U.S. Army to Use Secure Android Devices Soon

by: JoseNovember 18, 2011

Android is covering all bases–including the U.S. Army’s.  Nextgov, a media outfit covering the U.S. government’s information technology agenda, recently reported some interesting news about the government’s embracing the Android platform.

The news agency was able to talk to Michael McCarthy, director of the Army’s smartphone project, who expects Android to get the required approval and certification for use in the defense network by the end of this year. He said that the operating system will meet the National Institutes of Standards and Technology compliance requirements for security in unclassified wireless communications embodied in Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2.

McCarthy also mentioned that Android might also be considered by the National Security Agency for use on its Secret networks.

Young, tech-savvy soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq is one of the reasons why the Army is venturing into Android. McCarthy estimates at most 40% of these soldiers have their own smartphones and even spend around US$100 for airtime.

The use of commercial networks by these soldiers pose some level of threat to the government’s secure network, that’s why the military is coming up with a plan to include smartphones under the government network.

According to McCarthy, the government is also considering the iPhone and the iPad, but approval for these two may come nine months to a year from now. He mentioned that Apple has yet to demonstrate high level of security in its supply chain.

McCarthy further claimed that 20 iPhones, 20 Android smartphones, and 20 Android tablets have already been deployed for testing purposes at one of U.S. Army units in Afghanistan.

This will be another milestone coming for Android. If this goes ahead, it will further fortify the integrity of the Android platform when it comes to security.

It seems that Android is primed for the battlefield.  How does that make you feel as an owner of an Android device?

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  • It will likely not be “Android” that gets certified, but rather a specific implementation by a specific vendor. Samsung and Motorola both have FIPS certification in process, but Samsung is much farther down the road than Motorola. Panasonic’s recently announced “tough” tablets will also include a specialized encryption/decryption chip for offloading those functions from the CPU, which is FIPS certified.