[ISN] Startup Markets Wireless - Security Paint
isn at c4i.org
Fri Dec 31 05:28:36 EST 2004
By Jim Nash
Dec. 28, 2004
A small startup in Silicon Valley has an anti-intrusion tool that
sells for $69 a gallon--you supply the brush.
Force Field Wireless makes three products that it says can
dramatically reduce the leakage of wireless signals from a room or
building. The company's sales manager, Harold Wray, co-developed
DefendAir Radio Shield latex paint, which contains copper filings and
an aluminum compound. When spread evenly on a wall, the paint reflects
signals in frequencies from 100 MHz to 5 GHz. Paint four walls, a
floor, and a ceiling, and you effectively have a Faraday cage, which
is a specially constructed metal room that blocks all radio signals in
or out, suitable for a CIA director or a determined shut-in.
"It was my concept along with my colleague, Diane Lopez," says Wray, a
former network engineer with Networks Associates. "We knew of people
inundated with interference on their wireless systems. In fact, Diane,
in her apartment, could find eight wireless networks around her. She
needed to shield herself."
Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security, says the idea is
intriguing. It's for people who have a "mid- to high level of comfort
with wireless," Lindstrom says. "The really security conscious are
going to ban wireless altogether."
DefendAir is nontoxic, contains no lead, and meets all U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency standards, Wray says. Besides the
paint, Force Field sells 32 ounces of a copper/aluminum powder that
homeowners can add to their own paint for $34. The company also makes
a window film that cuts down on signal leakage: A 30-inch-by-25-foot
roll is priced at $45.
"This wouldn't be the first thing I'd do to secure a network," says
Spire Security's Lindstrom. "But in a crowded environment, in an
office complex, it might be a thing to do." It's better to implement a
solid authentication/encryption system, he says.
Force Field's Wray says sales are going well. A paint manufacturer
delivers 100 gallons once every two months or so, and the paint was
sold out last quarter. Businesses make up the bulk of Force Field's
customers, but Wray is pushing hard to win over consumers and looking
at government sales, too.
"Businesses--particularly commercial real-estate developers--see an
immediate need for it," he says.
Indeed, 71% of those responding to InformationWeek Research's Outlook
report for the fourth quarter of '04 say they plan to implement
network-security-management apps. Sixty percent say they plan to
deploy intrusion-detection software, and 42% plan to fire up wireless
"Consider [radio-frequency identification], where not only are we
talking about wireless networking but the whole value of RFID is the
message emanating from the tags," says Lindstrom. DefendAir would be
an attractive option to protect an RFID-enabled warehouse, he says.
There are drawbacks to the paint. It doesn't just block wireless
networks. In the home, it would block the one or two remaining TVs
connected to rabbit ears. More important, it blocks mobile-phone
signals. Wray suggests that businesses either paint only critical
parts of buildings or introduce wireless callers to the smokers
huddled around the front door.
Convincing consumers to take wireless security seriously has been
harder. "They see it like tinfoil on your head," Wray says. "They
think it's kind of paranoid."
Force Field has been trying to interest the Department of Homeland
Security, but discussions are ongoing, Wray says. "Ironically, we have
had foreign governments contact us--from the Middle East. Kind of
scary." Wray says he won't sell to them.
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