Tools could put iPhones, Androids on government networks

Agencies looking to bring smart phones into their enterprises will soon have a security option that could make mobile devices feasible.

Good Technology and ActivIdentity have announced a range of government-strength, two-factor mobile authentication and credentialing applications for mobile devices using the Apple iOS and Android operating systems.

The partnership will provide federal employees the same security level as a smart card, but without the need for an attached card slide/reader because the credentialing and security features are installed in the device via a secure microchip.

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The services include strong public-key infrastructure credentials and secure multipurpose Internet mail extensions. This back-end security will offer a more seamless experience because bulky card readers did not work very well with Android and iOS devices, said Jean-Luc Azou, a senior product manager with ActivIdentity.

Good and ActivIdentity officials said their offerings, which will blend the Good for Enterprise and Good for Government capabilities with the authentication technology of ActivIdentity’s ActiveClient Mobile middleware, allow federal agencies to comply with standards such as the Defense Department’s Directive 8100.2 and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. Both directives require strong, two-factor authentication and credentialing applications to access federal networks, which smart phones and tablets were not able to do, company officials said.

Another aim of the effort is to provide a set of tools that will allow developers in federal agencies to easily work with both companies’ capabilities to create secure mobile applications. “Our goal is to make the security [features] as easy to deploy as possible,” said Nicko van Someren, Good Technology’s chief technology officer.

Demand for the capability is being driven by users wanting to access their government e-mail accounts from their mobile devices, van Someren said. This has historically been something only BlackBerrys could do, but Research In Motion’s (RIM’s) devices are expensive to manage on a yearly per-user basis, which has limited the number of devices agencies could afford, he said.

The partnership is another sign of the growing competition RIM is facing in federal and commercial enterprise markets, said Yankee Group senior analyst Chris Marsh. Although RIM still provides a higher overall level of support, Marsh said he expects Android and iOS systems to overtake BlackBerry in North America and Europe within the next two years.

A major hurdle for RIM is that BlackBerries are mainly viewed as e-mail access devices while Android and iOS platforms are seen as application tools, Marsh said. This trend will not likely reverse itself as devices such as the iPad get more traction in government circles, he added.

As an example, he noted that the United Kingdom’s government is considering the possibility of issuing iPads to all of its civil employees to save money on printing costs, and the House of Commons and House of Lords are already using tablets.

The Good/ActivIdentity partnership will allow agencies to deploy and manage a wider variety of devices such as tablet computers to more employees, van Someren explained. The first offerings of the partnership are scheduled to be released in the first half of 2012.


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