Book details of 'Top Secret Intranet: How U.S. Intelligence Built Intelink - the World's Largest, Most Secure Network'
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Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
Does anyone else think it is ironic that this book is part of a series
on *open* information management? No, I didn't think so.
Part one is an introduction to Intelink, the intranet connecting the
thirteen various agencies involved in the US intelligence community.
Chapter one is a very superficial overview of some basics: who are the
departments, packet networks, layered protocols, and so forth. The
description of Intelink as a combination of groupware, data warehouse,
and help desk, based on "commercial, off-the-shelf" (COTS) technology
with Internet and Web protocols, in chapter two, should come as no big
Part two looks at the implementation (well, a rather high level
design, anyway) of Intelink. Chapter three reviews the various
government standards used as reference materials for the system, which
boil down to open (known) standards except for the secret stuff, for
which we get acronyms. There is a quick look at electronic intruders,
encryption, and security policy in chapter four. Various security
practices used in the system are mentioned in chapter five, but even
fairly innocuous details are lacking. For example, "strong
authentication" is discussed in terms of certificates and smartcards,
but a challenge/response system that does not send passwords over the
net, such as Kerberos, is not, except in the (coded?) word "token."
Almost all of chapter six, describing tools and functions, will be
immediately familiar to regular Internet users. Chapter seven takes a
return look at standards. The case studies in chapter eight all seem
to lean very heavily on SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language)
for some reason.
Part three is editorial in nature. Chapter nine stresses the
importance of information. (Its centerpiece, a look at statements
from some of the Disney Fellows from the Imagineering division is
somewhat paradoxically loose with the facts.) The book closes with an
analysis of intelligence service "agility," using technology as an
answer to everything except interdepartmental rivalries.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the book is the existence of
Intelink at all, and the fact that it uses COTS components and open
standard protocols. (Of course, since it was defence money that
seeded the development of the Internet in the first place, one could
see Intelink simply as a belated recognition of the usefulness of the
product.) For those into the details of the US government's more
secretive services there is some mildly interesting information in the
book. For those charged with building secure intranets there is some
good pep talk material, but little assistance.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999
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