DOD looking for 'good enough' mobile security

Security is imperative to the Defense Department as it moves toward greater use of mobile computing, but DOD leaders want to be practical about it.

“You’re going to see a lot of headlines that say ‘secure mobility.’ Blank that out. I want you to insert the words ‘secure enough mobility’,” DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen said in a keynote today at AFCEA’s DOD CIO Mobility Industry Day. “What is secure enough?” This question, Halvorsen said, is something that DOD and those in industry are going to have to determine. 

DOD wants “mobile devices to be able to be used in the hands of the warfighter anywhere anytime,” Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the event, held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

“Bottom-up solutions are good, but we need the enterprised approach,” Bowman said. “We need it faster. We need a single, good-enough solution. One that doesn’t try to solve every problem. We don’t need something that is so big and does so many things that it’s going to be a huge program, that it’s going to come on a huge truck and it’s going to come late. We need that handheld device now.”

The notion of a device being good enough or secure enough addresses the challenges DOD, as well as industry, face in implementing programs such as allowing personnel to use their own devices for official tasks. The “bring your own device,” or BYOD, paradigm has posed distinct problems for the defense industry, which operates in austere and classified spaces.

“I do think in DOD there will be some place where we can use bring your own device – I do not think that’s going to be the majority of our operations just because of the complexities of trying to manage that even in a secure enough vein,” said Halvorsen, noting that DOD is behind in its the BYOD pilot. Even Fortune 50 companies are struggling with the complexity of managing all those devices, he said. 

“I think there will be a niche for BYOD in DOD but I don’t think it’s going to be our big answer,” Halvorsen said. “I really think our answer is going to be a hybrid where we say ‘here are the devices and there will be a limited number of them so if you want to get one of those’” you can use it. 

 Functionality, speed and security what’s important in the operational domain. Bowman recalled a recent incident in Afghanistan where secure mobile devices would have made a huge difference. “We had a situation in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago where some pictures were taken and needed to be sent back to the states. And because of the devices that they were using it took a number of hours to be able to do that,” he said. “If we had a secure mobile device, we could have done it in minutes.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

Defense Systems Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.