Magazine article Security Management

Buttoning Up Communications

Magazine article Security Management

Buttoning Up Communications

Article excerpt

The government and the defense contractor community have been steadily increasing their use of new types of telecommunications equipment over the past few years. This proliferation of new technology, while improving the overall quality and efficiency of communications systems, has also made these systems vulnerable to unauthorized interception and exploitation.

Well-publicized espionage cases have promoted the defense community's awareness of communication systems' vulnerabilities. Until recently, however, the amount of equipment available to provide the needed security the government requires has been inadequate.

One of the first practical voice encryption devices, which became available in the 1960s, was the KY-3, followed by the STU-I (Secure Telephone Unit-First Generation) in 1970 and the STU-II in 1985.

At the height of the STU-II program, however, only about 10,000 of these units were used throughout the government and defense contractor community. The majority of those deployed in the contractor community were associated with special programs.

The government recognized that a significant amount of classified and sensitive information was lost to US adversaries over unprotected telecommunications circuits. To counter the threat, the National Security Agency (NSA) initiated the Future Secure Voice System (FSVS) program in 1984. FSVS was an aggressive and accelerated program to develop, produce, and field an new generation of effective, user-friendly secure telephones - the STU-III family.

The program's goal was to button up US voice communications by the end of the 1980s. NSA would do this by developing a low-cost, easy-to-use, secure telephone that would be the size of a conventional desk set, able to be produced in large quantities, available to a wide range of users, compatible with existing communication systems, and available by 1987. …

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