Pentagon’s blueprint for mobile devices lacks security details

U.S. Navy

Strategy offers little guidance for securing specific smartphones and tablets.

This story has been updated.

The Defense Department on Friday released a mobile device strategy that provides top-level policy guidance on the use of smartphones and tablets, but offers no specifics on how to secure them for use on Defense networks.

Defense Chief Information Officer Teresa Takai wrote in a cover letter that the strategy “takes advantage of existing technology, the ability to use or build custom apps, and a workforce increasingly comfortable with mobile devices.”

“This strategy is not simply about embracing the newest technology -- it is about keeping the DoD workforce relevant in an era when information and cyberspace play a critical role in mission success,” Takai wrote.

Commercial smartphones and tablets that run under the Apple, Google Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Symbian operating systems offer a more cost-effective solution than development of custom hardware, the strategy said. But it added, “most do not come equipped out of the box with the security controls, access protocols and necessary security features required by DoD.”

The department “must develop policy and standards to guide the secure, yet rapid adoption of commercial devices” and needs to streamline the approval process for their use, the document said, but did not provide any timeline. The standards and policies also will cover the use of personally owned hardware on Defense networks, it said.

The Pentagon plans to set up a central mobile device management service at the enterprise level to ensure the security of mobile hardware. This will include over-the-air distribution of data, application and configuration settings and registration of end-user devices. Defense “must establish a federated mobile device management service to optimize operation and maintenance,” and support “access control, encryption, malware detection” and security updates, the strategy said.

This approach follows that of the Veterans Affairs Department, which in October 2011 said it planned to use mobile device management to secure Apple hardware used on its network.

Additionally, Defense should beef up its network infrastructure to include broadband 4G LTE cellular service and short-range wireless systems, the policy paper said. The Pentagon also should participate in international wireless standards bodies to help shape those standards to its requirements.

The policy calls for a Defense mobile application development framework and certification process that will support “low-cost, often faster development and delivery of simple but useful function to the warfighter and/or support personnel,” the document said.