This is a pretty wild piece of news. Google, George Mason University, and the NSA are working to make Android the most secure OS out there. They're developing a "hardened" kernel so Android can pass all the necessary red tape to be deployed for government use. By 2012 they expect Android to be good enough for classified communication, and eventually they'll hit a higher security clearance level than BlackBerrys. Poor BlackBerry, security was one of the last things they had left.

It seems like all the heavy hitters are on board to deploy this super-secure version of Android. The Obama Administration, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Army, and first responders are all mentioned as interested parties. The Army wants to take Android into combat, the White House wants to dump blackberry, and first responders want to replace their insecure radio equipment. That's right, real life Android Police.

No word on when (or if) all this security will trickle down to us civilians; hopefully Google made that part of the deal. More security is always a good thing, right?

Source: Government Computer News (thanks Steve!)

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Fantastic news - Android is really lacking in the security department compared to other devices, at least that's the general perception.

    • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

      The lack of security of the consumer devices is not necessarily "Android's problem". So far, most problems come from OEM customization (ex, HTC's logging), and third party malicious apps pretending to be good citizen. Hardening the kernel won't fix these problems.

  • Pissed

    "No word on when (or if) all this security will trickle down to us civilians; hopefully Google made that part of the deal. More security is always a good thing, right?"

    Not from the government's perspective. The NSA has worked long and hard to minimize the security we can have legally, all the while working with vendors to get the very stuff they say we cant have. Screw 'em

  • Aditya

    This is good news in other ways too. Let me speculate.

    When Blackberry was embroiled in the "mother of all lawsuits (at the time)" with NTP, NTP wanted to shutdown all Blackberry services. Since the US government loved Blackberry so much, they had some hand in finally forcing the settlement.

    Just a crazy speculation, if Andoid replaces Blackberry, they get the ultimate protection against the lawsuits.

    Or, I am totally off base here!

  • Ken

    I give Microsoft three months before they try to sue the NSA ;-)

    • L boogie

      Best of luck to Microsoft in that arena

  • L boogie

    Hopefully, this security measure would be implemented in future updates of ICS and/ or Jellybean to make android, a true force to be reckoned with

  • me

    Last I heard the Administration was trialling iOS devices. Either that didn't pan out and got put under the rug, or it worked out for them - in which case this is pointless because Governments take years after something is ready for it to be tested and certified for use.

    Some parts of the UK gov have only just moved from Win2000 to a specially-built hardened XP!

  • Jerrod S

    Samsung is already in the process of doing this with their own Android Kernel

  • http://www.efjohnsontechnologies.com Matthew Musgrove

    "first responders want to replace their insecure radio equipment."

    I understand why they'd want to supplement their radio equipment with cell phones (redundancy is always a good thing). If they are using insecure radio equipment, it is due to their governmental agency. Secure radio equipment has been available for a very long time.

    • Ron Amadeo

      from the source: "One of the concerns behind the government’s drive is that the radio communications networks used by federal, state and local response agencies are not very secure. This is a special concern for law enforcement and emergency response organizations’ operational channels, which could be subject to interception, spoofing and jamming."

      That's wrong?

      • ChumbleSpuzz

        Radio signals have been encrypted for a long time. The NSA has a great museum full of this stuff. That's not the issue. Cellular is essentially another radio which, I would assume, would also be adequately encrypted.

        I think what the source is getting at is that cellular, through its method of operation, is inherently more difficult to intercept, spoof, and jam as compared to a broadcasted signal.

  • Sebastian

    No word yet if Microsoft struck a deal with the US government for $15 for each device used.

    • https://plus.google.com/117702410245683101961/posts Lucian Armasu

      I'd like to see Microsoft even try to threaten them with that.

  • J

    I'd bet the government wouldn't want Google to publish all (or even most) of the modifications to Android in open source. Then, anyone could get a copy & see what changes were made & possibly find a way to side-step them. So we may get a few enhancements, but I doubt it would be NSA standard upgrades...

    Also, doesn't generally hardening a system result in lowering the ability to customize it and get the device to do stuff it originally wasn't designed to do? I'm all for making it more secure, but I love the being able to take the phone & tweak the hell out of it... If we go too security conscience, as I'm sure the NSA would... We might lose that ability...

    • Ron Amadeo

      You've got a point, almost all phones are rooted because of exploits. Nothing is ever 100% secure though.

    • Fuzz

      Security through obscurity is no security at all. Secure code is secure even if you know how it works. Insecure yet mysterious code provides a false sense of security while still being, well, insecure.

  • Paradiesstaub

    I wish they would also include an encryptable version of SQLite to Android!!!