Virtualization Technology News and Information
Military Mobility in the Age of Cyber Warfare

Article Written by David Abbou, Nubo Software

The threat posed by mobile data security breaches is a top priority for most organizations, but it holds more severe consequences for some industries than others. At the top of that list, you'll find the defense agencies and military infrastructure that are responsible for national security. When it comes to national defense, any security slip-up or exploited gap can jeopardize the safety of both military staff and the citizens they are trying to protect - and even end in casualties.

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

Today's defense personnel must have the ability 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 therefore it requires tailored solutions for both enterprise hardware and software. The entire approach to military mobility in the age of cyber warfare must be different from the strategies we see in the private sector.

One Device That Can Do it All

To give defense personnel secure and efficient mobile abilities, their mobile devices need these specific qualities and functions:

Ruggedness: Resilient mobile devices that can operate in harsh environments are the standard for soldiers in the field. They allow soldiers to navigate terrain with a compact device instead of the brick-sized radios and paper maps which have long been the norm. Rugged mobile devices must also be built to prevent physical intrusion into device memory if the phone were captured by enemies.

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 is typically selected for its versatility and then hardened to allow for additional layers of security.

PTT Voice & Messaging: For starters, military 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 organizations 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. It ensures that time-sensitive information is communicated without delay. Instant messaging must also be available with the same speed, reliability and 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. Thus, defense establishments must use 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 the location of field personnel and track their movements, compromising the battle and inflicting casualties. This is the greatest risk 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, 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 necessary.

The Emerging Solution: Virtualized Mobile Apps

Virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) may be a relatively recent trend in the private sector, but defense agencies have considered it superior approach to security for quite a while, and the reason why is pretty clear: Zero data on devices.

VMI mobile apps running in a data center are essentially 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 that can be compromised on devices, regardless of whether they are lost or stolen. The device leaves nothing for hackers to retrieve, no matter how sophisticated their capabilities are. This removes the need to allocate significant IT resources towards managing device security.

This elevated security also 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 off-the-shelf 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.


About the Author

David Abbou is the head of marketing communications at Nubo Software.

Nubo Software is a company that is defining the new virtual mobile work experience for enterprise organizations.

Published Friday, May 29, 2015 8:01 AM by David Marshall
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