DHS wants your research on mobile threats


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The Department of Homeland Security is looking to the private sector to help improve federal mobile security, according to a new solicitation.

DHS posted a request for information earlier this month asking industry leaders for their knowledge on vulnerabilities in smartphones and tablets used in the government.

“The government gets in trouble when it thinks it knows everything,” Jon Johnson — enterprise mobility team lead at the General Services Administration, which is assisting DHS with the RFI outreach process — said during an industry day Wednesday as GSA’s headquarters. “We know we don’t know everything.”

While DHS is not actively procure any solutions from vendors, Johnson said his colleagues hope businesses will reach out to help the agency and build connections. 

“We’re not looking for your sales – we’re looking for your help,” he added. 

DHS is looking for info on specific categories of threats, such as application-based threats like ransomware and vulnerabilities in operating systems, said Vincent Sritapan, DHS’ mobile security research and development program manager. It is also requesting info on network-based, mobile-enterprise and physical threats. 

But Sritapan’s team plans to also find problems outside of that scope, he said.

“We are also going to find threats that don’t have defenses against them,” Sritapan said. “We need future technology where we need research and development to occur — where we work with industry to actually solve those problems…How can we find solutions and accelerate the adoption of mobile security?”

Mobile has become a surefire investment for the future of federal tech, thanks to a wide interest from agencies governmentwide. Last week’s White House initiative gave $400 million for the National Science Foundation to improve wireless networks, while the Federal Communication Commission set in motion a plan to prepare for 5G technology.

“You’re going to see we’re not just looking for mobile threats and defenses as we go through – we’re actually looking for standards and the best practices that exist today,” Sritapan said. 

Reports must be submitted by Aug. 22, according to the site. There will also be a second industry day in Menlo Park, California, Aug. 2. 

Contact the reporter on this story via email: Jeremy.Snow@FedScoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyM_Snow. Sign up for the Daily Scoop — all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning — here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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