by Capt. Christine D. Millette
24th Air Force Public Affairs
3/17/2010 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials will be implementing changes in March to services available for use on all Air Force-issued BlackBerry hand-held devices to bolster the security of the devices. These Department of Defense-directed changes will be overseen by security specialists in 24th Air Force, the operational warfighting organization responsible for defending Air Force network operations.
"Just as physical security measures at forward and stateside bases are constantly being improved to meet current threats, so also are cyber protection measures taken to protect DOD information," said Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, 24th Air Force commander.
The Air Force mission depends on the availability, integrity and confidentiality of information systems interconnected through cyberspace, officials state. Adversaries are constantly seeking to find and exploit potential vulnerabilities of these vital information systems. All Air Force personnel are responsible for safeguarding these systems, and improvements to network security procedures help them to do so.
The following configuration changes will be implemented within the month of March:
a) Users no longer will have the capability to send or receive text messages with attached photos or videos. Text-only messaging will remain enabled.
b) If a device is being synched and its software is out-of-date, a "Force Load" message will appear. The user will have only one opportunity to decline updating the software. Any subsequent syncing attempts will render the device inoperative until the software is updated.
c) Users will not be able to download additional applications to their devices over the Internet.
d) Most Bluetooth functionality will be disabled. The only Bluetooth feature that will continue to function will be linking the device to the smart-card reader cradle.
e) Users no longer will be able to connect their smart-card reader cradle to their computers.
Air Force people who have questions about these changes can contact their local client support administrators. People who notice abnormal operations of any communications devices or equipment are encouraged to contact their local information assurance officer or CSA.
"Mission assurance is the goal for which all changes are enacted to our network and the services provided with it: to protect the Air Force, its people, and its capabilities," General Webber said.
3/19/2010 8:44:51 AM ET I don't know how we were able to perform our jobs without these devices before I'd prefer to answer the mail at the office and not while I'm at home I'm all for limiting these cell phones/BlackBerries etc due to their unsecure nature. For those of you that take issue with these changes...get a life.
Maj Sense, Florida
3/18/2010 6:15:14 PM ET Thanks, Dave. Technology is a great thing for everybody including the enemy. If we don't fight hard to stay ahead of the curve then they get in -- case in point: afghan rebels streaming Predator feeds. Bluetooth is the new norm because of how easily accessible it is -- sadly this means it's also one of the most unsecure means of data transfer since smoke signals. We're already late in knocking it off.
3/18/2010 1:18:17 PM ET Yup...just add this one to the growing list of signs that it's time to move on. The reindeer games are getting out of hand. Here - we'll give you TECHNOLOGY to aid with your job...oh, just kidding. Why does the bank commercial with the little girl and the pony come to mind? LOL
3/18/2010 12:27:44 PM ET Unfortunately security is inconvenient. It'd be so much easier if we went back to car window decals and didn't have to stop and show ID at the gate. Each of these changes addresses an actual security threat. If we were just using these phones to tell our friends where to meet for lunch this probably wouldn't be an issue. The problem is that most people are doing work on them. That's the point to having them anyway. And most work email is sensitive - even if you don't want to admit it. That's even more true for the Sr leaders that are using many of these devices. And they do still make WIRED headsets...
3/18/2010 10:14:19 AM ET So let me get this straight. We're not allowed to drive and talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device and now they're going to disable the technology that makes hands-free calling possible. It's amazing we get anything done.
BK, Maxwell AFB AL
3/18/2010 9:34:22 AM ET That's great. I guess there is no point in commenting since they will do it whether the servicemembers like it or not.But here I go. I assume that the bluetooth will be disabled to include hands-free devices I can also assume they do not want people talking on the phones regardless of whether it is hands free or not. Applications for most devices such as blackberry are approved by blackberry and contain no viruses or malware. Removing them is just a way to take away the fun since most companies provide UNLIMITED bandwidth.Taking away photo text messaging is stupid because sometimes you need to take pictures of a project or site and send it quickly to the boss. Cameras require more steps in the process. With cameras on phones reaching an astounding 6-8 megapixels it is becoming clear that cameras are outdated.The software updating is a good idea but not really necessary. I have never had a virus on my phone nor does my phone have sensitive information.
3/17/2010 11:00:01 PM ET I am truly delighted that the AF is making strides to improve the security on these hand held devices and protect critical info vulnerabilities. There is one area that I must point out to help in this process.... CSAs need additional guidance to assist the customers when these new procedures are released. Often times it is mentioned to contact your CSA but the CSA is not trained on these new procedures nor has any idea that these new requirements are implemented. Please help us in assisting our customers...Thanks
TSgt H. ABIFF, Hawaii
3/17/2010 8:46:02 PM ET I guess this is a cost cutting measure because we will take another useful technology and make it almost worthless so nobody will want to use it.