Nuclear agency debuts highly secure network

In addition to enhanced security, network provides dramatic increase in bandwidth.

The National Nuclear Security Administration on Wednesday turned on a $60 million network linking its nuclear production facilities, site offices at national laboratories and the agency's headquarters.

Comment on this article in The Forum.The network will provide both enhanced security and a dramatic increase in bandwidth, according to Linda Wilbanks, the agency's chief information officer.

Wilbanks told Government Executive that the new Enterprise Secure Network -- which has been in development since 2000, shortly after NNSA became a separate agency within the Energy Department --"came in on time and on budget, and you cannot say that about many information technology projects."

The new network is "airwalled" from the Internet, Wilbanks said, meaning it has no physical connection to the Internet. That reduces the risks of probes or attacks. In fact, Wilbanks said, NNSA's classified networks have never been breached.

To ensure this record continues, Wilbanks said the agency beefed up security on the network by requiring users to enter a password and to have a token to log in. "We need to protect this network the best we can, since 85 percent of the information we hold is classified," she said.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said the agency has seen threats against "government information systems increase dramatically. We must be on the leading edge of cybersecurity to protect our data at rest, in transmission, and from external and internal sources."

Wilbanks said all the routers in the network were provided by Cisco Systems and support the new Internet protocol version 6 standard, in compliance with Office of Management and Budget requirements.

She said the network also features intrusion detection systems and will be centrally managed from a new network operations center at the agency's Las Vegas, Nev., office.