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DARPA To Develop Android, iPhone Encryption

The defense research agency is seeking white papers on full disk and system encryption technologies for military smartphones.

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The Department of Defense (DoD) research arm is seeking to develop encryption technology to secure data in iPhones and Google Android-based mobile devices.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aims to create full disk and system encryption for the smartphone devices that can be used not only in the DoD but also across agencies, according to a request for information (RFI) posted on the site.

"The primary purpose of this RFI is to discover new technologies and methods to support full disk and system encryption of the [commercial mobile devices] (specifically Apple and Android platforms) to include a pre-boot environment to load the operating system," according to the RFI.

DARPA is seeking white papers for concepts that describe an approach to encryption that can be deployed in fewer than 90 days, it said.

The solution must use an AES-256 bit encryption algorithm compliant with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) FIPS 140-2, the federal standard for cryptographic-based security systems used to provide protection for sensitive or valuable data. NIST creates and oversees technology standards for the federal government.

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming standard IT equipment for many federal employees, with agencies exploring the use of new form factors, such as tablets, as well. But the federal government and the military obviously have different security needs than consumers using these commercial devices, spurring the need for solid encryption technology.

The Department of Interior, for example, has distributed a handful of Apple iPads to employees to see how they improve productivity.

The U.S. military in particular has been exploring how to use commercial smartphones in various situations, including combat. The Army currently is deploying mobile devices loaded with custom applications to soldiers in the field to provide improved mapping and navigation and help them track enemy targets better, as well as provide other capabilities.

Those interested in replying to DARPA's smartphone encryption RFI have until the morning of May 2 to do so, according to DARPA. They should include in their white papers some background on prior experience in this area, how they are qualified to support the work, and estimated costs for the work presented in the paper.

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