DOD to allow Android on classified networks

New security standards expected to be approved soon would let devices powered by the Android operating system use the Defense Department's classified networks, according to an Army official.

DOD and National Institute of Standards and Technology are close to approving the standards, according to Michael McCarthy, program manager and director of operations, Army Brigade Modernization Command. The standards will allow service members, DOD personnel and other government users to use the devices on classified networks, including the military’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet).

McCarthy spoke Jan. 24 at the Soldier Technology 2012 conference in Arlington, Va. He said the goal is to have Android smart phones and tablets able to connect to SIPR-level systems by the summer. This development marks a critical step forward for tactical operations and represents the high priority that mobile communications have become, he said.

“There were going to be no information assurance [standards issued] until 2014, but with the groundswell of interest and needs, the agencies responsible for certification are giving this a higher priority,” McCarthy said. “The key is that it allows users from DOD and other agencies to access databases that in the past they couldn’t get to using a smart phone.”

Those databases include mission-command tools such as the Tactical Ground Reporting system used for critical situational awareness in combat, as well as law enforcement databases such as the National Crime Information Center, he said.

“Every agency has information and data that they have to protect. Getting these certifications in place gives us the ability to move in and access and operate those using smart phones and tablets,” he said.

It has taken significant coordination across government agencies to get to this point. Now, the goal of having common standards across the government – led by NIST – isn’t far off, McCarthy said.

“We didn’t have the policies and procedures in place … the security requirements were not designed for use with smart phone technology, and it’s taken a fundamental shift in the policies and procedures to allow us to start looking at ways to do that and at the same time protect the sources, content and users of information. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s important,” he said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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