Army defends its mobile device security plan

The Department of Defense's inspector general has reposted and updated a report critical of the Army's shortcomings in handling cybersecurity for commercial mobile devices (CMD), with some changes to correct for what it says were mistakes.

However, the basic findings in the reposted report, "Improvements Needed With Tracking and Configuring Army Commercial Mobile Devices," remain the same as the earlier version published March 26 but yanked off the Web a couple of days ago. The inspector general, whose job is oversight of Army effectiveness and efficiency, found through analysis and direct inspections that there's been a failure in the Army to track, properly configure or "sanitize" the 14,000 CMDs it has in use, mainly tablets and smartphones based on the Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows mobile operating systems.

[ BACKGROUND: Report thumping Army for mobile cybersecurity efforts yanked off DOD website ]

What was changed in the reposted report available today was the section that contains comments submitted by Maj. Gen. Stuart Dyer, director of the Army CIO/G-6 Cybersecurity Directorate and Army senior information assurance officer, as an official response to the inspector general's criticisms.

The revised comments go into more detail to emphasize that the Army CIO, Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, did sign a policy memorandum titled "U.S. Army Guidance on Piloting of Commercial Mobile Devices, dated Nov. 3, 2011" and that this "directs Army organizations to register each mobile pilot. The Army CyberSecurity Directorate maintains a SharePoint Portal where an Army organization must register a mobile pilot and provide project artifacts." (The IG DOD did not consider this adequate.)

The revised comments note that "the registration process ensures that sensitive information (FOUO) and Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is not allowed and the platform cannot connect to the Army email system. On 3 April 2012 the Secretary of the Army signed a memorandum titled, 'Mobile Computing Devices' and stated no authorized CMDs will be connected to the NIPRnet or used to conduct official business."

The revised comments go on to say that this "guidance and direction was communicated to all the Army Information Assurance Program Managers (IAPMs) across the Army as well as during the Mobile Electronic Working Groups. In summary, no CMDs are currently allowed for Army use outside of authorized pilots and policy and guidance has been promulgated." It also says the organization that purchases the mobile-device equipment is responsible for it as Army property. The inspector general's report found instances when Army-issued CMDs were being used for personal tasks or connecting to unauthorized networks.

Another change in the revised comments is a clarification on whether the Army will consider CMDs in terms of whether they are designated as an official "information system" or not. The Army wrote that although it will extend "existing information assurance requirements to the use of commercial mobile devices, [it] will not establish CMDs as a separate/standalone system. A CMD is an extension of the existing Information System and does not require a separate designation; it provides an interface to an existing system or environment and will fall under the Control of the Host system."

This distinction is important to the Army in the future, the comments said, as it strives to bring CMDs it's using into a management system used with a mobile-application store, which it hopes to achieve by the end of fiscal year 2014.

Revised comments also point out that the Army has transitioned more than 1 million users to the DOD/DISA [Defense Information Systems Agency] email enterprise unclassified system, making DISA the Army's email provider.

"As DISA establishes the [mobile device management] and [mobile-application store] architecture, Army mobile devices will become managed mobile devices," the revised Army CIO comments said. "The governance and oversight will be established as a DISA service." DISA will be responsible for "visibility, oversight of proper configuration, and management of all devices."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email:

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