NIST seeks vulnerability analysis for military Android apps

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Security tools would test range of mobile software applications used on the battlefield.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking vulnerability analysis and security scanning for the Pentagon’s Android software applications, according to a solicitation posted Thursday.

The tools will be used to audit intelligence and imagery applications used by ground troops on tablets and handheld devices in Iraq and Afghanistan. The solicitation, which closes Aug. 24, did not disclose whether there was an incumbent contractor performing this task and whether it would be invited to rebid.

The creation of a secure architecture would bolster a digital distribution platform for apps that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been trying to roll out through an initiative called Transformative Apps.

The platform was envisioned to be similar to an app store where users download music and games onto smartphones, but security standards have to be higher because the programs available on the platform are used for sensitive missions.

The apps could be used to collect and push data to a widely-used map-based intelligence program called Tactical Ground Reporting, better known as TIGR in military circles. TIGR allows ground troops to log bomb threats, observations and incidents, weaving intelligence gathered by soldiers onto maps so that military strategists can get better situational awareness in theater to make decisions.

Vulnerability testing tools that are not commercially available would be needed to prevent malware-ridden apps from infecting military systems. If a successful security framework can be established for the app marketplace, this would reinforce Android as the favored operating system in the military.