BlackBerry counts the Defense Department as its largest federal customer. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — Apple, Google and other mobile suppliers want to know how they can build smartphones and tablets to meet US Defense Department security standards.
They aren’t driven by the promise of big federal business, which pales in comparison to their overall market share, but rather an opportunity to expand business into other security-conscious sectors.
“If they can get to our level of security, then they can market out to the corporate world for health, banking, financial ... and you’re starting to see that,” said Greg Youst, mobility lead for the Defense Information Systems Agency. He spoke Wednesday at a cybersecurity event hosted by the technology group Meritalk.
“The drivers for these devices ... is the commercial market,” Youst said. “We’re a drop in the bucket.”
But “the market is listening to us,” he said. “Industry is coming to us.”
Youst said he was contacted by Google about three months ago and given a week to create a wish list of DoD’s mobile security needs, and he has had similar discussions with Apple about security.
“I went nuts,” he said of the Google conversation. He worked with the military services to develop a wish list, which included security requirements for verifying a user’s identity before the person can access a device.
Google is slowly incorporating security features developed by the National Security Agency into its Android operating system, he said, adding that DISA will review Google’s newly unveiled Android operating system to see which security enhancements that DoD requested were included.
Samsung was in talks with DoD for more than a year and received guidelines for developing its Android Knox smartphone, which DoD approved for department use in May, he said. Samsung markets the phone as an answer to “the mobile security needs of enterprise IT without invading the privacy of its employees,” according to its website.
BlackBerry, whose largest federal customer is DoD, “already knows this answer, [and] they have been doing [business] for years with us,” he said, pointing to the company’s subsequent success in the corporate world.
In May, DoD also approved government-issued iPhones and iPads using Apple’s iOS 6 operating system for department use.
“Everyone is trying to figure out how can I get to the larger market, and to get to the larger market I’ve got to have something that they all want,” Youst said. “What they all want is the capability of management and security.”