Intel Community is Developing a More Spy-Proof Room

Alexander Supertramp/

The intelligence community’s research arm is upgrading SCIF security to protect against threats from personal devices and sensors.

The intelligence community wants to make the spaces government officials use to review and discuss sensitive information impervious to digital spying.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity plans to fund research to further lock down sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs, against enemy surveillance and insider threats.

SCIFs are built to block all transmission of data in and out of the facility, but abundant personal devices and smart sensors are giving bad actors more ways to infiltrate the government’s most sensitive areas, according to the agency.

“Our adversaries continue to develop advanced tools and methods to enable technical surveillance attacks against sensitive U.S. facilities and personnel,” IARPA said in a request for information published Thursday. “It is imperative that we are able to detect the operation and location of any adversarial sensors, whether concealed or hidden in plain sight, and eliminate all possible transmission paths for exfiltration of data.”

IARPA’s proposed “SCIF of the future” would be built from materials that deflect “a broad spectrum of energy” and radio frequencies, wireless signals and magnetic transmissions. The windows of the facility, in particular, must be designed with high-security standards while still allowing 90 percent of light to pass through, the agency wrote.

Beyond the SCIF’s physical structure, IARPA also plans to invest in technologies to detect and block any concealed sensors from transmitting data in and around the facility. Any potential tools must also prevent adversaries from co-opting wireless networks and internet-connected sensors within building utility systems to infiltrate the facility.

The agency is also looking for technology to protect against people intentionally or accidentally transmitting information from inside the SCIF itself. Such tools must safely detect and alert authorities to smartphones, memory storage drives and other devices in and around the SCIF without slowing down the process for screening people entering the facility, IARPA said.

The agency also invited teams to explore ways to automate the process of identifying and classifying wireless networks surrounding the SCIF.

Proposals are due Dec. 31.

Earlier this year, former presidential advisor Omarosa Manigault Newman released audio of her firing by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that had been recorded in the White House Situation Room, perhaps the government’s most famous SCIF.