Pentagon to get green light for using Apple, Samsung Galaxy devices

Pentagon to get green light for using Apple, Samsung Galaxy devices

Summary: In 2013, consumerisation of IT is taking hold at the Pentagon.

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The US Department of Defense (DoD) is set to give the go-ahead for the Pentagon to use Samsung and Apple smartphones.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the DoD body that determines which tech can be used at  the Pentagon, will rule in the coming fortnight that Samsung's Knox-equipped Galaxy smartphones meet the requirements to merit a Pentagon Security Technology Implementation Guide (STIG), a Defense Department spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

STIGs, methodologies determining how hardware and software should be rolled out in defense agencies, are a key plank of the DOD's Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan (PDF) released in February. The plan sets out proposals to equip the department's 600,000 mobile device users with mobile products based on commercial off-the-shelf offerings beyond BlackBerry.

Previously DISA staff would review software or hardware products individually to see if they met the requirements for a STIG, which would then be developed for each device that passed muster. Now, however, tech companies are given a set of guidelines to adhere to in advance, and are asked to develop their own STIGs, which are then vetted by DISA.

When DISA rules Galaxy devices have met the STIG guidelines, the handsets will officially get the green light for use in some Pentagon agencies for purposes including sending and receiving internal email, according to the WSJ. (ZDNet has asked the DoD for comment, and will update the story if we receive any.)

DISA is also expected to rule in early May that Apple's iOS 6 devices conform to a different security requirement guide, the spokesperson added, clearing both Apple's iPhone and iPad for use by military agencies for non-classified communications.

The purpose is to streamline multi-vendor purchasing processes and "eliminate the need for security reviews at the individual DOD organisation level", the spokesperson told the WSJ.

The expected decisions come as Samsung makes a concerted push into the enterprise with its Knox-based security-enhanced Android that it plans to ship with its latest flagship, the Galaxy S4.

The DoD is currently in the pilot stage of its Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan, and is running two trials — one classified, one unclassified — which will introduce app store and mobile device management (MDM) support. 

The unclassified pilot is laying the groundwork to for the DoD to support mobile products from multiple vendors, easing the way for department's agencies to purchase from once the handset makers hand over their STIGs for assessment.

In the initial phase of the pilot, which concluded last month, 1500 DISA-provided devices from different vendors were trialled. For the second phase, 5,000 multi-vendor devices will be supported across the Army, Air Force, Navy, Joint Staff, and Combatant Command users. DISA will also implement MDM and an app store platform that will support up to 25,000 users this year. It plans to increase its capability to 100,000 devices by the second quarter of 2014.

The classified pilot began in November 2012, which includes a DARPA secure iPad, and a United States Special Operations Command BlackBerry for 'top secret' classified information. This is aimed at building processes so that commercial devices and commercial mobile networks can be used to protect National Security Systems data.

This initially supported 500 devices within the US. Between March and September 2013 it will be extended to users abroad while capacity is increased to 1500 devices. It's also planning to deliver 'top secret' classified communications over VoIP.

From on October onwards, the classified pilot will aim to provide centralised management and control of secure classified mobile communications services and devices, along with initial implementations of MDM and mobile app stores.  

Topics: Government US, Apple, Mobility, Samsung

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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13 comments
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  • Wow. How long have these products been out?

    I knew the government moved slowly, but still....
    William Farrel
    • It's all about the CIA

      Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability...
      Oh, and don' t forget $$$
      Who wants the tax payers to hand over even more money so the DoD can spend millions to be able play Angry Birds?
      tomxfoolery
  • Countdown

    Flame war in 3...2...
    celliott113
  • Buy American?

    While I applaud the DoD's use of consumer technology to save money, I would hope that they give preference to American owned businesses. Samsung's phones may meet the DoD's security requirements, but they should use Apple or Motorola phones. They may not be assembled in the US, but their companies are US based.

    Can you imagine the government standardizing on Toyata's instead of GM or Ford? Where's the "Buy American" crowd?
    nealc1959
    • Buy American?

      It looks like they did look at the American company 'Apple' but as a joke comparing to Samsung. The article states "clearing both Apple's iPhone and iPad for use by military agencies for non-classified communications", the key there is NON-CLASSIFIED communications. From what I understood is that Samsung got the clearance on the security part while Apple got the okay on the entertainment devices.

      What a joke ‘Non-Classified Communication’ not sure why they decided to go with Apple on the entertainment category when there is Microsoft. I’m not putting Apple down, they have done their part with setting a new path for smartphones and over size smartphones (tablets) but Microsoft seems more equipped with capable staff than Apple when it comes to business applications.
      lares3k
      • non-classified

        You apparently don't know what you talk about.

        No worry. With these things you either know, or you don't. When you don't, you can have any opinion -- nobody cares.

        Just a hint: non-classified does not mean "not secured".
        danbi
    • Boy are you ignorant or just plain uneducated

      if you think that buying apple products is buying from America. The only thing about apple that is American is the name and their corporate office in Cupertino. Please refrain from making ignorant comments like this. You do know that Samsung has a large plant in Austin Texas for making apple chips, correct? Is that American enough for you?
      SteveWojo
      • Samsung was at least stolen from an American company...

        ...by an American company.

        Shamstung having a forge here is nothing. Apple has THOUSANDS of engineers in the US alone. And the 'work' that Shamstung does in TX is mindless labor, they are just cranking out chips for Apple, not designing them. The people working in the foundry are laborers.
        comp_indiana
        • And.....

          Showing your true colors, fanboi? Nobody takes you seriously. So engineers [and sales and marketing] are in the US. The manufacturing is done elsewhere where they get paid $40 a month and commit suicide because of bad working conditions [that Apple dosn't check on until there is a suicide].
          Gisabun
    • Buy American" crowd

      A company that leaves all it's money overseas to avoid taxes is not really an American company.
      lbshultz
    • Errr.....

      I guess you think that Samsung has no manufacturing in the US then.
      Gisabun
  • Knox

    Very interesting, they will publish a "decision" that this Knox technology is good for military use, while the thing does not yet exist?

    I believe this is error in the reporting. What DoD probably will confirm is, that Samsung has claimed they fulfil all of the requirements. Whether they do, will have to be proven and tested, once the technology becomes available.
    danbi
  • Make sure the devices get rooted first

    No text required.
    qwetry