Australian government gives AirWatch security tick of approval

The Australian Signals Directorate has awarded AirWatch Secure Content Locker for iOS devices protected level security status.

AirWatch by VMware's Secure Content Locker for iOS devices has achieved protected level security status in Australia.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which sets the security standards for the Australian government, has awarded Secure Content Locker for iOS devices protected status level. This will enable government agencies to store, deploy, collaborate, and edit protected materials through the platform, which integrates with more than 35 content repositories that can configured centrally or across multiple locations.

Rob Roe, AirWatch by VMware Australia and New Zealand managing director, told ZDNet that receiving this protected status level will mean government agencies will now be able to physically store documents on their iOS devices.

"What we're seeing is an increasing use of iPads and iPhones, and the danger has been that employees might store documents on these devices but they're not secured because they don't meet the ASD requirements. But now they can actually have documents physically on the devices and be encrypted in a way that is safe according to ASD standards," he said.

AirWatch received this protected status by meeting requirements that were outlined by Class A standards for data at rest where files and credentials within this class can only be read or written when the device is unlocked. This protection also covers data in transit as AirWatch uses the native iOS TLS libraries to encrypt data being sent and received.

"Typically government departments have information that is at the protected level in a separate enclave, and what we're able to do is give them access to this enclave of information directly onto their iPad or iPhone," Roe said.

A number of federal and state government agencies have either started using Secure Content Locker or are in the midst of trialling it, and one use case, the platform has been used for is storing Senate Estimates documents.

AirWatch looks to achieve the same protected status level for its email product, Airwatch Inbox. Roe said if this is successful, it will mean government agencies will be able to receive email attachments at the protected level.

"What we can do is if a department is using an inbox client that is not at the right security level, we can block attachments or email from going through to an end mobile device, but the user will receive a message saying 'You've received an email at SEC=protected you must now to go a secure email client' to access it, and that could be an Airwatch inbox because it's at that level," he said.

Airwatch was bought by VMware earlier this year for US$1.54 billion. VMware's spin to the acquisition was to boost its mobility strategy, as well as its end-user computing strategy, which revolves around desktop virtualisation and delivering enterprise apps to tablets and smartphones.

Commenting on this move, Roe said: "I think VMWare has been astute to pick up Airwatch because they're moving with the market."

But the acquisition has equally been beneficial for Airwatch, too. Roe said since the acquisition, the company has been able to leverage VMware's broader customer network of large corporations and government agencies, who are requesting for product features around back-end integration to certify authority, improvement around AirWatch Inbox, secure browsers, and email classification.

Roe added the demands from customers reflect the conversations the company has been having with customers, where it's no longer about mobile management but around end-user computing strategies.

"I think the theme is how do I take the natural experience of the mobile devices and use it in a secure enterprise way. It's moving away from locking the device down but still hanving the security level, and there's a constant trade off between the two. I think certificates and encryption on devices is giving the end-user the way they want to operate, but securely," he said.