networks will become highly complex and heterogeneous, interconnecting different network domains. There is a need to provide user authentication and data protection in order to further facilitate critical mission operations, especially in the tactical and mission-critical net-centric networking environment. The Autonomous Information Unit (AIU) technology was designed to provide the fine-grain data access and user control in a net-centric system-testing environment to meet these objectives.
The AIU is a fundamental capability designed to enable finegrain data access and user control in the cross-domain networking environments, where an AIU is composed of the mission data, metadata, and policy. An AIU provides a mechanism to establish trust among deployed AIUs based on recombining shared secrets, authentication and verify users with a username, X.509 certificate, enclave information, and classification level. AIU achieves data protection through (1) splitting data into multiple information pieces using the Shamir’s secret sharing algorithm, (2) encrypting each individual information piece using military-grade AES-256 encryption, and (3) randomizing the position of the encrypted data based on the unbiased and memory efficient in-place Fisher-Yates shuffle method. Therefore, it becomes virtually impossible for attackers to compromise data since attackers need to obtain all distributed information as well as the encryption key and the random seeds to properly arrange the data. In addition, since policy can be associated with data in the AIU, different user access and data control strategies can be included.
The AIU technology can greatly enhance information assurance and security management in the bandwidth-limited and ad hoc net-centric environments. In addition, AIU technology can be applicable to general complex network domains and applications where distributed user authentication and data protection are necessary. AIU achieves fine-grain data access and user control, reducing the security risk significantly, simplifying the complexity of various security operations, and providing the high information assurance across different network domains.
This work was done by Edward T. Chow, Simon S. Woo, Mark James, and George K. Paloulian of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.