When the government deploys mobile devices to their employees, the military and federal agencies face several challenges due to the nature of their operations and the sensitivity of the information they handle.
Military and federal agencies handle sensitive and classified information, requiring strict adherence to compliance regulations and classification guidelines. Deploying mobile devices while maintaining data confidentiality and integrity presents challenges in terms of encryption, access control, and secure transmission of classified data. Since mobile devices are prone to theft or loss, ensuring proper data handling and preventing data leakage are critical challenges.
Reliable and secure network connectivity is also essential, as deploying mobile devices in remote, hostile, or geographically dispersed locations can present challenges in terms of network coverage, bandwidth limitations, and maintaining secure connections. Solutions like satellite communications, tactical networking, or dedicated secure networks may be required.
Finally, keeping visibility over all assets in the ecosystem, including network, mobile endpoints, and any other security component, is crucial; and this no matter where said assets are located, either locally on a closed network or in the outside, for example on the battlefield, with limited connectivity.
How to Address These Challenges
Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) best practices can be applied here, to enhance security by adopting a “never trust, always verify” approach to access and data protection, including strict identity verification, granular access controls, continuous monitoring, encryption, micro-segmentation, multi-factor authentication, network segmentation, strong security hygiene, and continuous assessment. Additionally, implementing a robust mobile device management (MDM) solution is crucial for efficient device management, security enforcement, and remote support.
Classified mobility refers to the use of mobile devices and technologies within a classified or sensitive environment, where access to and handling of classified information are involved. It refers to the ability to utilize mobile devices while maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of classified data securely and effectively.
In these scenarios, mobile devices are equipped with specific security features and configurations to meet the stringent requirements of protecting classified information. These devices are subject to strict security controls, policies, and procedures to ensure that sensitive data remains secure, even when accessed or transmitted through mobile networks.
Mobile devices used in classified mobility are often built with hardware-based security features, such as tamper-resistant modules, secure boot processes, and trusted execution environments. These features enhance the overall security of the device and protect against physical attacks or unauthorized access.
Secure hardware, such as Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs) and secure enclaves, provide a secure foundation for storing and processing sensitive data. Military personnel can benefit from tamper-resistant hardware that offers secure boot processes, secure storage, and hardware-based encryption. These measures protect against unauthorized access, data tampering, and physical attacks. By leveraging secure hardware, the military can bolster the security of classified mobility, ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of sensitive information and maintaining a high level of trust in the deployed mobile devices.
Encryption is a critical component of classified mobility. It ensures that data stored on the device, as well as data transmitted over wireless networks, is encrypted to prevent unauthorized interception or access. Strong encryption algorithms and key management practices are employed to protect classified information.
By utilizing robust encryption algorithms and protocols, such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) or Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA), the military can ensure that classified data remains secure during transmission and storage. They can be applied to mobile devices, communication channels, and data at rest, effectively safeguarding sensitive content from unauthorized access or interception. It strengthens the confidentiality and integrity of classified mobility by making it extremely challenging for adversaries to decipher or manipulate the encrypted information, thereby upholding the security and confidentiality of military operations.
However, with the exponential rise of quantum computing in recent years, these algorithms are at risk of becoming obsolete. To prepare for the potential threat posed by quantum computers, experts are exploring and developing new encryption algorithms, known as Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC), designed to resist attacks from both classical and quantum computers. One of our partners already offers a quantum-safe and crypto-agile enterprise management platform that implements effective cryptographic policy to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape, advances in computing, and everyday cybersecurity risks.
Classified mobility requires secure communication channels to transmit classified data. This is achieved using virtual private networks (VPNs), secure protocols, and encryption technologies that establish secure connections between the mobile devices and the classified network infrastructure.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology enables the creation of secure and encrypted connections over public or untrusted networks, such as the internet. It establishes a private network tunnel between a user’s device and a remote server, encrypting the data transmitted and ensuring privacy and security. For the military, VPN offers multiple benefits. It enables secure remote access to classified networks, protecting sensitive data from interception. It provides a level of anonymity, making it difficult for adversaries to track military personnel. VPN also allows bypassing regional restrictions, facilitating access to geographically restricted resources for intelligence gathering and operational planning.
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) over VPN though, including enhanced security with continuous authentication, granular access controls based on user identity and device posture, application-level access, secure remote access, agility, scalability, and reduced network complexity. With its Zero Trust (ZT) approach, it ensures only authorized personnel can access specific resources, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Its fine-grained access controls provide better control over resource access, while application-level access reduces the exposure of sensitive resources. ZTNA also provides additional layers of security by continuously monitoring user behavior and enforcing adaptive security policies.
Air-gapped network is another approach used to protect highly sensitive or critical systems from unauthorized access, data exfiltration, and cyber threats by implementing network segmentation and access controls to isolate systems within a shared physical infrastructure, through firewalls and gateways. This provides enhanced cybersecurity, protection against external threats, reduced risk of data breaches, increased control over network access, minimized vulnerability to malware and unauthorized access, safeguarding critical systems and sensitive information, and maintaining operational continuity in highly secure environments. However, such networks have limited connectivity and data sharing, by design, requiring manual transfers and hindering productivity. They introduce operational challenges, increase the potential for human error, and often come with higher costs due to the need for physical isolation and additional infrastructure, so they should be limited to very specific use cases.
Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI) is a technology that enables the deployment of virtual instances of mobile operating systems and applications on centralized servers or data centers. Instead of storing classified data and applications on individual mobile devices, VMI keeps the sensitive information in a secure environment while allowing users to access and interact with it through thin client applications installed on their devices. This approach offers several benefits for the military, like enhanced security, simplified device management, cost efficiency, flexibility, and support for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, making it beneficial for military operations.
Access Control and Authentication
In the context of classified mobility, implementing robust access control and authentication mechanisms is crucial.
It is crucial to ensure that only authorized personnel can access classified resources on mobile devices, enhancing access control. Implementing Identity and Access Management (IdM) simplifies user provisioning and deprovisioning, centralizes policy enforcement, and enables secure single sign-on. It supports auditing and compliance requirements, providing visibility into user activities and policy violations.
To strengthen the authentication process and mitigates the risk of unauthorized access, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) should be implemented, to require personnel to authenticate using multiple factors, such as a combination of passwords, biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition), smart cards, or one-time passcodes.
To deliver an even stronger, yet seamless and user-friendly, password-less authentication mechanism, Certificate-based Authentication (CBA) can be implemented, using digital certificates issued to personnel and mobile devices for authentication. It can be combined with Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to ensure secure identification and access control.
Also, to ensure that individuals only have access to the resources necessary for their job functions, reducing the risk of unauthorized access to classified information, following the principle of Least-Privilege Access, it is recommended to implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to assign employees access privileges based on personnel roles and responsibilities.
Network segmentation, when the network is divided into secure zones, isolating classified resources and restricting access based on clearance levels, prevents unauthorized users from gaining access to sensitive information and limits the impact of potential security breaches.
Finally, enforcing strong password policies, including password complexity requirements and prohibiting the use of common or easily guessable passwords helps prevent unauthorized access due to weak or compromised passwords.
By combining these measures, a robust access control and authentication framework can be established, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access classified resources on mobile devices while maintaining a high level of security.
Secure Applications and Data Management
Mobile devices used in classified mobility have specialized software and applications designed to handle classified information securely. These applications often operate within secure containers or isolated workspaces, ensuring that classified data is segregated from personal or non-classified information on the device.
You can use a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution to centrally manage and secure mobile devices. This includes enforcing security policies, remote device wiping, and the ability to deploy security patches and updates to ensure consistent security across devices.
Implementing strong encryption for data at rest and in transit is also advised. Utilize encryption algorithms to protect sensitive data stored on mobile devices and during communication, ensuring that even if a device is lost or stolen, the data remains secure and inaccessible to unauthorized individuals. Additionally, you can use containerization technology to isolate applications and their associated data, preventing unauthorized access or interference from other applications. Implement sandboxing to restrict the permissions and capabilities of applications, minimizing the risk of data leakage or malicious activity.
You could consider deploying an Enterprise File Sharing and Syncing (EFFS) platform that supports encryption, access controls, and user authentication. These platforms allow military personnel to securely share and collaborate on classified documents and data while maintaining confidentiality and integrity.
Be sure to establish regular data backup procedures to ensure that critical information is protected and can be restored in the event of data loss or device failure. Backup data should be securely stored and accessible only to authorized personnel.
Develop clear policies defining classification levels and labeling standards. Automated classification mechanisms can be implemented to identify and label data based on predefined rules. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions can enforce labeling and tagging on mobile devices, while encryption ensures data protection.
ISEC7 Classify is a Document and Data Management System (DDMS) ensuring users correctly mark and disseminate sensitive information including Emails, Calendar entries, and Office. It can be configured easily for different national laws and regulations, and once the information is correctly marked, will verify that proper permissions are granted for the sender and recipients before sending or storing. Users are presented with a seamless experience on every type of device and client they choose to use. As an Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), it requires minimal additional infrastructure to run and decreases the total cost of ownership for engineering cyber operations.
There are many use cases of classified mobility in the context of government, military, and law enforcement operations.
Government officials, military personnel as well as law enforcement officers can utilize classified mobile devices to securely communicate and exchange sensitive information. This includes secure voice calls, encrypted messaging, and secure email services, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of communications.
Classified Document Access
Classified mobility allows authorized government personnel to access and view classified documents securely on their mobile devices. This enables convenient and secure access to critical information, such as policy documents, intelligence reports, and operational plans, while maintaining strict access controls.
By combining classified mobility with Electronic Knowledge Base (EKB) or Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) systems, pilots have secure and immediate access to mission-critical information, enabling them to make informed decisions and carry out their missions effectively in classified environments while maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive data.
Mobile Command and Control
Mobile devices equipped with classified mobility capabilities enable commanders to establish mobile command centers in remote locations. They can access classified information, issue orders, and coordinate military operations effectively, even in austere environments.
The handling of sensitive and classified government documents needs to be taken seriously as it requires strict adherence to compliance regulations and classification guidelines. Although deploying mobile devices while maintaining data confidentiality and integrity presents challenges, there are many ways to address them. Following Zero Trust Architecture best practices that stem from the slogan “never trust, always verify” is a good way to ensure that sensitive data is only shared and seen by those who have the proper permissions. This can be done through access control and authentication measures like MFA, IdM, CBA, and RBAC. Secure hardware and applications, strong encryption, and secure communications through tools like VPN, ZTNA, VMI, and air-gapped networks also play a major role in ensuring classified data stays that way.
ISEC7 Sphere helps getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, providing continuous monitoring and real-time visibility, in a single pane of glass, into user and network activities, inside and outside of the firewall, employing technologies like log analysis, threat intelligence, behavioral analytics, and anomaly detection to identify and respond to security incidents promptly. This not only saves agencies time from pulling the logs manually, but also saves money on data processed in a tool like Splunk.
ISEC7’s long-standing relationships with government agencies prove our track record and trust factor. Counties, school systems, and related state organizations depend on our proven expertise for secure protocols, management, and the ability to ensure communications during a crisis. For state and local environments, digital workplace strategies may be in their early stages, and we can assist with needs assessment, vendor selection, mobile strategy, and ongoing support. Please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about how ISEC7 can protect and bolster your security posture, all while providing a seamless user experience, saving time, and reducing the total cost of ownership.
(C) Rémi Frédéric Keusseyan, Global Head of Training, ISEC7 Group