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Acronis MobilEcho Expands Mobile Security For Feds

Apple-compatible mobile file management system permits secure network access, authentication for federal employees.
A new mobile file management (MFM) software system that meets common access card (CAC) identification requirements for Defense Department users and personal identity verification (PIV) card identification standards for civilian government personnel is expected to expand the use of Apple mobile devices by federal agencies.

Developed by Acronis, the MFM system is built on the company's mobilEcho MFM system and works in conjunction with PKard plug-in card readers from Thursby Software. Compatible with Apple's iOS operating system, mobilEcho allows users to access agency data while being compliant with government HSPD-12 mobile access standards and FIPS 140-2 encryption standards.

MobilEcho meets federal security standards for CAC/PIV card readers and HSPD-12 standards, T. Reid Lewis, Acronis' vice president of business development told Information Week. The system is designed to improve federal employees' productivity by allowing them to securely access their data from their mobile devices. "The key function of mobilEcho is to let the federal user get to their files," he explained.

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Able to operate in a variety of agency mobile environments, including those with work-issued devices and those with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, mobilEcho secures user information and integrates well with MDM systems. "It can serve customers who want to empower their users but who don't want to move data out of their servers," Lewis explained. MobilEcho works in both public and private cloud environments and can run on a virtual machine or in a data center/cloud.

The ability to access and deploy mobilEcho will vary from agency to agency, according to Lewis. Many CIOs have the authority to install the system in their agency data centers. They could also get the system through a larger organization, like the DOD's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Other groups that could potentially run mobilEcho include those that can provide file server/MDM capabilities.

Recent efforts in the DOD to issue smartphones to its personnel are opening new opportunities for firms like Acronis. In May, DISA approved the use of Apple mobile devices running iOS6 as part of an ongoing program to provide a selection of secure devices and operating systems. Apple modified its iOS6 operating system to meet DISA's requirements for secure mobile device management. "All of these pieces must be in place to allow the secure use of commercial mobile devices on department networks. DISA is running a pilot program today where we bring this all together," said Mark Orndorff, DISA's information assurance executive and program executive officer for mission assurance and network operations, in a statement.

According to DISA officials, the pilot program is a part of the agency's Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan, which will set up a DOD-wide mobile enterprise. The enterprise will allow the use of the latest commercial technologies such as smart phones and tablets. DISA is also developing a mobile device management (MDM) system and an applications store that will support some 100,000 multivendor devices by February 2014. The DOD currently has more than 600,000 commercial mobile devices in operational and pilot use. This includes approximately 470,000 Blackberrys, 41,000 Apple devices and 8,700 Android devices.

Mobile device management (MDM) systems work by securing and managing mobile devices and applications. MobilEcho differs from MDM systems by controlling and securing files and content as they are accessed by mobile users. Acronis's product also authenticates and verifies users' identity before allowing them to access documents.

By combining CAC/PIV authentication with file access and editing capabilities, the system allows agency IT departments to manage how their employees access files, browse the Web, and access email from Apple iPhones and iPads while meeting federal standards, company officials said.