Mobile Continues to Trickle in to the Military

January 10, 2012

We’ve recently heard a few big announcements for mobile computing in the military, which has long been blocked by security issues.

We’ve recently heard a few big announcements for mobile computing in the military, which has long been blocked by security issues. First, the US Defense Information Systems Agency approved Dell Android 2.2 for use on Department of Defense networks with a few notable limitations. DoD users won’t be able to access either classified data or the Android app store.  

Currently only one device, the Dell Venue smartphone, runs Dell Android 2.2, so the benefits of mobile and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will not yet to be fully realized, but the future looks bright for Android in the military, with Dell planning more devices in the coming year to be rapidly integrated into DoD networks.  Mike McCarthy, director of operations for Brigade Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas, expects an NSA-approved secure version of Android operating system in early 2012, leading to soldiers deploying with smartphones and tablets by the end of the year.

While Apple is having a harder time with the Army and NSA, it’s currently making headway with the Air Force, which will provide iPads to its Special Operations Command as “electronic flight bags” to replace physical maps and manuals. This limited deployment will be a test case for iPads and could lead to their adoption by the entire fleet of cargo aircraft and possible wider uses. The iPads will have WiFi but the Air Force is more concerned about information being lost through theft and is using the software GoodReader to encrypt individual files. While GoodReader by Goodi.Ware is a great app, it is primarily a PDF reader, and is not a security solution. Downloading PDFs is a very risky activity, which is why Invincea’s security software puts your PDF reader into a virtualized environment.

While these are all exciting developments for cutting costs and increasing capabilities, the DoD’s rush to adopt mobile raises some security concerns. As Adam Elkus noted, through cloud computing, mobile devices can even have tactical applications such as controlling a UAV, or can bring advanced analytics to the field. Tactical Nav, an app designed by U.S. Army captain Jonathan Springer to guide and coordinate artillery, has been used in combat and training.

But mobile security needs to be further addressed before widespread military deployment. As Bryan Halfpap mentions, government Android should concern you without the proper Mobile Risk Management solution such as Fixmo, derived from the NSA’s own software, to manage updates, encryption, and compensate for vulnerabilities. While Apple’s closed ecosystem means it faces much less malware, concerns have been raised over the iPad supply chain. Security for the Air Force iPads also seems lax as the tablets will be connecting to the Internet and downloading files. Though military mobile is a great trend, it seems that at least as much attention should be choosing great Mobile Risk Management solutions as the right brand of phone or tablet.