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DISA Mobile Decision Sends Potent Signal

Defense Information System Agency's commitment to off-the-shelf mobile tech is likely to ripple across the government as well as health, financial and other security-sensitive industries.
There have been large-scale government procurements and deployments of mobile devices in the past, including 160,000 special-purpose devices built on an HTC Windows Mobile platform for the 2010 US Decennial Census. (The original commitment to 500,000 units was cut back due to system integration and financial problems.) But none were quite as game-changing as DISA's deal is expected to be, but rather were "one off "or" ad hoc' initiatives.

The DISA award is likely to accelerate deployment of mobile security technology across other highly secure verticals. Industries such as banking and financial services, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, legal, accounting, utilities and critical infrastructure will take a cue from this award and will be more inclined to accept risks inherent in mobile technology.

Highly security-conscious industries often look at the U.S. government as the bellwether on information assurance. These industries are very mindful of data leakage prevention of personally identifiable information.

Banking is an industry with both a heavy focus on mobility and security. Mobile payments by smartphone have been ballyhooed for years as a new source of revenue. In the past, the banking industry and financial services in general have traditionally looked toward the Department of Defense as the gold standard of secure computing. The DISA award sends a powerful signal DOD's information assurance experts have weighed the pros and cons inherent in mobile computing and concluded that the risks are manageable.

Similarly, the healthcare industry is beginning to embrace mobile technology to better manage patient care, increase efficiencies and increase revenues. Like most bankers, healthcare professionals are extremely risk-averse. Healthcare providers are keenly aware of HIPAA compliance and similar legal statues regarding personally identifiable information. Just ask WellPoint, which agreed to pay the Department of Health and Human Services a $1.7 million fine this month to resolve a HIPAA data breach.

What the DISA award might signal to these and other industries is the mobile device ecosystem has reached a level of maturity sufficient to start making significant investment commitments for mobile computing. DISA might not necessarily be leading the charge outside of the world of defense. But it has defined what promises to be a widely-regarded roadmap for managing and securing secure mobile devices as well as the data that rides over them. That's why the value of DISA's award goes well beyond the amount of its contract award.