Air Force rules target BlackBerry security

Most Bluetooth functionality to be disabled

The Air Force is enacting this month strict rules and regulations governing how its personnel are allowed to use Air Force-issued BlackBerry smart phones as a way to improve security associated with the devices, reports Nathan Hodge at Wired.

The move is part of a larger initiative requiring BlackBerry and Windows mobile devices to be public key infrastructure enabled so that they can send and receive secure e-mail messages.

The 24th Air Force, which is the command responsible for defending Air Force network operations, will oversee the new security measures, according to an Air Force public affairs story.

As part of the security changes, users will no longer have the capability to send or receive text messages with photos or videos; namely, they will only be able to transmit and receive text messages. In addition, users will not be able to download applications to their devices from the Internet.

Users who try to sync a device with outdated software will get a “force load” message. When this happens, the user will have only one opportunity to decline updating the software. Any subsequent syncing attempts will disable the device until the software is updated.

As for Bluetooth functionality, it will be almost completely disabled. The only Bluetooth feature that will continue to function is the one linking the device to the smart-card reader cradle, a device that holds the user’s Common Access Card personal identification used for computer and network security. Moreover, users will no longer will be able to connect their smart-card reader cradle to their computer.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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Reader comments

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 Robert France

Hm.. strict. but on the other hand - fair. I know from my own experience - the less there are distractions - the better work goes. It kind of obvious, but we don't pay much attention to it before we see work results. ------------------------------- the developer of DOT

Mon, Jun 28, 2010 S VA

Re: Bob @ NoVA -- Actually, USAF regulations prohibits the driver from answering the phone while driving. The driver would have to pull over or wait until they reach their destination to answer (same goes for reading emails). Now if only we could get the rest of the world to leave their phones alone while driving, we'd be okay.

Tue, Mar 30, 2010 Bob NoVA

Correct me if I am wrong, but won't disabling Bluetooth accept for smartcard readers mean that Bluetooth headsets, needed to talk & drive these days in many states, will no longer work? So will the Air Force pay the tickets for people not using headsets but taking work related calls?

Tue, Mar 30, 2010 John Griffith California

It appears that in the name of security we in DoD are relegated to carrying a brick (two bricks) to have a phone and a text message device. Assuming for the moment that this security is warranted, wouldn't it make more sense to use a lighter and much less expensive device or two separate devices like the old pager style Blackberry and a simple basic phone? The prices DoD pays for these Blackberrys is outlandish to have such a crippled device.

Mon, Mar 29, 2010

Navy and USMC has had these Blackberry rules in place for over two years. USAF is only now implementing these DISA recommendations (STIGs)?

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