TSA is the latest U.S. federal agency to make a significant investment in Apple technologies in what may be a move away from RIM’s BlackBerry and Windows PCs. The agency is set to start a pilot program that will run over the next three years and will involve heavy investment in Macs, iPhones, iPads, and even Apple TVs.
According to federal documents (PDF link), the security agency plans to spend $3 million on Apple products and has an amazingly wide range of uses for them in mind. The plans go well beyond the scope of Apple investments made by other U.S. government agencies like the EPA and FAA, which focus primarily on iPhones and/or iPads.
In documents justifying its decision to purchase equipment from Apple without a traditional federal bidding process, TSA officials describe a wide range of Apple solutions and situations in which they expect to use them. The program involves 1,000 Macs and 1,000 additional devices including iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs.
In describing the adoption of Macs, the agency explains that many will be used to produce various types of video content using Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Some uses include developing training videos, interagency operations, and weekly video briefings. iOS devices will be evaluated as solutions for delivering those briefings to officers at security checkpoints and elsewhere.
Macs are also cited as being critical to the agency’s ability to conduct forensic investigation of Macs and other devices. TSA specifically lists cyber security incidents as a type of investigation for which it needs Macs. Justifying Macs over PCs, the agency notes that there are some Mac forensic tools not available on other platforms. Although the documents don’t specify which forensic tool it plans to use but solutions from BlackBag Technologies are likely choices.
A full range of Apple devices will be used for cyber security testing, which may lead to deployment of Macs and/or iOS devices to security officers and screeners.
Not surprisingly, the Apple TV purchases are intended to function as portable training and presentation systems. As we’ve covered previously, many organizations including businesses and schools are migrating to Apple TVs paired with iOS devices or Macs as a training and presentation option.
The agency also has plans for using FaceTime on a variety of devices. It’s worth noting that FaceTime uses encryption that meets some federal standards including the healthcare privacy regulation known as HIPAA.
TSA also plans to begin developing iOS apps for travelers and potentially for internal use. For internal use, the agency also has a range of apps that it plans to deploy using purchases from the App Store. That list includes Google Translate, FastCase, CFR, SmartTraveler, Travel Emergency, FBI Most Wanted, Amtrak, AmberAlerts, FlightTrack, Weather, Good for Enterprise, and Quickoffice.