U.S. government, military to get ‘secure’ modified Android phones

“Some U.S. officials this year are expected to get smartphones capable of handling classified government documents over cellular networks, according to people involved in the project,” Mark Milian reports for CNN.

“The phones will run 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, these people said,” Milian reports. “The smartphones are first being deployed to U.S. soldiers, people familiar with the project said. Later, federal agencies are expected to get phones for sending and receiving government cables while away from their offices, sources said. Eventually, local governments and corporations could give workers phones with similar software.”

“Officials have 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. As many as 5 million Android users may have had their phones compromised by a recent virus outbreak rooted in apps found on Google’s market, said security software maker Symantec,” Milian reports. “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.”

“Still, Apple’s iPhone and iPad are also highly desired among U.S. officials, and people involved in the U.S. smartphone program said their goal is to support any type of smartphone,” Milian reports. “As CNN has reported, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, uses an iPad to read his classified intelligence by downloading cables and disconnecting from the network.”

“However, the government chose to work on Android first because Google already allows people to tinker freely with its code, said those working on the project. Federal officials have met with Apple, but they were told they could not have access to the core of the company’s mobile operating system, said Angelos Stavrou, an information-security director at George Mason University who is working on the government project as a contractor, in a phone interview,” Milian reports. “‘Android was more cooperative in supporting some of the capabilities that we wanted to support in the operating system, whereas Apple was more averse,’ Stavrou told CNN. ‘They’re shifting the strategy now.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: SNAFU.

And, if Google is found to be infringing patents, will the U.S. government then pay royalties to Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple (if they decide to license some patents) and/or modify their custom code in order to not infringe on patented IP? This could become FUBAR quicker than the lifespan of a box of a dozen doughnuts in Ballmer’s office.

Hopefully, in reality, Apple is more focused and involved in serving the government and military markets than this CNN article suggests.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jay in DC” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Massive Android malware operation may have infected 5 million users; many infected apps remain on Android Market – January 28, 2012
Insecure: Malicious Android apps double in six months – December 14, 2011
Android permissions flaw allows eavesdropping, data theft, location tracking – December 2, 2011
You bank on your pretend iPhone? Are you nuts?! Android malware up 472% since July – November 16, 2011
Android security threats surge with infected ‘Angry Birds’; iPhone and iPad users unaffected – November 15, 2011
Apple’s iOS unaffected by malware as Android exploits surge 76% – August 24, 2011
McAfee: Google’s Android number one in malware – August 23, 2011
Android malware records phone calls; iPhone users unaffected – August 2, 2011
Symantec: Apple iOS offers ‘full protection,’ Google Android ‘little protection’ vs. malware attacks – June 29, 2011
Malware apps spoof Android Market to infect Android phones – June 21, 2011
Google forced to pull several malware-infested apps from Android market – June 8, 2011
Android malware sees explosive growth; even faster than with PCs – April 27, 2011
Virus-laden apps infest Google’s ‘open’ Android platform; iPhone unaffected – March 3, 2011
Security firm warns of new Android trojan that can steal personal information; iPhone unaffected – December 30, 2010
Trojan infects Android smartphones; iPhone unaffected – August 10, 2010
Millions of Android phone users slammed by malicious data theft app – July 29, 2010
Unlike proactive Apple, reactive Google doesn’t block malware from Android app store – June 4, 2010
Malware designed to steal bank information pops up in Google’s Android app store – January 11, 2010


    1. Apple won’t give Gov the code to create a back door. Google obviously doesn’t care if you are crooked or not but then again, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

      Good for Apple. Not so good for citizens but what would you expect.

  1. First, if Android is ultimately found to have to be redesigned or someone has to pay huge amounts to Apple for infringing elements of Android, it won’t be the U.S. Government that will pay. All contracts of this nature that I’ve seen over the years (and I’ve seen a LOT of them) have a clause where the seller (in this case either Google or one of the smart phone vendors) guarantees that the U.S. Government won’t be held responsible for any infringement. The seller steps up in writing to say that they will be 100% responsible.

    Second, Apple would have to have a unique variant of iOS to support higher levels of encryption and such things as internal firewalls to enforce such things as “red/black” separation of data. I doubt Apple wants to build a Type 1 sanctioned device. It sure as hell won’t sell for $499 or even $899. And, if they did, they ABSOLUTELY will not be assembled in China.

  2. Very Nervous Soldiers……. Very…….

    I remember reading about soldiers using unsecured Garmin Rhino GPSs to keep track of one another early on in Iraq because the big, heavy, expensive gov. Systems would not work, or would get them lost. Scary!

    The shear population of kids hacking Android around the world is even scarier!

  3. I don’t see Apple breaking a sweat over this. The potential Gov’t market is relatively small compared to their primary aim – the consumer market. The same way that Apple doesn’t make plans to operate in the “enterprise” market. They rely on osmosis to get their products in.
    The group really threatened by this is RIM. Their security has always been their prime selling point to large, security conscious customers, and if Android can come up with a workable alternative, it will be another nail in the coffin for the RIMsters.

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