Interior seeks to safeguard mobile devices

Interior Department officials are seeking ideas to protect the agency's mobile devices while they’re being used on trips outside of the country.

In a request for information, officials asked for technical solutions that can recognize in real-time when a portable electronic device is being compromised and also allow for real-time fixes to ensure sensitive information is protected on the devices.The agency published the RFI on Aug. 24.

Interior officials travel a lot, even outside the United States, to carry out the department's missions. In fiscal 2011, roughly 1,400 employees went on more than 2,400 trips around the globe in support of Interior’s mission or on official business, according to the RFI. And when they go, they usually take mobile devices with them.

Approximately 16 percent of all Interior’s devices are portable and government issued, such as Blackberries and various tablets. The department is also considering allowing the use of personally-owned devices, as a means of saving the department money.

Interior officials have recognized a real threat to their devices on international travel by curious individuals, organized crime and nation‐state sponsored activities, the RFI states. The threat goes beyond compromising information on a device. The threat lingers even to the point when an employee brings a compromised device back to facilities managed by Interior and connects the device to the network or attempts to connect remotely.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office audited Interior and pointed out deficiencies in its efforts to secure its networks and data on international travel.

Now officials are asking for solutions that would give their technicians enough information about a real-time threat to make good decisions and allay the threat. They would also prefer solutions that allow technicians to manage and monitor devices without ever requiring an administrator to have physical control of the devices. The remedy could extend to wiping the memories of the devices, according to the RFI.

Interior is asking for information by Sept. 7.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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