Security of Rapidly Deployed Ad Hoc Networks

The management of communications networks poses unique problems in a crowded, emergency disaster zone. Security must be established rapidly from the outset, as the terrorists might try to mix among the first responders.56 It is also necessary to determine a means for temporarily suspending people’s access to facilities, communications, and data without impeding the ability of those with legitimate need to use them. Yet this suspension process has to be done rapidly, given that minutes and seconds matter in severe emergencies.

Research is therefore needed on the special security needs of wireless networks that are deployed rapidly and in an ad hoc manner. (For example, ad hoc networks are not likely to have a single system administrator that can take responsibility for allocating user IDs.)

Information-Management and Decision-Support Tools

In a chaotic disaster area, a large volume of voice and data traffic will be transmitted and received on handheld radios, phones, digital devices, and portable computers. Nevertheless, useful information is likely to be scarce and of limited value. Thus, research is needed on “decision-support” tools that assist the crisis manager in making the most of this incomplete information.57

Communications with the Public During an Emergency

In a crisis, channels to provide information to the public will clearly be needed. Radio, television, and often the Web provide such information today, but it is usually generic and not necessarily helpful to people in specific areas or with specific needs. Research is needed to identify appropriate mechanisms—new technologies such as “call by location” and zoned alert broadcasts—for tailoring information to specific locations or individuals.58 To be effective in interacting with individual users, ubiquitous and low-cost access is required.59 In addition, such systems should be highly robust against spoofing (entry by an intruder masquerading as a trusted host) so that only authorized parties can use them to send out information.

For example, the current cell-phone system does not directly support these functions, but it might be possible to modify and exploit it to provide “reverse 911” service,60 i.e., a one-way channel to those affected that provides a continual


CSTB (1996), p. 24.


CSTB (1996), p. 104.


CSTB (1999a), p. 35.


CSTB (1999a), p. 40.


CSTB (1999a), p. 35.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement