Federal Government Getting an Increase of Unsecure Devices on Network

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Another Android hacked

A recent WaPo article talks about the growing shift from a single device (BlackBerry), to a multi-platform environment including iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The strange thing about the article is that the author barely touches on the subject of security, an issue that is becoming increasingly important in light of recent announcements that Lockheed Martin was hacked and the Pentagon said hacks could be an act of war.

While the WaPo likes to paint the picture as a massive shift in the way government is doing business, it seems the ways they’re actually implementing the use of these devices is pretty minimal. One such example was that the sign-in book at the reception desk was replaced with an iPad. Another example was showing video of an arrest to ATF employees with an iPad. These devices aren’t exactly transmitting highly sensitive data but do we trust employees using these devices to keep data safe?

Another question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not federal employees should even be able to use tax dollars on these devices just because of consumer hype. While many will claim that tablets increase productivity or the latest Android device has more processor power, allowing them to work faster, it’s probably just excuses to get the latest toy. There’s a reason governments shut out their devices from downloading apps and fooling around on the web: because it’s tax dollars and they have to be accountable for the time spent and security possibly compromised.

In fact, these new devices are actually impeding some federal employees from doing their jobs properly. For example, presidential recordkeeping:

So many consumer devices are being brought in by federal workers that Rep. Darrell Issa (R- Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently voiced his concern about authorized uses in a rather surreal hearing, in which he held up an iPad and asked a White House official, “Are any of these carried into the White House?” When the official answered yes, Issa replied, “So people carry a product which circumvents your entire system by going to the AT&T network on a daily basis in the White House, isn’t that true?” Eventually, the official conceded that was true. Issa said he is concerned about what it means for presidential recordkeeping. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

One new technology which is actually saying money is the shift to Google Email.

The shift to consumer technologies is also about controlling costs: By moving to cloud-based e-mail with Google, the GSA says it will cut expenses by 50 percent over the next five years by not having to maintain its own servers and pay for expensive updates to software. The Agriculture Department is also moving its email to the cloud, though with a competing product from Microsoft, which is going head-to-head with Google on many cloud initiatives. The USDA says it will save about $6 million a year with the switch.

This makes sense as Google has spent countless dollars and tapped the brightest minds in tech to create a secure email system which is rarely hacked.

And once again, analysts don’t seem to get why security is so important:

“The best way I can describe BlackBerry is as a one-trick pony,” said Charlie Wolf, an analyst for Needham & Co., an investment bank. “The one trick was their secure messaging platform. Management has yet to understand that the world has changed. They didn’t understand that it was a software game going forward.”

The game is going forward. It’s going forward to an environment that requires more security, not less.

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    There’s a reason governments shut out their devices from downloading
    apps and fooling around on the web: because it’s tax dollars and they
    have to be accountable for the time spent and security possibly
    compromised.