DISA's Wi-Fi Flying Squirrel

The Defense Information Systems Agency has started to deploy throughout the Defense Department a Wi-Fi network monitoring tool dubbed “Flying Squirrel,” according to an internal agency briefing obtained by Tech Insider.

The name Flying Squirrel, I’m told, has nothing to do with DISA â€" whose headquarters on Courthouse Road in Arlington, Va., is pretty much in a squirrel-free zone â€" or with the actual device itself, but rather it’s just a moniker that caught the fancy of an unnamed developer at the Naval Research Lab, which created the monitoring tool. DISA, on the other hand, calls the system a “Wireless Discovery Tool.”

The Flying Squirrel provides the most basic defense of any Wi-Fi network against intruders who may monitor radio activity around a DOD facility or base, I’m told by an industry source well versed in its development.

Flying Squirrel’s software, the development of which was overseen by the U.S. Strategic Command’s Enterprisewide Information Assurance and Computer Network Defense Solutions Steering Group, sniffs for users on a Wi-Fi network and, once it finds one, captures the user’s unique identifying address and geolocation. Network personnel then check the address to determine if the user is an authorized or unauthorized user on the wireless network.

My source told me security personnel load Flying Squirrel on a notebook computer equipped with a Wi-Fi card or chip and then drive around the perimeter of a DOD base to locate Wi-Fi networks and users. The software, this source said, owes a lot to open source Wi-Fi sniffing tools such as NetStumbler or Kismet, but has a somewhat snazzier interface and the all important U.S. Strategic Command steering group’s stamp of approval.

The Marines were the first organization to use Flying Squirrel two years ago, I’m told, and the software caught the attention of a contractor from Smartronix, who backed its DOD-wide. (Smartronix had not returned a call by deadline.)

DISA, the Strategic Command steering group and Smartronix now are working on the Wireless Mapping System, which security personnel, using Flying Squirrel, will use to pinpoint on a digital map the locations of Wi-Fi users. The mapping application, I’m told, continues the furry-critter marmot naming scheme, operating under the codename of Woodchuck.