The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, an agency of the Department of Justice, is tasked with regulatory and law enforcement missions. The majority of its 5,100 government employees and 2,400 contractors operate in the field and not in an office setting. ATF has sought to embrace telework and utilizing mobile device technology for work.
ATF currently has over 11,000 mobile devices in the field, which includes laptops with secure Wi-Fi, blackberries, cellular broadband and other smart phones. The number of mobile devices is “significantly higher than the number of people we have,“ according to Rick Holgate, the assistant director for science and technology and CIO at ATF. “Their productivity can be a lot higher“ when agents are working in the field.
In an effort to provide secured mobile devices, ATF looked at utilizing the capabilities of smart phones, which is currently being trialed. “Our workforce is increasingly expecting access to information,“ Holgate said. The agency is looking to build toward deploying mobile capability devices that will allow users to access all services and data that is needed in the field.
The objective of ATF“™s test is to demonstrate that they can deliver the same usability and security with mobile platforms that users previously experienced with standard desktops and laptops.
The device being trialed is a Microsoft product, which is coupled with a non-Windows browser for security reasons. Some of the requirements ATF looked for was a balance between security and usability, a consistent comment received from field operatives and the ability to “kill“ a lost or compromised device.
Despite some of the complaints from the field, some security tools and features that ATF have rolled out has actually made the device more usable. Information security professionals at ATF are able to remotely update devices, allowing the user to continue using the device during that time.
Ultimately, ATF decided to utilize the Wireless Enterprise Mobility Manager and a Persistent VPN, which provides all of the capabilities ATF needed. Currently, 150 devices are being trialed in the field, and the trial will end in the next few months.
Some of the challenges ATF has encountered is that mobile devices are another environment to secure, work/life integration and keeping a consistent philosophy and standards.
In the future, ATF is looking to move into the realm of the iPhone, largely because of the app feature. A number of non-IT professionals at ATF (agents particularly) have created an app for the iPhone that increases the investigative capabilities of the agent.