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NEWS | Jan. 15, 2020

CYA: Cover your app

By Senior Airman Derek Seifert 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

People who received or purchased a new smartphone, tablet or device with the capabilities of downloading mobile applications during the holiday season should be aware of what apps are being downloaded and the security concerns associated with such devices.


People should be observant of where and who develops the apps and the permissions that are embedded in the background, regardless of who mobile apps came from, like the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army or a commercial company,


The Army University mobile division at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, works with Department of Defense and Department of the Army to develop, vet and fix apps.


“We support Army mobile,” said Matt MacLaughlin, Mobile Division, Army Distributed Learning Program, Army University chief. “We have an expert team set in place here where application requirements, development, sustainment, archiving, and distribution can take place." 


The employees working at the mobile division in the Army University have three main areas of focus: they develop applications from start to finish, fix contracted products for units Army-wide and evaluate live contracted products, as well as publishing those applications safely.


"Device safety is typically the focus of mobile," MacLaughlin said. “There are those considerations, but there are also the considerations of accuracy of information within the app. For example, a [operational toolset] calculator. If [the developer] doesn't take the time to properly make sure the calculations within the app are correct before it is developed, that could [hurt] Airmen, Soldiers and Marines as easily as the cybersecurity aspect of it.”


All U.S. Army mobile apps are free to download on commercial markets and approved mobile Army locations and follow a strict procedure and process that was developed in 2013.


MacLaughlin and his team develop three types of applications for the Army: informative, gaming and tools. The Army has a branding that identifies the apps for every application developed and vetted.


“Just because you can download a mobile application and use it immediately, doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” MacLaughlin said. “If you are going to use something personally make sure you know what you are using. Ensure it's the real app and not a cloned app from some other entity. This simple extra step can save you from embarrassing cyber issues later."


Service members should be aware when accepting the user terms for applications of how the location services work, and look through the terms to know what they are allowing the developers to access on the device.