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How the Federal Government is Slowly Embracing Mobile by AlexOlesker

Mobile computing, primarily smartphones and tablets, is one of the most disruptive technologies today. Increasingly sophisticated portable personal computers are providing unprecedented opportunities to work from anywhere and access solutions wherever and whenever they are needed, leading to great productivity gains. Yet mobile computing in the enterprise also brings security risks by introducing many new attack vectors such as outside equipment, connections to unauthorized wireless networks, and platforms without mature antivirus systems in place. The federal government has lately been taking strides to capitalize on these new opportunities by incorporating mobile devices while mitigate those risks.

Michael McCarthy, who heads the Army’s Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications project, believes that Android devices will be approved for military networks within a year, and that they will also be approved for use on NSA Secret networks. DISA already approved Dell’s Streak 5 Android tablet and last month issued a request for information for market research on wireless service and hardware for soldiers in Europe. According to McCarthy, Apple products are currently behind due to military concerns over the security and control of their supply chain.

On the civilian side of things, the Census Bureau is looking to try again to implement tablets for the 2020 census after their 2010 efforts resulted in costly errors and a return to traditional paper forms. In addition, FAA CIO Steve Cooper recently announced that a small number of Apple iPads can connect directly to the FAA network in a pilot program. While the FAA typically resttricts mobile access by employees, the controlled group is allowed to sync their tablets to their work desktops. At an AFCEA event, Cooper said that the FAA handles security by allowing their team to access on the tablets but didn’t go into detail. Their approach is protecting the data rather than the device: ”Nobody is after the device. You want the device? Here, I’ll give it to you. Steal that–but if you can’t get to the data, who cares?”

One of the largest efforts to embrace mobile has been by the VA, which plans to buy up to 100,000 tablets, likely iPads, primarily for medical clinicians. The VA’s acquisition strategy includes a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system to securely and efficiently manage and connect mobile devices to the enterprise network. According to a performance work statement, “the MDM solution allows VA to gain visibility to the devices as well as apply enforcement of VA security, management and other applicable policies to the devices from an enterprise perspective.”

Fortunately, solutions like this exist. One leader in mobile device management is Fixmo, which was born out of technology transfer from the NSA. Fixmo Sentinel can ensure that a device is always in a trusted state, maintain device policy and configuration across the infrastructure, verify, deploy and manage mobile applications, enforce policy, and monitor compliance. Hopefully, as such technology matures and becomes even more prevalent, mobile will cease being such a challenge and the federal government can take full advantage of this great new technology.

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Julie Chase

I believe the government would embrace mobile devices on the following conditions:

1. Every part, piece, wiring, coding, et al, are manufactured and put together in AMERICA.

2. The network is an AMERICAN company

3. The IT group at each agency will “hand out” and record the devices as “Government Property”, which not only includes the data on it, (work or personal)…..but the device itself & every component in it. To include a “tracking” device. Your CAC card has a GPS, in case you all didn’t know.

If you want to put your “personal” stuff on a wireless phone or Ipad “supplied by the government”, you do so at your own risk. You are also “totally responsible” for the phone, Ipad, you “mobile” around with. You lose, or it gets stolen or damaged, it’s on you.

The taxpayers will not settle for anything less and I know DoD won’t either.

For me, I’ll keep my desktop on my desk at work, and say good bye to it every night as I shut the light and close the door, “knowing”, it is exactly where I left it. And knowing that “my cell phone” is “my cell phone”.

I find it so odd that the push is on for cloud computing and mobile devices in government,…and yet, in my little corner of the world there is a big push back…..”for security reasons”. Those three little words suck all the innovation and forward thinking right out of you.