Americas Army comic now free app for iOS and Android

America's Army deploys to almost every mobile device

The America's Army game, probably the most successful gamification project in the history of government, turns eleven-years old this year. One of the best recruiting tools in the Army's arsenal, there are plans for a sequel, America’s Army: Proving Grounds, to be launched later this year.

The game has been played by millions of people, and it has even won several awards from the game industry while going head to head against other massively multiplayer titles. And I can see why. It’s fun to play, yet it also teaches about Army life. More than once I've thought about joining up after a long play session, until my wife brought me back to reality.

To further broaden the audience, the game launched its own comic book spin-off as a free app for iOS and Android devices. The comics are somewhat interactive too, giving readers choices that highlight the goals and advantages of a career in the Army.

While the core game is mostly about action, the comic books, produced by Michael Barnett, written by M. Zachary Sherman and illustrated by Scott Brooks, often look into life on the home front. I think that is an area that is sometimes overlooked when considering a career in the Army, so it's great that the comics focus on it.

Now the comics are going big time, with a deal that puts them into the IDW publishing group, which means that they will soon be distributed on nearly every single mobile and computer platform in existence. That includes iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook, Windows 8, the Web, Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo. It’s another good example of an agency leveraging mobile computing for public outreach.

And the announcement of the IDW deal coincides with the release of four new America's Army Comics: 

  • America’s Army Issue 1: Knowledge is Power
  • America’s Army Issue 2: Rise to the Challenge
  • America’s Army Issue 3: Under a Watchful Eye
  • America’s Army Issue 4: Escalation

Over the coming months, the Army will release new issues that further the plot for the game’s missions and maps. And now those comics will be available to a very wide audience.

Oh, and if anyone happens to be at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, M. Zachary Sherman and  Scott Brooks will be signing special edition art and comics at the IDW booth.

I plan to enjoy the new comics on my mobile devices, and I'll be in line to grab the new game, too. I just hope I can keep away from the recruiting office this time.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jul 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM0 comments

Precise Biometrics Tactivo case for iPad and iPhone

Sleek case adds two layers of security to iPhones, iPads

The advancement of smart phones and the government's increasing embrace of “bring your own device” policies are turning cell phones into network clients. In fact, a recent user survey found that when all data service uses were combined, they easily outpace talk time as the primary use for phones.

It's easy to make the case these days that mobile devices are really just tiny enterprise clients, but they are more than that, because they leave the building on a regular basis, increasing their risk factor exponentially. Thieves and hackers are getting more sophisticated in their quest to exploit government and private data.

While desktops and workstations have the advantage of robust physical security to keep fraudsters from tapping into the enterprise, a smart phone offering that same window into an agency's network walks out the door each evening.

The problem is that most smart phones are designed for consumer use, often without rigid security. They might have a password requirement, though I've tested forensic devices that can crack those in short order.

It's getting to the point where a phone used for BYOD in government service really should have biometric security. But what if that limits the choice of cell phone or tablet? If workers want to use their Apple iPads at the office, can anything that can be done?

As a matter of fact, yes. We've actually found good results with add-on products that can greatly improve security. The latest entry into this realm is from Precise Biometrics. The company has created the Tactivo case, which adds both a smart card and a fingerprint reader to iOS devices.

Tactivo has both GSA Schedule approval and FIPS 201 certification — it  supports Common Access Card, Personal Identity Verification, PIV-I and Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards. That means that by installing one device, a non-secure iPad could suddenly support two-factor authentication, such as a fingerprint and a government card swipe for access. If a password is used, then it's triple authentication that is required before the device even hits network security.

"This latest GSA approval of Tactivo for iPad is pivotal to our ongoing rollout and delivery of mobile authentication solutions for federal agencies," said Thomas Marschall, the company’s CEO and president.

Tactivo for iPad (4th Generation) can now be found on the GSA Approved Product List, designating the transparent smart card reader compliant with all FIPS 201 mandates and OMB Memorandum 11-11.

A true BYOD program requires that employees be able to choose whatever device they feel comfortable working with, but government agencies also need to be a little more heavy-handed because of security needs. Devices like the Tactivo can help agencies balance the two.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jun 27, 2013 at 9:58 AM0 comments

Businessman putting flash drive in his suit pocket

As the mobile workforce grows, faith in data security lags

Imation, the company that makes the IronKey secure key drives, has released the results of a survey showing that, despite robust mobile security policies that require protected key drives and encryption, confidence in the security of data on the road remains critically low. We wonder if IronKey was hoping to find higher confidence.

We've advocated tough security for mobile devices in government for years, and Imation was among the first to release a FIPS Level-3 certified thumb drive that not only locked down data with encryption, but it also protected it from physical tampering, destroying the data if anyone tried to crack open the protective armor surrounding the internal circuits.

The Imation survey did not specifically query government, but insofar as government can be considered a large enterprise, the attitudes of top government executives are likely not too far off from the 500 private-sector IT managers who were surveyed.

The biggest surprise is that less than half of the people in charge of IT at their companies trust data security on the road. While 73 percent of respondents were “extremely confident” of data security in the office, that confidence fell to 55 percent for teleworkers, and dropped again to 47 percent when employees are on the road.

The lowered confidence of data on the road existed despite the almost universal application of some form of mobile device usage policy. Separating out just U.S.-based companies, 95 percent of them had a policy that required some form of protection, be it encryption on the device or some form of central management. In fact, the United States was far ahead of the rest of the world in that area, with the next highest level of mobile data security adoption occurring in the United Kingdom, with 80 percent, followed by Canada with 73 percent and Germany with 53 percent.

Imation blames the confidence gap on user behavior and advocated even tighter controls. "The confidence gap among IT security pros, despite enforced security policies on mobile devices, demonstrates the disconnect between the policies themselves and user behavior," said Lawrence Reusing, Imation’s general manager for mobile security. "The fact is that the policies can’t control what users do with the organization’s data.”

Imation recommends employing available technologies to ensure a secure mobile workspace, something the administration is promoting with its recently released Mobile Security Reference Architecture, and what is at the heart of pending legislation such as the Federal Information Security Management Act Amendments of 2013, which recently passed the House on a unanimous vote.

It would be interesting to see a survey strictly of government IT workers, though the results would likely be similar. FIPS Level-3 mobile storage devices have only been around in large numbers for a couple years, and they will work their way into agencies gradually. Mobile policies are still evolving.

But this is all critically important because the number of mobile workers, in private companies and in government, is only going to increase. The Imation survey notes that the IDC's recent mobile worker forecast shows that the number of mobile or telecommuting workers is predicted to reach 1.3 billion by 2015. By then, 37.2 percent of all workers worldwide will be telecommuting or totally mobile. So locking down a working mobile security policy that IT bosses can be confident in now should be a top priority.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jun 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM0 comments