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NSA Publishes Blueprint For Top Secret Android Phone 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "The National Security Agency has designed a super-secure Android phone from commercial parts, and released the blueprints(Pdf) to the public. The doubly-encrypted phone, dubbed Fishbowl, was designed to be secure enough to handle top secret phone calls yet be as easy to use and cheap to build as commercial handsets. One hundred US government staff are using the phones under a pilot which is part of a wider project to redesign communication platforms used in classified conversations."
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NSA Publishes Blueprint For Top Secret Android Phone

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  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:02PM (#39216299)
    Um, maybe being able to use it inside the secured faciltiy? I worked at DIA for a while, and if someone wasn't at their desk, aside from leaving a sticky note for them, the only thing you could do is walk around and look for them or wait. Outside of work, I could call, text, email, facebook, IM, etc. But at work, there was email to their desk, call their desk, or nothing. A secured cell phone to take with you when you walk around would make things so much easier.
  • Not a good article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:49PM (#39216527)

    I was at the talk yesterday (at the RSA Conference) where NSA IAD director Margaret Salter presented this information. While the linked article is mostly factually correct, it glosses over or misses quite a few things. In no particular order:

    * NSA's goal was to produce a spec for how to use commercial devices and commercial carriers yet still meet the requirements for SECRET or higher classified comms *without* forcing every user to be a COMSEC custodian. IMO, this represents a *huge* change in NSA's outlook on COMSEC and security in general. In the past, their focus has always been "security first, regardless of the impact on usability." Fishbowl's goals are an intriguing departure from this mindset.
    * The selection of Android was not a starting point, but the outcome of a selection process that included requirements like "we have to be able to get the OS tweaked to meet our needs." The relative openness of Android played well against this requirement.
    * Fishbowl currently only works on one handset. Salter declined to say which one, but it was clearly a Motorola product. Again, this was related to technical requirements around customization, boot loaders, etc
    * The article gets it right about IPSEC vs SSLVPN but falls short of detailing the laundry list of things NSA wanted but was ultimately unable to obtain. It's clear that as the landscape evolves, NSA will update the fishbowl spec. For example, if someone made available an Android that supported Suite B, I think that would appear on the spec immediately.
    * Salter did address the issue of rogue apps directly. She said that Fishbowl basically required policy support for locking out unapproved app installs, and that only NSA approved apps from the NSA enterprise app store would be allowed. "we don't want to be in the business of accrediting Angry Birds" is as close a quote as I can manage from memory.
    * The best question from the audience was when someone asked if, by publishing a spec on how to do encrypted secure comms on an Android, her division hadn't made the job of the SIGINT spooks impossibly more difficult. She somewhat artfully dodged/refused to answer, and simply said that her job was to protect the data and communications of the US Government. My take: draw your own conclusions about NSA's ability to break IPSEC.

    The talk was interesting, well presented, and completely sold out. I got one of the last 5 or 6 seats before they stopped letting people in the room.

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