Neutering iPads to make them safe in secure environments

How to make iPads safe for government? 'Neuter' them.

Mobile devices can add a lot of productivity to enterprises, but how do agencies with sensitive missions protect themselves from devices that can take pictures and easily send out data? One way is to “fix” the devices according to agency requirements.

CACI International, for example, has “neutered thousands” of Apple iPads so they can be securely used by the government, altering the hardware rather than the software, Dan Allen, CACI’s former chief executive officer, recently told Bloomberg. CACI removed the iPad’s cameras, disabled Bluetooth connectivity, and, for highly classified area workers, removed 3G, 4G LTE, and Wi-Fi connectivity, according to a report in the Inquisitr. CACI has also added “strict inventory requirements,” and remote wipe capabilities that would completely erase all data on the iPads. 

An increasing number of government agencies are opting for Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Last year, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s CIO Office released its Mobile Device Security Policy, allowing mobile devices that can be securely managed through its Unified Messaging Service, including iPhones, iPads and conventional cell phones, while phasing out support for BlackBerry.

Government entities using or opening their networks to iPhones include President Barack Obama, the Defense and Homeland Security departments, and the FBI. Allen noted that President Obama’s devices are “most likely a product that either came from us or came from someone we work with.”

The Defense Department also has been working on ways to secure Android devices, including the development of a secure kernel for the OS and establishing a departmentwide mobility plan. Police departments also have been working to secure communications with mobile devices.

Of course, setting up agency-issued devices is one thing. Managing employees’ personal devices can get more complicated. One approach being developed is using software to limit the range in which devices can access data.

Jules White, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, has developed a modified Android operating system that can set rules for when employees can access data, what data they can access, whether they can take that data with them, and what other apps they can run at the time.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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