Military to focus on smart phone security chasms

Symantec warns that mobile devices are targets

Military personnel can be linked into a vital network rich with information from across a war zone and back home using smart phones. 

As the military looks to provide making mobile devices essential tools in its arsenal, the question of security is becoming an increasingly vital issue.

Researchers at the antivirus software company Symantec explained in a Feb. 23 briefing that security might become a major preoccupation for smart phone users in the military as interest in the devices buoys, reports Colin Clark of DOD Buzz.

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National Security Agency certification is being sought by the military for iPhones. There’s also been research on how to both iPhones and Androids secure enough to be used in theater, the DOD Buzz story said.

But cyber bandits run rampant in today’s world. Smart phones “are a really rich target,” Joe Pasqua, Symantec’s vice president for research, told reporters.

Pasqua added that Android applications receive “no security screening before they are released,” reports the Buzz. And it seems there’s no “app” for the iPhone to secure itself, as it only receives “a cursory scrub.” Pasqua told reporters that the malware that apps can pick up has enough heft to “take down a cell tower.”

Another concern is that mobile devices can be turned into botnets, although no one has ever created one,  Pasqua said. A botnet is a group of computers that, although their owners are unaware of it, have been set up to forward transmissions, including attacks, to other computers. According to a report from Russian-based Kaspersky Labs, botnets -- not spam, viruses, or worms -- pose the biggest threat to the Internet. A report from Symantec came to a similar conclusion, according to Information Security magazine.

Encryption and locks on phone applications are two solutions in making the phones more secure, according to DOD Buzz.

While all mobile devices are vulnerable to threats, military smart phone networks bring up major concerns. To make matters more complicated, the Army is looking to make the mobile devices ubiquitous among its troops.

This week the Army announced it wants to broaden its networked phone plan to soldiers at all levels, including squads and teams. All eyes will be watching how the Army’s Common Operating Environment works out as a potential game changer.

Rolled out in October 2010, it is a series of computing technologies and standards that boasts secure and interoperable applications that can be developed quickly within the system and executed across a variety of computing environments. 

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.

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