David Abbou

While a top priority for most organizations today, the threat posed by mobile data security breaches holds more severe consequences for some industries than others. Right at the top of that mountain you’ll find the defense agencies and military infrastructure that are responsible for our national security. When it comes to national defense, any security slip up or exploited gap can end in casualties and jeopardize the safety of both military staff and the citizens they are trying to protect.

Cybersecurity attacks have been a part of geopolitical warfare for decades, but as these threats have extended to mobile devices, they have surpassed the security capabilities of commercial technologies and pose unique challenges for military communications and command and control (C2) operations.

Today’s defense personnel must have the capabilities to collaborate with their colleagues and share highly sensitive, often mission-critical intel from wherever they are, be it in the field or in the control room. Allowing such sensitive data to be accessed on mobile devices and applications heightens both the risks and the challenges, and requires tailored solutions for both enterprise hardware and software. Therefore the entire approach is incomparable to any mobility project in the private sector.

One Device That Can Do it All

To give defense personnel the best tools available they need a device possessing these qualities and functions:

Rugged: Rugged mobile devices that can operate in harsh environments are the standard for soldiers in the field. They allow soldiers to navigate terrain with a much more comfortable device, and hopefully let the military phase out the brick-sized radios and paper maps which have long been the norm. They are also built to prevent physical intrusion and for device memory to be acquired if the phone were to be taken apart.

Customized OS: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) still utilizes hardware from consumer manufacturers such as Samsung, but these are modified rugged versions. The Android OS for its versatility, but it is then hardened to allow for additional layers of security.

PTT Voice & Messaging: For starters, these devices must be able to provide staff with reliable basic features like voice and messaging. A must-have function required by many military and law enforcement clients is Push-To-Talk (PTT) communication, which allows one person to connect to single users or active talk groups almost instantly with a single button press and ensure that time-sensitive information is communicated without delay. Similarly instant messaging must be carried out with the same speed and reliability, and with multi-user chat capability as many situations render calling impractical.

VoIP Network: Defense agencies are able to use the data from commercial carriers, but wireless communications over public radio and telephone lines can be intercepted too easily, which is why the DoD uses their own encrypted VoIP network.

Military App Deployment & Security Challenges

In addition to standard apps for email, calendar and contacts, specialized apps must be provided to various military, law enforcement and even rescue operations staff to help them fulfill mission objectives. These include mapping apps to navigate the battlefield according to plan, as well as command and control programs. Securing the apps and data on these devices is of paramount importance. If data is breached or intercepted while in transit the enemy could discover your whereabouts and track your movements, compromising the battle and inflicting casualties. This is where the greatest challenge could lie as far as classified mobility is concerned. A more resilient OS still cannot prevent cached history from leaving a digital footprint on the device. And with governments engaging in cyber warfare and potentially catastrophic cyber terrorism the new reality, even the most resilient device security and encryption available can be cracked. In an environment where the stakes could not be higher, a unique approach to app deployment is a necessity.

The Emerging Solution: Virtualized Mobile Apps

Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI) may be a relatively recent trend in the private sector, but it has been recognized by defense agencies as a higher level of security for quite a while and the reasons why are pretty clear: zero data on devices. Under VMI mobile apps running in the data center are deployed onto devices as a display using a thin client app. The user works with the apps the same way they would with a native mobile app stored on the device, but they are kept behind the military’s firewall where they are best secured.

Being able to manage and distribute apps from a secured data center means there is no critical data which can be compromised from devices regardless of whether they are lost or stolen. The device leaves nothing for hackers, no matter how sophisticated, to retrieve. This removes the need to allocate significant IT resources towards managing device security.

This elevated security removes the need for defense agencies to invest in making every conceivable app military-grade. In addition to custom apps created in-house, they can now provide access to popular COTS apps that are already effective for inter-staff communication.

Look for VMI to become the standard for secure mobility in the defense arena going forward.

David Abbou

Technology hasn’t just changed the way consumers purchase and engage with products and services, it’s also profoundly changed both the skill set and mindset required from many different management and executive roles in order for them to be effective and collectively lead their organization towards a successful future. Of these roles, perhaps no executive has experienced more change in recent years than the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

CIOs today are expected to be as in tune with the business vision and goals of their organizations as they are with the information and technology they manage. And there’s also a very critical and strategic cultural component to driving changes to business process as and how these are accepted and utilized by an organization’s business and operations management. Therefore the CIO is expected to wear many strategic hats and bridging these once disparate and now very interconnected worlds will likely spell the difference between success and failure moving forward. For CIOs to make sure they end up on the right side of this equation, the key is outlining and focusing on their top strategic priorities:

1. Use technology to transform and manage business processes

This transformation of the CIO’s role isn’t a new phenomenon but the evolution is fully expected to continue and accelerate into the future. CIO recently published its State of the CIO: 2015 survey findings and they reveal that the percentage of CIOs of large businesses focused on strategic business activities has climbed from 18 to 34 percent in the past five years. These business processes include traditionally taking physical processes online as well combining customer online behavior with physical customer service and support functions. Making sure that the customer experience is the focal point of these new digital business processes is paramount if they are to be adopted and ultimately succeed.

2. Turn data into more innovative products and services

Just as enterprises have come to prioritize data as the most valuable asset that must be secured, so too is turning this data into value in the form innovation. With more CIOs than ever before advising the CEO on long-term strategy and holding a seat at Executive Management Committees, turning technological know-how into shareholder returns now comes with the territory. CIOs must lead the way in creating and monetizing new products and service offerings based on collected data.

3. Integrate actionable Business Intelligence into staff operations

Use the same approach of turning data analytics to unlock customer calls to action with your employees and not just for management. Front-line sales and customer service staff should be armed with the type of data to increase efficiency and improve customer experience and satisfaction. One major area of focus is and must continue to be app provisioning, be it CRM, ERP and enterprise-centric apps that make it easy to save time and money as well as provide and provide a more seamless experience for customers.

With all of the challenges CIO’s will face in 2015 and beyond, it’s clear that organizations still regard them as leaders with the vision to see past the hurdles and help keep the business on the right track well into the future.