Android is going to reach the US officials this year, thanks to a project intended to offer them smartphones in order to communicate easier, better and use all the other features a smartphone can offer. First smartphones will be deployed to US soldiers, followed by federal agencies and local governments. At the moment neither soldiers or government workers are allowed to use smartphones to send classified messages due to security concerns.
Smartphones have become a necessity for some and the people involved in the project gave a few usage examples, like the federal agents sending or receiving government cables when they are not in the office.
The government chose Android for being open source, so they can modify its source in order to make it more secure and reduce some of its features that could compromise security, like the access to the Android Market. The officials have met with Apple too, but they couldn’t meet the criteria of allowing the government to access the iOS source code.
Angelos Stavrou, a government contractor working on this project, has said that “Android was more cooperative in supporting some of the capabilities that we wanted to support in the operating system, whereas Apple was more averse. They’re shifting the strategy now.”
Officials have said they are worried about switching to Android because there are many risks involved, especially due to apps and they are currently testing the operating system itself and each application in order to see if it is secure and they did disclose some applications they are going to use. Google Maps and Skype are two applications they specifically talked about, stating they are going to let soldiers find each other on the map, which they will use VOIP communications. After the project will get its certification, DARPA’s developers will work on making Android secure with the applications they need, according to Stavrou.
The project is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is considered a priority for the government. DARPA was also involved in the development of the internet and the GPS. The certification has to be given by the National Security Agency, which is also working on a similar system, called Security Enhanced Android ( SE Android ). Both projects will be open source and the SE Android is already public, being published online.
According to an NDA spokeswoman, “the ultimate goal is to give war fighters, analysts and other intelligence professionals access to classified information on the go — boosting innovation in the field, efficiency and productivity.”