Top U.S. Gov't Lab Bans WLANs

By Matthew Peretz

January 31, 2002

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has instituted a ban, effective immediately, on all WLANs!

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory operated by the University of California and well known for science and technology relating to weapons, today announced a temporary ban on the "deployment and use of all wireless computer local area networks (LANs) in LLNL's Open and Property Protection areas.

A statement issued by the laboratory explained the measure is necessary because of the security risks that WLANs create.

This policy (P-2027) specifies:

"Any program/directorate with an existing wireless LAN in these [Property Protection] areas must disconnect it from all LLNL institutional networks (if applicable) and obtain an approved exception to this policy before resuming operation of the LAN. Proposed wireless LAN pilot projects must obtain an approved exception to this policy before beginning operation and be dedicated to addressing wireless security issues."

The statement continues:
Requests for exceptions to this policy must be submitted to the CIO through the Computer Security Operations (CSO) office. The application form is available at http://www-r.llnl.gov/cso/Pubs/u-docs/F2027.pdf. Exceptions to the DOE prohibition of wireless LANs in Limited or Exclusion areas are made only in specific cases involving stand-alone unclassified networks or control systems that have received a special DOE waiver.

The statement explains that the ban gives LLNL the ability to control on-site use of wireless technology, and enables the CSO to conduct pilot operations to assess the technology. Any future implementations are pending the outcome of these assessments.

The ban is effective immediately. Any WLAN found to be out of compliance with the ban will, in the words of the statement "result in notification of the cognizant associate director and CIO and disconnection from institutional networks until the LAN is brought into compliance."

Limitations of the ban:
Certain wireless technologies, according to LLNL, are not covered by this policy (because they are already banned by existing policies). These include cell phones and PCS devices, pagers, two-way mobile and portable radios, point-to-point voice, video, and data communications systems, computer keyboards, and computer mice.

LLNL spokesman David Schwoegler told 802.11-Planet, "Please realize that "we have for more than a decade prohibited any r.f., microwave or other technology that can transmit electronic data in our classified areas--including cell phones. This ban simply extends that ban to other areas of the Lab while we study the issue and the technology. No incident prompted this ban. No information was compromised and only two LAN on site were impacted by the decision."

Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of 802.11-Planet.com



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