U.S. Government Building ‘Secure Android Phones’ For Its Troops

Posted on Feb 4 2012 - 5:03am by Editorial Staff

According to CNN, some U.S. officials are expected to get smartphones capable of handling classified government documents over cellular networks – the phone will run on a “modified version of Google’s Android software which is being developed as part of an initiative that spans multiple federal agencies and government contractors.”

The Army has been testing touchscreen devices at U.S. bases for nearly two years, said Michael McCarthy, a director for the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command. About 40 phones were sent to fighters overseas a year ago, and the Army plans to ship 50 more phones and 75 tablets to soldiers abroad in March, he said. “We’ve had kind of an accelerated approval process,” McCarthy said. “This is a hugely significant event.”

Officials also said, “They worry that hackers or rogue apps could tap into the commercial version of Android and spill state secrets to foreign governments or to the Web through a publisher such as WikiLeaks.“ But with a secure smartphone, a soldier could see fellow infantry on a digital map, or an official could send an important dispatch from Washington’s Metro subway without fear of security breaches.

“Developers in the government program have completed a version that has been authorized for storing classified documents but not transmitting them over a cell network,” said two people contributing to the initiative. “Smartphones cleared for top-secret dispatches — high-level classified information that would compromise national security if intercepted — are expected to be ready in the next few months,” they said.

Rather than building special handsets hardwired with secure components, the government plans to install its software on commercially available phones, the people familiar with the project said. This approach is far less expensive and allows the government to stay up to date with the latest phones on the market, they said.

Choosing the Android seems to be a smarter choice as of its open source nature – but on the other end it is bit surprising that the program has managed to move that far without third party revealing that it was happening.

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