Policy of the Week August 24: Going Dark

OptioLabs was founded to address a problem posed by DARPA for allowing high level government executives to use smartphones without breaching critical security rules in classified facilities. The problem posed was this: How do we enable personnel working in Secure Classified Information Facilities (SCIFs in government lingo) to carry their smartphones around without risk that the phones could accidentally pick up classified information?

The problem is more challenging than it sounds. Smartphones are inherently promiscuous, connecting and collecting devices now. They have Wifi, cellular, Near Field Communications, Bluetooth, microphones, cameras and GPS capabilities that could turn them into unintentional data collectors at the worst possible time. What the government wanted was a technology that could irrefutably control all these capabilities whenever the smartphone was in a SCIF, but allow normal use of the phone at other times.

OptioLabs solves this problem with OptioCore-enabled phones that know where they are, and automatically enforce a set of sophisticated rules that lock down the device conditionally. The snapshot below shows a SCIF Security policy authored in OptioInsight for OptioCore phones. The policy says “If the phone is in the SCIF location (based on GPS), or it sees a particular Bluetooth beacon, or it sees certain WiFi networks, then implement a set of controls”. The controls include disabling the camera, preventing connections to Bluetooth, or to WiFi, or to Cellular networks, and disabling SMS while blocking all possible applications from executing.

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With this capability, whenever the OptioCore phone senses it is near a protected SCIF facility it will automatically shut down all potentially dangerous phone features. These will remain off as long as the phone is near the facility, but conveniently they will return when the user leaves the area.

The benefits for Government are significant: automatically enforced high security whenever rules dictate, while maintaining high productivity with fully featured COTS phones at other times. There is no need for cumbersome and expensive special purpose phones that are 3 years behind the market – with OptioLabs government customers can use the same phones the general public buys from their carriers.

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