The military's decision to allow smartphones on its networks will open them up to hackers and foreign cyber-spies, despite efforts to reinforce security, according to specialists interviewed by Bloomberg News Wednesday.
The Pentagon earlier this month announced that it would allow its 600,000 mobile-device users to start using Apple iPhones and Samsung phones running a specially modified secure version of Google's Android operating system.
Eventually, users of tablets like Apple's iPad will also be able to connect to the military's unclassified email and intranet systems.
Currently, more than 75 percent of the Pentagon's mobile users use Blackberries, which employ a dedicated secure server network for email and Internet connectivity.
Bloomberg News interviewed security specialists who said the decision would inevitably create security gaps in the Pentagon's networks.
"It is a debacle, a disaster waiting to happen," said Pat McGarry, principal systems engineer at Ixia, a network security company based in Calabasas, California.
There is no way to reliably protect Apple and Samsung smartphones and tablets from new malicious software known as malware, he told Bloomberg.
Other experts noted that Blackberry can push out software updates and security patches to its users via their secure network, whereas smartphones require users to update them.
The Defense Information Systems Agency said the Pentagon will not permit new smartphones and tablets to connect to its networks until a secure device-management system is in place.
Once such a system is in place, the use of these devices "pose an acceptable risk for unclassified communications," said Mark Orndorff, a program executive officer at the agency. Testing will continue to ensure the products are secure, he said.
The Defense Department plans to award a contract to build and operate the secure device-management system by the end of June, he said.
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