The U.S. government is looking at replacing radio communication between federal, state and local law enforcement and response agencies with communication with smartphones, and to that end it has showed interest into a new project whose goal is to create a hardened kernel for the Android OS.
The project was started by researchers from Google and George Mason University and they have recently been joined by experts from the National Security Agency in the hope of speeding up the process of certificating the hardened version for federal use.
Radio communication has long been considered a rather insecure method for exchanging extremely critical, confidential and delicate information such as that exchanged between law enforcement officers or troupes deployed in military operations. It is simply too easy to intercept it or to jam the signal.
So, equipping the Army with smartphones and allowing them to connect to the battlefield networks seemed like a logical step, but the crucial elements were missing: a secure OS and hardware that could unequivocally be tied to the user in order to be sure of his or her identity.
According to GCN, the hardened Android kernel developed by the researchers is two steps away from being allowed to be used for classified communication.
First, it has to pass the testing for receiving the FIPS 140-2 certification, and if all goes well, the testing for receiving the certification of the Secure Sockets Layer is planned for March 2012.
If the results of the testing turn out as planned and hoped, the White House Communications Office plans to make their Executive Branch (President, Vice President, Cabinet members, etc.) exchange their BlackBerry devices for Android ones.