Air Force Awards SBIR Contract for IoT Device Security


Phosphorus Cybersecurity will work with engineers at Joint Base San Antonio to secure devices operating on 5G networks.

The Air Force is trying to figure out how to secure internet of things devices operating on 5G networks, according to a recent press release

The Air Force’s AFWERX innovation unit awarded a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research contract to Phosphorus Cybersecurity. Chris Rouland, founder and chief executive of Phosphorus, told Nextgov in an interview the contract represents a recognition that securing devices that rely on 5G is just as important as securing the network itself. 

“If a compromised 5G IoT device makes its way into a location with Wi-Fi, it could be used to attack the Wi-Fi network and pivot and access that network,” Rouland said. 

Under the $50,000 SBIR contract, Phosphorus will work with engineers from Joint Base San Antonio to adapt the company’s enterprise platform to operate in a Defense Department 5G environment, Rouland said. The technology solution automates the security of IoT devices, he said. 

Writing code to protect every possible IoT device made would be impossible, Rouland said. Instead, Phosphorus built genus models covering families of firmware from various manufacturers, which makes scaling the solution possible. 

For years, policy compliance—taking inventory, rotating passwords, and updating firmware—has been second nature for servers and desktops,” Rouland said in the press release announcing the contract. “What’s needed now is a solution for the other third of the network consisting of IoT to prevent the next ‘Verkada’ while enabling the warfighter to adopt next-generation technology.” In March, Bloomberg reported hackers gained access to live feeds and archives of security cameras provided by Silicon Valley company Verkada.

Joint Base San Antonio is one of a group of bases included in an ambitious DOD project to explore 5G capabilities. The ability to use sensor data from IoT devices is seen as a “primary driver” for adoption of 5G technologies, according to DOD’s 5G implementation plan.