BlackBerry gets ATO from DISA

BlackBerry has released two government-focused smartphones in recent months. Both the BlackBerry Q10 with its classic keyboard design and the BlackBerry Z10 with its large-screen interface both received positive reviews from GCN. This week the company also got good news from the Defense Information System Agency, which certified both models running BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 with the Authority to Operate (ATO) on all Department of Defense networks. BlackBerry is the first mobile device management (MDM) provider to obtain an ATO.

Receiving the ATO is a critical step forward in the security certification process. The approval demonstrates that BlackBerry 10 smartphones meet DOD’s most stringent security requirements. BlackBerry 10 smartphones will let DOD personnel securely connect to networks and access assets from work. The BlackBerry mobile infrastructure ensures the personal and the agency information on a user’s phone are kept separate and safe.

With the ATO awarded, DISA is now developing the infrastructure to support BlackBerry 10 smartphones. DISA is building the capacity to support 10,000 BlackBerry 10 devices by this fall, and 30,000 by the end of 2013 on DOD networks. 

“Being the first smartphones to be supported on the U.S. Department of Defense network further establishes BlackBerry’s proven and validated security model,” said Scott Totzke, senior vice president of the BlackBerry Security Group. “With foreign entities, governmental and criminal, ramping up attacks on electronic communications and information systems, BlackBerry provides government agencies with a proven partner that follows top-to-bottom security protocols.”

Posted by John Breeden II on Aug 08, 2013 at 1:45 PM2 comments

military-grade comm

Civilian agencies can get military-grade comm on standard Android phones

I used to love watching a show on The History Channel called “Tactical to Practical.” Host Hunter Ellis would examine military solutions to problems that crossed over into civilian life. For example, he showed how four-wheel drive vehicles in World War II became modern-day jeeps, or how GPS was used in Operation Desert Storm before exploding into everyday life.

As terrible as war is, one has to admit that it's a proving ground for technology. How advanced would we be today if America had decided to stay out of World War II?

So it was interesting to hear that Motorola Solutions, makers of a lot of back-end phone technology (and military radios during World War II) and Fixmo, a company that specializes in mobile security and risk management, were teaming up to bring military-grade secure communications to Android phones, complete with encrypted calls and data.

The product is called Mobile Device Management and Integrity Verification solutions for Android and will be offered as part of Motorola’s AME 2000 Secure Mobile Solution for the government sector. It's made up of two main components, the Fixmo Sentinel Integrity Verification Service, which makes sure two phones connect securely and remain so for the full transaction, and the Fixmo SafeZone Secure Workspace Solution, which lets users separate their personal and work communications into separate areas and assign different security levels to each one.

The entire package is not going all the way to the public, but is making the jump from strictly military applications to those in civilian agencies and law enforcement, where the need for secure communications is still quite great.

So you have Motorola providing the hardware and back-end expertise, and Fixmo adding its layers of security, just like with military customers.

Specifically, AME 2000 integrates a commercial smartphone running an Android-based operating system with advanced hardware and software security features, enabling encrypted voice and data communications as well as advanced policy management, compromise detection and compliance assurance. Government organizations can now expand their mobility deployments and take advantage of the latest Android platform and mobile apps while ensuring private communications and sensitive information remain protected and within compliance guidelines.

“Working together, Fixmo and Motorola Solutions provide government officials with the kind of mobile security that allows them to confidently take their devices on the road and outside the walls of a secured facility,” said Fixmo CEO Rick Segal. “By leveraging Fixmo’s unique ability to verify the state of each mobile device and to proactively prevent security and compliance breaches, AME 2000 customers can embrace the full potential of modern smartphones and real-time communications without sacrificing security, integrity, compliance or employee productivity.”

So I suppose we won't see this on an episode of “Tactical to Practical” quite yet, but it's still a great example of how technology designed for the military can expand to serve a larger audience, even if that entire audience is still within the government.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:59 AM0 comments

People holding screens of different sizes

Government users want larger screens, and Apple may be listening

We recently reported on Hewlett-Packard's attempts, along with those by Acer and a few others, to try and bring an Android-based desktop PC to market. Besides more powerful processors and fewer size-based restrictions on components such as memory, the biggest feature in these new PC/Android hybrids would be the larger screens.

In the case of the HP model, called Slate21, the screen size is 21 inches. It's designed to be used with a kickstand as a desktop computer, but also be portable — though at 21-inches, it's gets into the luggable category.

I asked GCN's government readers and my Twitter followers (you can follow me too: @gcnlabguys) if a large screen was really that big of deal. Quite a few people said it was, and that they found that applications worked better with more real estate.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. When I reviewed the Citrix Receiver, a program for secure sharing of desktop applications to mobile screens that is already being used by several government customers, I made it a point to test the software on lots of different devices. It worked regardless of platform on Android phones, iOS tablets and BlackBerry devices. However, devices with larger screens were much easier to work with. Looking at a huge spreadsheet on a tiny 4-inch iPhone 5 screen required a lot of scrolling around and finger gestures, despite how quickly the program responded. Things were a little roomier on 9.7-inch tablets and larger smart phones, but there was still a lot of work involved. I couldn't really shrink the screen to fit more data because the text became too small to be readable, so I had to go over it section by section.

Feds who were using similar programs to share their desktops remotely told me that larger screens equaled better productivity. Apps designed to run on smaller screens could always be minimized to run within a window on bigger tablets, but trying to use a full-screen program on a tiny screen was a pain. Two people told me that they chose one of the larger Samsung Galaxy phones running the Android OS over an Apple iOS-based phone simply based on screen size. One person said he preferred his iPhone, but not for work, because the screen's real estate was simply too small.

Apple has thus far refused to consider larger screens, but encroachment of the larger-screened tablets, especially from Samsung, may have the company reconsidering. The Wall Street Journal reported  Apple was experimenting with larger iPhones and bigger iPads, too. Apple spokespeople refused to comment on that rumor, but given Apple's recent 22-percent drop in profit this quarter, and people’s apparent need for larger-screened devices, it would make sense that the company might want to catch up and grow their panels a bit.

So the moral of the story is that size does apparently matter. Everyone who commented to me said they might be interested in a 21-inch screen running the Android OS, but said it was possible that something that large might be a bit of overkill, removing it entirely from the portable market. Perhaps some type of happy medium might be in order, though I think, in general, that screen sizes will likely continue to increase for all devices.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jul 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM0 comments