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DARPA wants secure Droids, iPads, iPhones

Pentagon boffins can bear BlackBerry shame no longer

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Sometimes it's tough being an elite high-risk Pentagon boffin. Much though the life might seem like a dream to many of us – perks of the job could include such things as hover-jeep flying cars, self-assembling floating fortresses, Matrix style cyberwar firing ranges populated by replicant sim-people etc etc – there are downsides.

Specifically, your work phone will generally be a boring one: no lovely iPhone or Droid for you. Instead that badge of infamy, that infallible mark of boring corporate suitdom – the BlackBerry – will probably be your lot, unless perhaps it is a still more embarrassing old-school Windows Mobile gadget.

This is because you will need to handle classified government information on your issue smartphone, and government security types generally assess that only the BlackBerry shows up on their security scale at all.

Even BlackBerries aren't generally rated as being safe to hold high-grade gov info (the UK spooks say nothing more than Restricted can be allowed, for instance: Confidential and above requires special hardware solutions). However the RIM phone – and sometimes the old Windows Phones – are allowed to have lesser secrets on them, as they offer robust encryption of email and full disc encryption on the device. At the moment this isn't really the case for iOS or Droid.

But no more. The hip, funky war-boffins of DARPA – who need to recruit the grooviest and most with-it techies to carry out their mission of way-out, high risk military research – have evidently decided that they can no longer bear the shame of having a BlackBerry in their labcoat pockets. They have put out a request for technologies which could deliver "full disk and system encryption of [smartphones and tablets] (specifically Apple and Android platforms) to include a pre-boot environment to load the operating system ... that can be deployed in less than 90 days".

Such software-based solutions would probably boost fondleslabs, Jesus Phones and Droids only up to Restricted level, but that would suffice for most DARPA business – specifically the machines would then be cleared to hold "proprietary data", which is classified mainly because of its commercial (rather than national-security) importance.

Those interested in helping DARPA out with its Droid and iOS security issues should read all about it here. ®

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