DOD tackles security challenges of mobile computing

June 14, 2011
Cyber Security, FedCyber Wire
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via Defense Systems

Security concerns come with the territory for owners of a smart phone, tablet or other mobile device. Yet few people are more focused on mobile security than defense community personnel, who fully understand that missing or compromised data could lead to lost lives, not just lost money.

“Cybersecurity and data protection is one of the current ‘space races,'” said David Machuga, director of identity management and business solutions at Northrop Grumman, which supplies the Defense Department with secure mobile biometric data collection technology. “There are several challenges, but the three largest are how to certify the security, how to protect the information transmitted in a wireless mode and how to protect data at rest,” he said. “For DOD, this is a constant problem, whether dealing with cell phones, handheld bar code scanners used in a warehouse or mobile computers used to validate biometrics.”

Steve Lucas, chief engineer at the Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate (S&TCD) at the Army’s Communications-Electronic Research, Development and Engineering Center, said the directorate’s rule of thumb is to view all commercially produced mobile devices with deep suspicion. “From our perspective, you’re taking an untrusted device because you can’t ensure where it was manufactured [or] what someone might have implanted on the device,” he said. “If we had more trust in the supply chain — who manufactured the hardware or where the software came from — I think we would feel a lot more comfortable in actually deploying these devices.”

Although many defense communications technology and security experts view commercial mobile devices and wireless networks with a sense of unease, if not outright distrust, many also understand that DOD and service branch decision-makers are facing increasing pressure to adopt commercial mobile technologies. DOD is awash with various types of highly secure terrestrial- and satellite-based mobile computer and communications platforms. But commercial alternatives tend to be more versatile in terms of real-world compatibility and application support, and they’re usually cheaper and easier and faster to deploy.

Continued here.