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Military wants full disk encryption for iPhone, Android smartphones

DARPA seeking full disk encryption tech for Apple, Google smartphones

By Layer 8 on Tue, 04/12/11 - 12:21pm.

iphoneThe US military wants to take no security chances with the smartphones it is deploying. That's why the engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today said they are "looking to discover new technologies and methods to support full disk and system encryption of the commercial mobile devices -- specifically Apple and Android platforms - to  include a pre-boot environment to load the operating system."

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DARPA said the systems it deploys must use an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 bit encryption algorithm compliant with Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, o government security standard.  In order to meet the encryption objective, DARPA said it is looking for industry and universities to submit a whitepaper with ideas/concepts that describe an innovative existing technology approach that can be deployed in less than 90 days.

Securing smartphones has been an ongoing project for the military.  In January the US Air Force said it was looking to decide whether or not to use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) smart phones, such as Android-based devices or iPhones, and how it can securely process classified voice and data using them.

The Air Force has issued a request for information, not a formal contract solicitation as it is trying to come up with the best plan.  Securing smartphones for military use is an absolute necessity if the devices are to find wide applications for field use.  The Army has made smartphone development a priority as well.

The military is very interested in getting smartphones out in the field.  Last year the Pentagon awarded $6.4 million to the Corporation for National Research Initiatives to build a smartphone app store.

In DARPA's words: "A military apps marketplace will be created to enable rapid innovation to meet user needs based on a direct collaboration between a vibrant and highly competitive development community and involved communities of end-users. The program will address all the challenges - technical, business, and operational - faced to make the new capabilities available for use in the field. The end objective is to transition the resulting systems to the end users in the Services, and to foster a new model for rapidly and effectively acquiring, introducing, maintaining, and enhancing software."

DARPA said the program will lean heavily on existing commercial handhelds for the initial development efforts. Initially, at least two distinct repositories are envisioned: one holding beta apps that are queued for initial app evaluations, and a separate repository holding apps that have been vetted, certified and approved for use.

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