The U.S. Defense Department has released a security guide for smart phones and tablet computers made by Apple Inc., setting the stage for their wider use on military networks.
The Pentagon's Defense Information Systems Agency last week approved a so-called Security Technical Implementation Guide, or STIG, for devices running the iOS 6 operating system. The software developed by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company runs the latest versions of the iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch.
The move "means that government-issued iOS 6 mobile devices are approved for use when connecting to [Defense Department] networks within current mobility pilots or the future mobile device management framework," the agency said in a statement.
The decision will lead to more competition against BlackBerry, which makes the most widely used smart phone within the Defense Department.
“The release of the Apple iOS 6 STIG is a major stride in building a multi-vendor environment, supporting a diverse selection of devices and operating systems," according to the statement.
The agency, based at Fort Meade, Md., earlier this month also approved software that controls the newest BlackBerry and Samsung devices, including the BlackBerry 10 operating system running the Z10 phone and the PlayBook tablet, as well as the Samsung Knox operating system running the Galaxy S4 phone. Knox is based on the Android operating system made by Google Inc.
The agency plans to award a contract to a company early this summer to begin building a system to manage mobile devices and and protect them from cyber attacks, according to spokeswoman Alana Casanova. The potential value of the deal wasn't specified.
The Pentagon wants the management system and an associated application store to support at least 100,000 mobile devices from multiple vendors by February. The military uses about 600,000 commercial mobile devices in operations and testing. That includes about 470,000 BlackBerry devices, 41,000 Apple platforms and 8,700 Android-based systems.
Despite the push for more types of devices, the Defense Department has no plans to allow service members and civilians to use their own smart phones on defense networks.
Teri Takai, the department’s chief information officer, has said the recent bring-your-own-device trend in the civilian workplace "presents many compelling benefits," though existing Pentagon policies and security vulnerabilities prevent adopting unapproved devices that are purchased outside of the government acquisition process.