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Invictus Insights April 01, 2019

Maturing Secure Mobile Computing in the DoD

By: Jonathan Coughlin

Mobile computing has matured significantly in the past forty years. The Department of Defense (DoD) has long had platforms to perform mobile computing missions, yet there has been a move away from specialized systems to ruggedized laptops, commercial tablets and cell phones expected to perform the same functions. This trend is due in part to the warfighter demand for field equipment to have the same form and function as devices they use at home. This familiarity leads to an intuitive use of the devices and better feedback from field to development teams. The use of commercially-produced mobile computing end-user devices is cost-effective and meets the size, weight and power requirements traditionally required for expeditionary missions.

DoD is making good on many sustainable and green initiatives by leveraging mobile computing devices to reduce an agency’s environmental footprint. The Pentagon and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have both benefitted from the use of commercial tablet devices as non-networked e-readers in place of traditional printouts. A single copy of a daily brief at the Pentagon can be more than 500 pages. Staff can update dozens of e-readers in an hour before a meeting whereas it previously took staff an evening shift to prepare briefings for the next day. It is clear to see that leveraging e-readers not only saves man hours but results in cost savings and reduces waste.

Federal use of cell phones has been common for over twenty years. Such programs have traditionally been difficult to maintain; cell-phones are prone to damage or loss, making logistics a losing battle. Some agencies have adopted modified bring your own device (BYOD) policies for their government employees. We have also seen with the BYOD and other technology trends both commercial and government are pushing more data to the edge that equates to requiring more storage and more data which has resulted in increased risk and the need for better protection of devices.

The security risks of such policies are many—exfiltration of data being one of the greatest threats due to lack of enforceable security requirements of personal devices. The use of mobile computing within classified networks is poised to explode in DoD. The impending development and publication of Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 123 will hopefully eliminate or at least reduce the ambiguity and confusion of security requirements presented in the NSA guidance for Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) guidance. Agencies have been tied to architectures that reference CSfC but do not address actual mobile computing devices as security threat vectors. The development of logical and secure community guidance and standards for use of mobile computing in classified wireless areas is critical to securing the DoD security posture.

Invictus participates in the development of these standards through community forums devoted to maturing security guidance for mobile computing. Our team also works to assess and implement secure wireless and mobile computing solutions for DoD customers. Invictus continues to focus on innovating use-cases for secure mobile computing and wireless solutions to provide our customers cost-effective, secure solutions for their mission requirements.

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