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RF Activity Detected With Sensor Solution

Bastille Networks has released a portable kit for temporary deployments to help government agencies and companies view and manage the wireless activity taking place in their secure areas.
By Claire Swedberg

The company began developing the system in 2014 under Baxley's leadership. Before joining Bastille, he served as the director of Georgia Tech's Software Defined Radio Lab, where he led a team that won second place in the DARPA Spectrum Challenge. Bastille developed sensors as well as the software to decode protocols, and to give customers visibility into all RF transmissions taking place at their office or other facility. The sensors detect any RF transmissions and employ signal processing to geolocate based on signal strength. The company has been issued 22 patents for its devices throughout the past five and a half years.

The solution is intended to help companies see what it is taking place wirelessly. "Our customers want visibility," Baxley states. An average worker may bring three or four transmitters into an office space, based on his or her mobile phone alone (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, Bluetooth and LTE, for instance), while a laptop has its own wireless connectivity with a Bluetooth-enabled mouse, a keyboard or other accessories.

Bastille's Bob Baxley
Personal gadgets are another potential wireless source, Baxley notes, such as Fitbits, smart watches and hearing aids. But other devices are wireless as well, he adds. One customer, for example, discovered the facility's chiller was sending Zigbee signals, despite the fact that the company had connected its own data center via Ethernet. That provides vulnerability if a hacker were to attempt to connect to the chiller and thereby access the facility's network. Unknown to the firm, that Ethernet-cabled chiller could be providing ingress points for such a hack, simply because the manufacturer had built Zigbee into the device and the company was unaware of that fact.

Bastille Networks has been selling its RF security solution to big banks, while providing the system for the four-phase DHS project. The project is taking place at undisclosed sites, most recently exploring vulnerabilities at airports. The project was launched in 2017 to detect emitters that might be vulnerable and part of critical infrastructure systems. For commercial enterprises, several banks have been deploying the sensors and cloud-based software to manage the data at their financial centers in such locations as board rooms, where wireless networks could introduce vulnerabilities.

Each time the system is deployed, Baxley says, users learn something new about the wireless connectivity at their site. "Every place we go, there are surprises," he states. "Most common is seeing interfaces they didn't expect." That can include a worker's headset that is unencrypted, or a vulnerable mouse and keyboard. To deploy the system, a user installs the Bastille sensor array; each sensor is sized similarly to a Wi-Fi access point. The sensors utilize Power-over-Ethernet and are designed to be plug-and-play.

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