recommended reading

Evil Charging Stations, Smartphone Hackers: NIST Outlines Mobile Threats


A federal agency is outlining the many ways an organization's mobile devices could be vulnerable to outside threats. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published a "mobile threat catalogue" that broadly sketches out parts of a mobile device strategy that need special attention, including securing physical access to smartphones and tablets, as well as authenticating who is using the device with passwords, fingerprints or voice recognition. 

Security managers often "address or secure the apps on a phone and protect the operating system from potential threats," but there's a wider set of threats, NIST cybersecurity engineer Joshua Franklin said in an agency post. 

"[E]nterprise security teams often don’t focus on the cellular radios in smartphones, which, if not secured, can allow someone to eavesdrop on your CEO’s calls," he wrote. 

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

NIST's general threat categories include the mobile devices themselves, which could be physically lost or unknowingly download malware when plugged into malicious charging stations, the draft said. Every element of a device's supply chain could also be vulnerable.

"[M]obile device components are under constant development and are sourced from tens of thousands of original equipment manufacturers," according to NIST. Firmware could contain its own vulnerabilities, and "can increase the overall attack surface of the mobile device."

NIST is looking for public comment on the draft until Oct. 12, 2016. Comments should be sent to 

The draft follows the Homeland Security Department's recent efforts to secure mobile devices internally; this summer, the department began searching for technology that can protect not only devices themselves but also the apps, operating systems and Wi-Fi networks, among other elements, a FedBizOpps posting said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.