Perhaps it was inevitable. With all the computing power in the palms of an increasingly sophisticated critical mass of end users, commercial off the shelf (COTS) mobile devices are now being driven into the hands of every kind of enterprise worker.

A younger demographic of end-user demands products that can be used and enjoyed in daily life and also be supported by the enterprises that they work for. With ever-increasing pressure on budgets, the same holds true for United States federal government employees.

Enhancing productivity

In the past, information technology decisions were typically driven from the top, down—from the corporate c-suite and usually by the chief technology officer or information assurance (security) department. Now, an ever progressively sophisticated end-user population is increasingly informing technology decisions.

The United States federal government and their affiliates are employing many more user-friendly, intuitive devices for daily productivity tasks and other, less mundane use-cases. Daily government tasks run the gamut from everyday personal information management, email and text messaging to real-time health telemetry, Blueforce tracking of war fighters in theater; streaming video for intelligence, surveillance and recognizance missions, inspections and tracking; simple document and data collaboration; to forward entry devices and many others.

Protecting COTS

COTS devices enable government workers to do their jobs better, faster, cheaper and more efficiently. With their increasing proliferation, however, applications and the devices themselves must be safe-guarded to prevent data leakage or to preclude devices from serving as attack vectors to gain access to government networks and data.

Standards, such as end-to-end encryption for data in transit and data at rest, are already in-place, as are myriad other precautions designed to proactively defend against malicious actors—be they commonplace individual hackers or state-sponsored nation states.

COTS cost-efficiency

The U.S. Government is a big proponent of data separation or “containerization” techniques to help ensure that personal data and mission data are not intermingled. While the information assurance and security challenges are formidable, the cost savings of deploying COTS devices across the government are just too great to ignore.

Notable examples of costs savings and increasing efficiencies due to mobile devices abound across U.S. federal. The U.S. Air Force Mobility Command notably purchased thousands of consumer electronic devices to replace paper maps and charts that often weighed many pounds and contributed to increased fuel costs. The USDA and FDA regularly employ smartphones and small form factors to conduct inspections applications and various civilian law enforcement agencies have rather sophisticated applications for the interdiction and capture of criminals. In addition, tens of thousands of our troops overseas and in the U.S. rely on their smartphones for everything from conducting their personal banking to team collaboration to “call for fire” applications.

The U.S. government specifically requires strict adherence to various security certifications and accreditations including: common criteria, defense information system agency secure implementation guides, HIPAA private identifiable information compliance, two-factor authentication standards and many others.