Securing Android for the Battle Space

By Tim Skutt

Tim Skutt photoArmed conflict has radically changed.  Remotely operated unmanned vehicles and cyber warfare highlight this change.  Combatants can launch an attack anywhere from a few hundred meters away to half a world away with the same devastating results.  One of the fascinating – and scary – parts of this change is that the trigger firing the weapon has become the Enter key on a keyboard or a finger press on a touchscreen.

Essentially, the geography of the battlefield now includes the mobile devices we carry – whether we carry them into the physical front lines being fought with kinetic weapons, or the virtual front lines that extend to our corporate or even home offices. 

Global defense organizations recognize the value of commercial smart phone and tablet capability for deployment to soldiers in the battlefield, wherever that battlefield may be. The challenge of securing the commercial capability and mobile platform for warfighter use requires end-to-end system threat assessment and incorporating embedded device strategies to minimize cyber-attacks and maintain mission-critical communications.

Protecting mobile system services from disruption, corruption, espionage, and unplanned behavior becomes exponentially important to drive successful missions and preserve lives. Battle readiness for Android platforms for deployment in theater requires device developers to take a more holistic approach to device security—one that considers security issues at every layer of the technology stack—from silicon to virtualization to the operating system, the network and communication stacks, and the application layer.

Securing mobile ad-hoc tactical edge devices, as well as mobile devices on commercial networks, requires leveraging advancements in trusted silicon capability, extending certified secure operating system features to Android, and layering in application level white listing functionality into the secure embedded system fabric.

To address the unique challenges of bringing commercial mobile device capability into the battle space and the key considerations in delivering these platforms into secure net-centric mobility solutions, a holistic approach is highly valuable.  This includes threat and risk assessment, technology solutions that counter those threats (and still deliver the benefits of commercial mobile platforms), and testing and verification frameworks that enable secure devices to be quickly verified and approved.  A holistic approach will support mobile devices and services in the battlefield of today and tomorrow.

I recently presented on this topic at the Systems & Software Technology Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, a Defense-focused event which provides information and training on systems and software engineering issues and technologies, and can tell you first hand that it is a discussion that is top of mind for many.  I believe the combination of Wind River’s Android expertise with our extensive background and technologies for the defense space puts Wind River in a unique position to address the challenges and key considerations in securing Android for the battle space.

 

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