Mobile phone and tablets

Just what does NIST consider a mobile device?

Any guide to mobile technology is a work in progress, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology has updated its guidance on securing mobile devices in Special Publication 800-124.  One of the first chores of the publication is defining “mobile device.”


Assume a device will fall into malicious hands

NIST has updated its guidance for securely managing mobile devices, addressing advances in the technology and the move toward BYOD since its original publication in 2008. Read more.

“Mobile device features are constantly changing, so it is difficult to define the term ‘mobile device,’” the authors write. The characteristics defining the devices addressed in the publication are:

A small form factor.

At least one wireless network interface for network access for data communications. This interface can use Wi-Fi, cellular networking or other technologies that connect to the Internet or other data networks.

Local non-removable data storage.

An operating system that is not a full-fledged desktop or laptop operating system. (This distinction is being blurred by development of operating systems to be used on devices across the board from smart phones to desktops. “Once it has been determined how they should be secured, this publication will be updated accordingly.”)

Applications provided with the mobile device, accessed through a Web browser or acquired and installed from third parties.

Other common characteristics include:

  • Network services that can include voice, personal-area networking or near-field communications and Global Positioning System-enabled location-based services.
  • One or more digital cameras or video recording devices.
  • Microphone.
  • Storage support for removable media or for using the device itself as removable storage for another computing device.
  • Built-in features for synchronizing locally held data with that on a different device, such as a desktop or laptop computer, organization servers, telecommunications provider servers or other third party servers.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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