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A proof-of-concept implemented by SDC and Burroughs, later merged as UNISYS, BLACKER was the first computer network security project, and only the second project of any kind, to achieve the Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria (TCSEC) A1 rating, which it earned in 1991. A U.S. Department of Defense project, BLACKER was the first end-to-end trusted encryption system on the U.S. Defense Data Network (DDN).(1)(2) BLACKER was a long-term project that began in the late 1970s, and consisted of four devices fielded in the late 1980s. The BLACKER hardware centered around the BLACKER Front End (BFE), a smart encryption box that functioned between the host computer and the Packet Switch. A "cigarette-box sized" removable device, the BLACKER Initialization-parameters Carrier (BIC), then provided host-specific operational and security parameters. The other devices then controlled the permissions for message exchange, and handled key distribution, ensuring that only authorized hosts were allowed to communicate.(3)

BLACKER employed the Bell-LaPadula security model, where a DDN computer served as a "subject," and the encrypted connection to a second host was the "object." However, applying the Bell-LaPadula model to network security was not a straigtforward process, requiring the development team to reevaluate networking security requirements in relation to Bell-LaPadula, and marked the end of the dominance of Bell-LaPadula in computer security.(4)(5) BLACKER was implemented on the DDN using a Cisco Systems' DDN X.25, which used BLACKER Front-end Encryption and BLACKER emergency mode operation. The BFE allowed host machines to communicate securely over unsecured packet-switched networks, creating a virtual network, called the "Red" network, between the BFE secured devices. The packet-switched network carrying both the secured BFE traffic, and unsecured traffic, was called the "Black" network.(6)(7)


1 , 7 : http://www.fas.org/irp/program/security/blacker.htm

2 , 5 : Donald MacKenzie, Mechanizing Proof: Computing, Risk, and Trust, New York (MIT Press, 2001), 181, 190-191.

3 : lock Clark Weissman, "BLACKER: Security for the DDN Examples of A1 Security Engineering Trades," IEEE Computer Society Symposium on Research in Security and Privacy (IEEE, 1992), 286. (Login required)

4 : lock Clark Weissman, "BLACKER: Security for the DDN Examples of A1 Security Engineering Trades," IEEE Computer Society Symposium on Research in Security and Privacy (IEEE, 1992), 287. (Login required)

6 : lock Emil V. DeRenzo, et al, "The Integrated Tactical Data Network (ITDN): Multi-Security Level Tactical/Strategic Connectivity Through Existing Packet Switching Technology," Military Communications Conference, 1990. MILCOM '90, Conference Record, A New Era (IEEE, 1990), 2-4, 6. (Login required)

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Topic revision: r8 - 03 Oct 2013 - 15:40:22 - norqu036
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