U.S. Air Force deploys 5,000 Apple iOS devices to replace BlackBerrys ahead of phaseout

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
The U.S. Air Force announced earlier in February that it will be swapping out some 5,000 BlackBerry devices for Apple's iPhone and iPad, with the move being a first step in the eventual retirement of all BlackBerry products carried by USAF personnel.

USAF
Source: USAF via The Air Force Times


The initial Air Force push involves the activation of a mix of iPhones and iPads, while further BlackBerry device replacement will consist of products made by Apple and other approved manufacturers, reports The Air Force Times.

"In order to keep costs down and save on network resources, BlackBerrys will be turned in and shut off once the user is transitioned to an iOS device," said Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, communications director for Air Force Space Command.

While it is unclear if the incoming hardware falls within mobile device management protocols outlined by the Defense Information Systems Agency, the publication said DISA will likely play some role in managing the Air Force devices.

In response to the news, BlackBerry issued a statement to CrackBerry, touting the BlackBerry Enterprise Server as the most secure platform in the world.

An excerpt from BlackBerry's statement:
There is a clear reason why BlackBerry has more government certifications than any other vendor, and the only enterprise mobility management vendor and handset maker to receive the Department of Defense "Authority to Operate" certification. Security is built into everything we do, and we've been doing it longer and better than anyone else.

We've been a trusted partner to government agencies for more than a decade, and have more than 80,000 BlackBerry devices in DISA alone. Our competitors have not been tested in the field or subjected to the long term rigors of high stress applications, making their security model difficult to trust. BlackBerry remains the best option for governments around the world.
Still, since Jan. 1, the Air Force has required personnel who provision a BlackBerry product to retrieve a waiver from AFSPC unit A6, Wooten said. The military arm is apparently pushing hard for system-wide replacement.

Apple has vastly expanded its hardware presence in vetted U.S. military applications. In March of 2012, the Air Force Air Mobility Command awarded a $9.36 million contract to a specialized computer services company for the purchase of up to 18,000 iPads. The Apple tablets are used as electronic flight bags and will save the military branch an estimated $50 million in fuel costs and document reprinting.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    Wow, it seems everyone dislikes Blackberry devices now. I almost never see them when I go out, and the only time I ever hear of them, is when a friend decides to upgrade from it, to an iPhone or some other device.
  • Reply 2 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,074member

    The USAF is subject to all the rules of DISA and iOS 7 has been approved to operate while using an MDM system. (See http://iase.disa.mil/stigs/net_perimeter/wireless/u_apple_ios_7_stig_v1_release_memo_signed.pdf) There also is an approved Risk Analysis available for those with DoD PKI access. DISA also has STIGs for iOS6 and iOS7, which contain configuration settings for proper operation. These are for unclassified use. I don't have access to any documentation for classified use. Blackberry is probably still correct that classified use of mobile devices is only approved on Blackberry devices but I believe this use is far less than unclassified use. This isn't to say that a Blackberry server won't be used to manage iOS devices but Blackberry has to see the writing on the wall that their mobile devices just don't cut it anymore.

  • Reply 3 of 33
    Great now the Air Force won't get any work done. Cause iPads are just toys
  • Reply 4 of 33
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    This isn't to say that a Blackberry server won't be used to manage iOS devices but Blackberry has to see the writing on the wall that their mobile devices just don't cut it anymore.


    I think USAF sees the writing on the wall. BB is going down and they want to hitch their wagon to the iOS device and ecosystem that will serve them well into the future.

  • Reply 5 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    The USAF is subject to all the rules of DISA and iOS 7 has been approved to operate while using an MDM system. (See http://iase.disa.mil/stigs/net_perimeter/wireless/u_apple_ios_7_stig_v1_release_memo_signed.pdf) There also is an approved Risk Analysis available for those with DoD PKI access. DISA also has STIGs for iOS6 and iOS7, which contain configuration settings for proper operation. These are for unclassified use. I don't have access to any documentation for classified use. Blackberry is probably still correct that classified use of mobile devices is only approved on Blackberry devices but I believe this use is far less than unclassified use. This isn't to say that a Blackberry server won't be used to manage iOS devices but Blackberry has to see the writing on the wall that their mobile devices just don't cut it anymore.


     

    After reading your post, I think I need a GTA (Guide To Acronyms). :p 

  • Reply 6 of 33
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    The USAF is subject to all the rules of DISA and iOS 7 has been approved to operate while using an MDM system. (See http://iase.disa.mil/stigs/net_perimeter/wireless/u_apple_ios_7_stig_v1_release_memo_signed.pdf) There also is an approved Risk Analysis available for those with DoD PKI access. DISA also has STIGs for iOS6 and iOS7, which contain configuration settings for proper operation. These are for unclassified use. I don't have access to any documentation for classified use. Blackberry is probably still correct that classified use of mobile devices is only approved on Blackberry devices but I believe this use is far less than unclassified use. This isn't to say that a Blackberry server won't be used to manage iOS devices but Blackberry has to see the writing on the wall that their mobile devices just don't cut it anymore.


    This is correct. iPhones and iPads will not be able to enter classified areas (although exceptions will be made for a few, I am sure.) This is because Apple refuses to allow modifications to iOS or to the hardware. (Camera's and some of the mic's would need to be disabled or possibly even removed.) Apple has refused to alter their stance on this since at least 2009. Maybe even before then? 

     

    As for Blackberries, yes they are still being used by the USAF, but every single week, I see an outage for all BB devices on base and that the 'issue' is being worked on. The sheer mount of man hours and money being spent on these phones is mind boggling. Moving to iDevices for all non-secure needs will save a ton of time and money in the long run. 

     

    For secure areas like SCIF's, Blackberries will likely remain for some time, as I haven't seen a single non-BB device yet in those spaces. But, there are far, far fewer mobile devices needed for these areas, so not as big of a deal.

  • Reply 7 of 33
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post



    Great now the Air Force won't get any work done. Cause iPads are just toys

    You do have a valid point.  Troops preoccupied with playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush will likely cost us a war or two.

  • Reply 8 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RoundaboutNow View Post

     

     

    After reading your post, I think I need a GTA (Guide To Acronyms). :p 


    I didn't work for the Department of Defense (DoD) but interacted with them occasionally. They have a ton of acronyms just like every other government agency. They probably have an employee who keeps the acronyms up to date. Unless you work for them you'll never need them but you can tell who does by the way they answer things. --like Lloydbm4 who shouldn't even be mentioning the acronym for those sealed rooms. :-) 

  • Reply 9 of 33
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Lloydbm4 View Post

     

    This is correct. iPhones and iPads will not be able to enter classified areas (although exceptions will be made for a few, I am sure.) This is because Apple refuses to allow modifications to iOS or to the hardware. (Camera's and some of the mic's would need to be disabled or possibly even removed.) Apple has refused to alter their stance on this since at least 2009. Maybe even before then? 


     

    You can disable mics and cameras via MDM or put on an external seal or physically remove them yourself. There's no non-camera BB10 devices so it's in the same boat.

  • Reply 10 of 33
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Lloydbm4 View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    The USAF is subject to all the rules of DISA and iOS 7 has been approved to operate while using an MDM system. (See http://iase.disa.mil/stigs/net_perimeter/wireless/u_apple_ios_7_stig_v1_release_memo_signed.pdf) There also is an approved Risk Analysis available for those with DoD PKI access. DISA also has STIGs for iOS6 and iOS7, which contain configuration settings for proper operation. These are for unclassified use. I don't have access to any documentation for classified use. Blackberry is probably still correct that classified use of mobile devices is only approved on Blackberry devices but I believe this use is far less than unclassified use. This isn't to say that a Blackberry server won't be used to manage iOS devices but Blackberry has to see the writing on the wall that their mobile devices just don't cut it anymore.


    This is correct. iPhones and iPads will not be able to enter classified areas (although exceptions will be made for a few, I am sure.) This is because Apple refuses to allow modifications to iOS or to the hardware. (Camera's and some of the mic's would need to be disabled or possibly even removed.) Apple has refused to alter their stance on this since at least 2009. Maybe even before then? 

     

    As for Blackberries, yes they are still being used by the USAF, but every single week, I see an outage for all BB devices on base and that the 'issue' is being worked on. The sheer mount of man hours and money being spent on these phones is mind boggling. Moving to iDevices for all non-secure needs will save a ton of time and money in the long run. 

     

    For secure areas like SCIF's, Blackberries will likely remain for some time, as I haven't seen a single non-BB device yet in those spaces. But, there are far, far fewer mobile devices needed for these areas, so not as big of a deal.


     

    That's not quite correct - depending on department and level. iOS devices are approved for use in some classified areas, even with cameras enabled. Definitely not in SCIFs though.

  • Reply 11 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Lloydbm4 View Post

     

    This is correct. iPhones and iPads will not be able to enter classified areas (although exceptions will be made for a few, I am sure.) This is because Apple refuses to allow modifications to iOS or to the hardware. (Camera's and some of the mic's would need to be disabled or possibly even removed.) Apple has refused to alter their stance on this since at least 2009. Maybe even before then? 

    ...


    We were able to get our blanket computer service company to remove and/or disable microphones and cameras in laptops before they were delivered to the user. This changed a few years ago when they started letting us keep them intact. Apple laptops are not meant to be opened so we'd have additional problems after they were "fixed." I won't tell you what they are doing now for two reasons: 1) I'm retired, and 2) you don't have a need to know. :-)

  • Reply 12 of 33
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    rob53 wrote: »
    lloydbm4 wrote: »
     
    This is correct. iPhones and iPads will not be able to enter classified areas (although exceptions will be made for a few, I am sure.) This is because Apple refuses to allow modifications to iOS or to the hardware. (Camera's and some of the mic's would need to be disabled or possibly even removed.) Apple has refused to alter their stance on this since at least 2009. Maybe even before then? 
    ...
    We were able to get our blanket computer service company to remove and/or disable microphones and cameras in laptops before they were delivered to the user. This changed a few years ago when they started letting us keep them intact. Apple laptops are not meant to be opened so we'd have additional problems after they were "fixed." I won't tell you what they are doing now for two reasons: 1) I'm retired, and 2) you don't have a need to know. :-)

    Software disablement is now permitted, at least under our rules.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

     

     

    You can disable mics and cameras via MDM or put on an external seal or physically remove them yourself. There's no non-camera BB10 devices so it's in the same boat.


    It all depends on what your DAA says and what level of risk they are willing to accept. One of the reasons the government is slow to upgrade or change is because they aren't willing to accept any level of risk that doesn't meet their understanding of a piece of equipment. Laptops of all brands have been difficult to purchase that contain removable disks so they had to accept the risk of embedded storage and force people to encrypt it. Getting a DAA to accept a software control has been very difficult but without a replacement device that doesn't contain the offending components, they have to accept some risk or nothing gets done. I'm glad I no longer have to deal with the mountain of paperwork required to justify getting anything. The paperwork cost more than the actual item and as everyone knows, a piece of paper doesn't protect anything. 

     

    boy I'm glad I retired----- btw: physically altering a government purchased device without authorization usually gets you fired. Seals can work but if you use a proper TID (tamper indicating device), it's supposed to be inspected on a regular basis, have a serial number, etc., etc., etc. Of course nobody does this anymore.

  • Reply 14 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    I didn't work for the Department of Defense (DoD) but interacted with them occasionally. They have a ton of acronyms just like every other government agency. They probably have an employee who keeps the acronyms up to date. Unless you work for them you'll never need them but you can tell who does by the way they answer things. --like Lloydbm4 who shouldn't even be mentioning the acronym for those sealed rooms. :-) 


    I've done some work (as a civilian) on some military training facilities. On more than a few occaisions where the acronyms started flying, I have thrown out my little joke about needing a GTA--it usually elicits a chuckle.

  • Reply 15 of 33
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,074member

    For those of you who don't understand the acronyms being tossed around, that's ok, just realize there are many Mac users in the government and many who would like to see more Macs and iOS device purchased. I don't know about the others but it was always a pain to get management to understand there were other computers other than Windows PCs. Maybe the old guys are finally retiring and the new management actually knows what a Mac and iPhone are. We can only hope.

     

    I said I retired (so I'm not a kid) but I ran a large Mac-based facility for many years, which wasn't the norm where I worked.

  • Reply 16 of 33

    @Lloydbm4  Find another BES admin for your base

  • Reply 17 of 33
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

     --like Lloydbm4 who shouldn't even be mentioning the acronym for those sealed rooms. :-) 


    The acronym SCIF is not classified. Neither is SI/TK. Once upon a time it was, but no longer. 

  • Reply 18 of 33
    I think they should have purchased Acer Iconia w511p units. They are much better than iPads :) they have Windows 8 and Microsoft Office :)
  • Reply 19 of 33

    Way To Go Air Force.

  • Reply 20 of 33

    Well it's taken them long enough, hopefully it's a smooth enough transition. I have to imagine they'll enjoy them far more.

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