Case Studies

Protecting Data-at-Rest with NSA CSfC Approved Encryption on a UAV

May 23, 2019

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As unmanned system technology advances, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) linger in the battle field for long periods of time. This presents UAV system designers with a number of unique challenges when designing the on board network attached storage (NAS) required to securely store the massive amounts of data the UAV is collecting. With the increase in mission length and functionality, the number of systems on board put pressure on every device to be size, weight, and power (SWaP) optimized. As well, a UAV’s data network is often segregated into different functions such as mission, sensor, and maintenance subsystems. In such deployed vehicles, the data-at-rest (DAR) must be protected to established standards.

A large integrator came to Curtiss-Wright with such a set of challenges. Due to the sensitive nature of the mission data on the unmanned vehicle, the program required a DAR encryption solution that was National Security Agency (NSA) approved. The NSA is the national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense and is in charge of ensuring the security of government communications and systems through the development of encryption technology and standards. Using an NSA approved encryption solution was essential to protect the top secret DAR being stored during missions.

The vehicle’s system required multiple NAS devices which could provide mission and map data to network clients and allow those clients to store collected data and other sensor information during the mission. The solution’s SWaP was a major concern as the aircraft would often be required to travel long distances while carrying an abundance of equipment. Using smaller and lighter devices would mean the vehicle missions can be extended. With networks at varied classification levels, multiple NAS devices were required, putting additional pressure on cost, SWaP and encryption certification.

Also, the vehicle was needed as soon as possible, so the integrator sought a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution instead of developing one from the ground up. Read about the solution Curtiss-Wright developed and the results achieved in our case study.

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