Mobile apps demand collides with security concerns

The Defense Department has an aggressive mobile strategy, but can it keep up with demand and security patches?

 

Mobile apps are embedded in the lives of service members, on and off duty, driving a demand for mission and third-party apps -- and increasing security exposure across government.

Tom Karygiannis, the product VP for Kryptowire, said the company has evaluated the top 100 third-party apps for Apple and Android devices, such as Twitter and Uber, and found that most enterprises use the same 200 or 300 apps -- which can present vulnerabilities.

"We've found apps where we can access their entire Amazon cloud infrastructure, apps that aren't encrypting data in transit, that are exposing [personally identifying information]. This is in the top 100, so these are apps that are well funded and from pretty mature software developers. And we find these all the time," Karygiannis said during a mobile security panel at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Mobile Tech Summit Nov. 29.

Karygiannis said the company hasn't detected malware during these sweeps but has often found vulnerabilities in new releases and updates.

With consumer tech flooding the workplace from fitness trackers to gym equipment, managing those vulnerabilities and patches could also hinder security efforts.

When asked whether agencies are overwhelmed with Android security patches for unclassified apps that ultimately cause them to fail, DOD's deputy chief information security officer Therese Firmin said those apps need to be evaluated.

"If it turns out that [the patches] are causing applications to break then we need to think about what applications that we're putting on those devices. I would hate to leave them unpatched, I think that introduces other concerns," she said during the event.

That issue persists when dealing with legacy IT as well, she said, and it ultimately becomes a mission call: Is the app vital or is it a liability?

"You need to make a mission as the owner of that Android device. Is the mission that they're doing too important that you need to allow [those apps] to continue to operate? And that's going to have to be a decision that's made. We're trying to encourage senior decision-makers to be aware of the risks so that they know what they're accepting."

DOD is still "trying to get a handle on what the threat is and what the vulnerabilities of the devices are," when it comes to the internet of things, Firmin said, adding that DOD allows FitBits in some locations.  The department is also expanding the Defense Information Systems Agency's Purebred pilot program, which pushes security credentials to Android and iPhone devices, to be the default for newly issued devices.

But an Oct. 6 memo on mobile application security requirements will be the North Star for future application development, allowing users to use their DOD-issued devices "as they would their own personal devices in some sense," Firmin said.

The memo distinguishes between managed applications, supported by DOD, and unmanaged applications, "primarily for personal use, which do not reside on the managed side of the device" and which are "typically obtained from the device's native mobile application store."

The Department of Homeland Security has also seen a growing appetite for mobile apps tuned to mission and worker needs.

Vincent Sritapan, a cybersecurity program manager for DHS' Science and Technology Directorate said requests for commercial-device-ready internal and external applications are in high demand.

"Now we're looking at applications that actually can substitute [those devices] so now I can use a commodity phone to do the same types of features," he told FCW. "Before we couldn't do that, you're talking about the coordination of the cameras, checking in the people coming in and alerting to an application that's there -- and it's available to verify that type of stuff. Before it has been single-purpose devices," think fingerprint readers, "and a lot of it is run on Windows CE from back in the day and we still have them and are still trying to secure them."

But even as DHS and DOD increasingly embrace mobile, device security and traffic will remain top issues.

"We need to know if the applications are vulnerable or have malware of some sort. Endpoint protection should also be a part of that, and we don't have that today as a requirement in government. We have it for a laptop but not for the phone," Sritapan said.

"And then there are other things like what do we do about network traffic on mobile devices? On our laptops, we're required to have all data go through the TIC, the trusted internet connection -- that's a requirement. But for mobile we don't necessarily have that or see that. If we tried to capture all mobile traffic and put it through the TIC, the TIC would die. It can't handle the sheer bandwidth of it. Whether it's the architecture that needs to change, we need to figure that out," he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.