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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Reader Comments

Thu, Dec 8, 2011

it's not the cost of the devices that this article is referring to, it's the cost of managing the devices. to manage BBs you have to pay for licenses for each user to have them on BB's server. that cost can stack up quickly. if you remove that recurring fee altogether but the cost of the device is the same, you're better off.

Fri, Dec 2, 2011

I'm interested to understand how they think using a different type of smartphone will reduce costs versus that of a Blackberry. I guess on the one hand there would be more tool options so competition can drive the price but I don't see where BBs cost that much more than equivalent alternatives.

Fri, Dec 2, 2011

I do not think it is so easy to define the boundaries and legal issues around allowing personally owned devices in the government environment. Such as, security incidents/data spillage, you would have to submit your only phone to the security folks and that can take days to weeks and beyond to investigate/resolve.

Fri, Dec 2, 2011

Now that Iphones and androids are going to be able to use this tools, would it not make since just like the private industries to let the Federal agencies give you an allowance towards a some of the selected phones to use for work and personnell use. I see to many people carrying around 2 phones so that they do not get in trouble for using a company phone. We really need to rethink this, plus at least this way that person will be available in case of an emergency, since he/she only carries one cell phone with them. We need to get away form that old saying it is good enough for goverment work.

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