DARPA working on full disk encryption for iPhones and Android smartphones

The most interesting aspect of the request-for-information from the US defence agency is that it is reported to be looking at using crowd-sourcing as a means of software development, meaning that users of smartphones may be invited to participate in the software's development.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) isn't saying whether it's developing the smartphone FDE technology in-house or in partnership with a third party, but unconfirmed reports suggest that several versions of the technology are under possible development.

The most secure version is likely to be deployed for US federal agencies, including military users, whilst a lower-spec edition may yet be released for general Google Android users.

DARPA says that it is "looking to discover new technologies and methods to support full disk and system encryption of the commercial mobile devices – specifically Apple and Android platforms – to include a pre-boot environment to load the operating system."

This would, in effect, allow a more secure version of iOS or Android to be loaded to the smartphone, Infosecurity notes. Whether this version would ever be released for the iPhone commercially would depend on Apple's approval, however.

According to the SmallWarsJournal security portal, DARPA has mandated that the secure/FDE editions of iOS and Android use AES 256-bit levels of encryption to ensure compliance with FIPS 140-2 standards.

"In order to meet the encryption objective, DARPA said it is looking for industry and universities to submit a whitepaper with ideas/concepts that describe an innovative existing technology approach that can be deployed in less than 90 days", says the newswire.

And it's not just the operating system that will be robust and encrypted, as the newswire adds that the gameplan includes the creation of a military apps marketplace.

"The program will address all the challenges – technical, business, and operational – faced to make the new capabilities available for use in the field. The end objective is to transition the resulting systems to the end users in the services, and to foster a new model for rapidly and effectively acquiring, introducing, maintaining, and enhancing software", the newswire notes DARPA as saying.

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