The VA’s mobile security chief offers IT leaders five excellent tips for securing mobile devices.
Like many federal agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs has embarked on the journey of integrating iPhones and iPads as mobile solutions. The agency currently has 20,000 mobile devices that includes iPhones and iPads along with some BlackBerries and a small number of Android devices. Despite the range of devices, the VA has been very active in trying to eliminate mobile data breaches and, according to the VA’s director of Mobile and Security Assurance Donald Kachman, the agency’s campaign has been extremely successful.
Kachman credits encryption technologies with as a major factor in that success – 99% of all VA data is now secured around the clock on mobile devices and desktop PCs. The security approach is one that can be a model for any organization.
The U.S. Government Printing Office now offers reports, documents, and ebooks via Apple’s iBookstore.
In a somewhat ironic move, the U.S. government has entered into an ebook deal with Apple that will see a range of government reports, documents, and ebooks published in Apple’s iBookstore. The partnership, which was announced earlier this week, coincides with the Department of Justice’s latest legal filings in its anti-trust suit against Apple.
The deal with the Government Printing Office (GPO) will make a wide swath of documents and ebooks available through the iBookstore. While some government documents are available for free, a number of documents and full-length ebooks are not.
What lessons can businesses and app developers learn from the federal government?
The U.S. federal government may not be where you’d expect to see mobile innovation or find good app development suggestions. While there’s still a public sector bureaucracy in government, a number of government agencies are beginning to develop new ways to connect with citizens and invest in mobile technologies for internal use.
Granted, most agencies are doing so because of requirements under the Obama administration’s 21st Century Digital Government Strategy. One of which is that every federal agency must make two high-value, customer-facing services available via mobile devices over the next year. Still, the innovation is happening and the agencies that have already taken up the challenge are good models for agencies that have yet to do so.
They’re also good sources of advice for any organization that is beginning to develop an iOS or mobile app strategy.
IT administrators have finally warmed up to the iPhone and now rank it as more secure than the BlackBerry.
The perception of the BlackBerry as the most secure and manageable mobile platform seems to be faltering. According to a new report, senior IT administrators now consider Apple’s iOS to be the most secure and manageable platform – despite the fact that RIM offers ten times the number of security and device management policies that Apple provides in iOS.
Vet Reach Out is one of the finalists in the Project REACH app contest sponsored by the VA and JBJ Soul Foundation.
Department of Veterans Affairs is no stranger iOS devices or to developing custom apps to help deliver key services to veterans and their families. In fact, the VA’s CIO last year said that the agency needed to become “iPad friendly” in order to effectively support the agency’s physicians, nurse, and other medical staff and an iOS pilot program was launched earlier this year.
More recently, the VA has been looking for ways that mobile technology can help homeless veterans find food, shelter, and other critical resources. To achieve that goal and raise awareness of veteran homelessness across the country (one out of six homeless adults in America is a veteran), the VA has teamed up with JBJ Soul Foundation, the non-profit charity created by music legend Jon Bon Jovi to launch an iOS/Android app contest called Project REACH.
iPads help USDA service survey farmers and collect agriculture data across the country.
The USDA is working its way through an ambitious iPad deployment that may come to serve as a model for a range of government agencies within the U.S. and around the world. The challenge was to develop a simple, intuitive, and effective field survey and data collection system.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is a division of the USDA that is charged with surveying and reporting agricultural data across the country. NASS operates in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. With a staff of around 3,000 enumerators NASS conducts thousands of survey each year about agriculture across the country. The service has been operating since the mid-1800s and, until the iPad, it conducted surveys and collected data in pretty much the same way that it had back in the 19th century – with paper forms filled out by hand and mailed to various field offices. Although various technology initiatives have been tried by NASS since the 1980s, none was a successful fit before the iPad.
The Navy wants iPads in the Pentagon for its Executive dining room.
We’ve seen the iPad used in a range of workplaces. Although some are surprising, like industrial farming and the Vatican, most are a bit more pedestrian. The U.S. Navy is planning to use iPads in a way that is both pedestrian and very high-end.
According to a recent government contract that is up for bid, the Navy plans to include iPads in a revamp of its Executive Dining Facility in the Pentagon. The dining room is often used by the Secretary of the Navy and regularly plays host to high-level Pentagon guests.
If RIM does go belly up, can Apple be ready to meet the security needs of RIM’s customers?
It’s getting almost painful to read reports about RIM. The ongoing hype about how great BlackBerry 10 will be mixed with the reports of layoffs, inventory sitting around warehouses, the company’s share price plummeting – it all reminds me of the time one of my high school friends broke her ankle in gym class and hobbled around for nearly half a day trying to convince herself that she’d only sprained it.
Among all that news, however, is a question – can organizations that need incredible security manage in a world without RIM and the manageability made possible by its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)? Is iOS up to that challenge? Is Apple up to or interested in making a major play for the enterprise market?
TSA plans massive pilot project using $3 million worth of Apple products
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.
Good offers a complete platform for information security
May is Mobile Management Month at Cult of Mac, where we will be profiling a different mobile management company every weekday. You can find all previous entries here and read our Mobile Management manifesto here.
Although Good does provide device and app management, its primary focus is securing business data. To that end, the company effectively segregates all business information and documents on a device from a user’s personal content. To accomplish this Good’s iOS app delivers the same features as Apple’s Mail, Calendar, and Contacts apps – a move that ensures business messages event data are always secure. Good also includes a secure web browser and secure on-device document and data storage. The secure data store is sandboxed and can restrict users from copying data to unapproved apps as well as prevent such apps from accessing business documents or files.Good also provides a government agency solution that has been certified to meet various government and military standards for secure access including two-factor authentication.
Good leverages these technologies through a new solution called Good Dynamics that allows other companies, including mobile management vendor Boxtone who we profiled earlier in this series, to take advantage of Good’s secure data store. See our Good Dynamics coverage for more details.