\\File name Brett's Site
Window film that blocks electromagnetic waves.
This film was developed for sensitive federal government facilities and only in recent years has become available to the privite sector. In 2007 Solutia Inc. developed an improved product for the government, which enabled them to sell this product to the private sector.
New Solutia window film said to keep hackers out, let
By Rachel Melcer
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Solutia Inc.based in Town and Country, this week will begin selling to the private sector a high-tech, transparent window coating that blocks electromagnetic waves. The chemical and window-film, is shedding light on a top-secret product as well as the common, but not often acknowledged, security threat it is designed to avert.
The Llumar Signal Defense Security Film, developed for sensitive federal government facilities, prevents nefarious types from plucking secret data out of thin air. Apply the film to the inside of a building's windows, and hackers or electronic eavesdroppers lurking outside can't grab signals from wireless data networks, cell phones and other digital devices, computer keystrokes, or conversations, Solutia said. "There's a tremendous proliferation of wireless devices … so we know there's pent-up demand for a product like this," said Caryn Crump, general manager of Solutia's CPFilms Inc. unit, which developed it."Security breaches are growing as the use of these devices is growing. And as there are breaches, it builds awareness," she said.
Some of these breaches make headlines.
Among the biggest was the intrusion by hackers into the data system of TJX Cos., parent company of Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and other stores. In January, the company in Framingham, Mass., acknowledged the loss of customers' credit- and debit-card numbers, drivers license numbers and names. TJX is spending millions of dollars to investigate, but says it still doesn't know the extent of the data losses.
Citing a source "familiar with the firm's internal investigation," The Wall Street Journal this month reported that the theft could involve the loss of 200 million card numbers from records stored in 2003 through 2006. The theft began with hackers who parked outside of a Marshalls store and used a laptop computer to grab information leaking through windows from the store's wireless data system, the Journal reported.
Other security breaches are known only to the agencies and companies that have suffered them, said Arthur Money, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, who now is a private consultant.
"Businesses don't want to discuss this because they don't want to acknowledge how fragile their information is. (But) it's a lot more prevalent than we're being led to believe," Money said.
He said he has advised Solutia on working with the government, and will recommend its Signal Defense film to clients because it is a unique and valuable product; he has no financial interest in its sales.
Signal Defense film has been installed over the past several years on more than 200 buildings within federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Treasury and State, Solutia said. It also is in use by the executive branch and at residences of "senior government officials." The company said its deal with the government prohibits more-specific disclosures — and, until now, had restricted sales of the product to anyone else.
CPFilms developed the film with a technology partner,
ASTIC Signals Defenses LLC of Owings Mills, Md. It contains a patented combination of metal and metal oxide layers to reduce signal strength across the entire electromagnetic spectrum,
The companies recently developed an updated version of the technology that provides a greater level of protection for government use. That freed Solutia to begin selling the first-generation product to industry — and it initially is targeting the retail, health care and financial services sectors, Crump said.
"As different electronic devices evolve … you have to continually update what the product does. We continue to do that. And it requires us to push the edge of what we know how to do in manufacturing — this is one of the most sophisticated products we make," said Lisa Winckler, global director of technology at CPFilms' production facility in Martinsville, Va.
That said, Crump said the commercially available film provides adequate protection "for products in use now and in the near future. It's not like you'd have to put it up and then take it down in six months."
Diego Maldonado, senior vice president and head of the Government Technology Group at
St. Charles-based security consulting firm Newberry Group Inc., said he isn't aware of any other technology that can accomplish what Solutia promises.
The typical approach to protecting wireless signals is to keep computer equipment in interior rooms with added padding on the walls, and to prevent cars from parking close to the building, he said. But that's not possible in retail stores and certain other industries that transmit sensitive data. It's also difficult to restrict cell-phone and in-person conversations on confidential topics.
"Any film that prevents a transmission from leaving the room is definitely of value to anyone — the government, even a small business — because it's an additional step to protect information," Maldonado said.
Signal Defense film has other benefits as well, Crump said. Like Solutia's other window-film products, it blocks the sun's ultraviolet rays. A version of the product also is shatterproof and has been blast-tested to government standards, protecting against impacts from the outside.
The same technology that keeps radio waves from leaking out also stops signals from getting in, Solutia said. It can protect employees and computer networks from being bombarded with signals from nearby cell towers, wireless data access points and radio, TV and microwave transmitters.
These signals may be a health concern, and they certainly can disrupt a company's internal wireless networks and electronic devices, Winckler said.
Solutia is not saying just how significant it expects Signal Defense film, and its revenue will be in the company's overall product lineup.
"I think it's going to be tremendous. First of all, it is unique and there is a need for this among businesses and select consumers," Crump said. "It really is the future of the way we approach products — to solve more than just what traditional window film does, and with very unique benefits."