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The goal of the Research Task Group in Cross Domain Security Solutions (IST-068/RTG-031) of the NATO Science and Technology Organization (STO)  was to improve the sharing of information in military environments and to facilitate the evolution of a flexible infrastructure by utilizing the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) to create suitable security solutions.

In 2010, the group published for a proposal for an XML Labelling and Metadata Binding specification.

This work has gone on to be developed into two new Standards Agreements (STANAGS), which in turn, are cover documents for the associated Allied Data Publications (ADatPs)):

  • STANAG 4774 – Confidentiality Metadata Label Syntax – an XML schema that can be used to represent a confidentiality (security) label.
  • STANAG 4778 – Metadata Binding Mechanism - an XML Schema that can be used to bind arbitrary metadata (including metadata that uses the confidentiality metadata label syntax, to pieces of information.

Both of these STANAGs are currently in the process of being ratified by the NATO Nations.

STANAG 4774 defines the structure of a confidentiality label, which includes elements such as the policy identifier, classifications and security categories. The non-normative Annexes B and D of STANAG 4774 provide descriptions of two security labelling policies, “NATO” and “PUBLIC”, in the form of Security Policy Information Files (SPIFs), which provide the value domains for the elements of the confidentiality label.

The SPIFs in the STANAG obviously can only contain a snapshot of the NATO security labelling policy, as new categories are added and removed to support missions and exercises. However, an up-to-date SPIF is maintained in the NATO Metadata Registry and Repository (NMRR) (login required), along with the STANAG 4774 and 4778 XML schemas, and other associated artefacts.



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CWID, the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, is the premier annual event that enables U.S. Combatant Commands, national civil authorities and the international community to investigate and assess command and control (C2), communications systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) solutions.

One of the “notable interoperability highlights” identified in this year’s Final Report is that a CWID 2010 trial:

“Demonstrated a potential cross-domain solution to e-mail services, Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) chat services, web services, and document sharing all of which were governed by a common security policy based on open standards to meet the requirements for providing a network enabled capability.”

This refers to a trial run by the UK to demonstrate Cross Domain Chat between the UK, US and NATO. The trial adopted the XMLSPIF schema in order to provide a revisable, extensible schema that could support widespread adoption. The UK were able to represent the US and NATO Security Labelling policies with this standard and hence define the equivalent security labels to support mapping of labels within Cross Domain Services. The UK SPIF was stored in the X.500 / LDAP Enterprise Directory and a number of services then retrieved the SPIF, via LDAP, in order to display and apply Security Labels, and also make Access Control Decisions.

Appendix C of UK Cross Domain Chat Technical Report contains an XMLSPIF representing UK JSP 457 Volume 7 Electronic Labelling Services used in the trial.

A new version of the XMLSPIF schema is now available. It includes new features requested by members to support their customers’ requirements. These new features include:

  • Validity periods for the whole policy and individual category values.
  • MarkingData and MarkingQualifiers for the SPIF, privacy marks and tag categories.
  • Enhanced constraints on the number of privacy marks and tags that can be selected.
  • Date format specification for category values containing a date.
  • Required categories for an equivalent policy, classification and categories to provide enhanced equivalency mappings.
  • Equivalency between tag sets, where the tag values are the same in each tag set. For example, ISO3166 country codes.
  • Fixes to the schema constraints.

Version 2.0 of the schema replaces Version 1.0 of the schema at:

The Version 2.0 schema is backwards compatible with Version 1.0. However, for those people who wish to specifically reference Version 1.0 of the schema, it is still available at: