The Security Benefits of Agency-Issued LTE Devices
By Reg Jones
Monday, April 01, 2019 | Comments

Every year, police, emergency and fire departments welcome a new class of first responders into their ranks, each bringing a fresh perspective on traditional ways of thinking. And the latest round of recruits is no different.

From smartphones to voice assistants, this new generation of civil servants has grown up in an era distinguished by rapidly evolving technology. They are digital natives, more comfortable with smart mobile devices than with devices of the past, such as desktop computers and two-way radios. And as they continue to fill the ranks of public-safety departments, digital native numbers will only increase. In San Diego last year, the average age of police recruits was 27, with some new cadets as young as 20. Nationwide, 52% of firefighters are under the age of 39.

Most of these new recruits do not know life — or work — without mobile technology. As a result, they expect to use it on the job. In fact, many already do. From photographing evidence to creating incident reports and accessing criminal records to placing calls and recording medical information, mobile devices can vastly improve the work of public-safety personnel.

Public-safety departments should have agency-issued, policy-driven and security-centric devices as their main modes of communications to ensure communications is seamless, regulation compliant and meets the needs and expectations of its emergency responders, especially digital natives. Without agency-issued devices, departments open themselves to security risks.

While all mobile devices can go missing, personal devices come with an extra danger to departments. Even with biometric and password defenses enabled, they are rarely secured to protect the information they store. This is because personal devices are not subject to departmental mobile device management (MDM) systems, which would allow departments to enforce security policies or, if necessary, remotely wipe a lost device. The result? Too much sensitive data on too many vulnerable devices that can too easily land in the wrong hands.

These consequences exist even if the device never leaves an emergency responder’s sight. According to Kaspersky Lab, the third quarter of 2018 saw more than 1.3 million malware installations throughout the world, many of which resulted from users downloading a personal app that contained the malware. Often, older personal devices don’t have the latest security features needed to protect against these cyber attacks. Without MDMs in place that allow agencies to manage which apps their personnel can install, personal devices used in the field will continue being vulnerable to hacks.

For those who use these devices to communicate with dispatch, access confidential criminal or patient records, or log evidence, the negative consequences of a hack are astronomical. Investigations can be interfered with. Photo evidence can be stolen and published. Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance can be violated. Because most personal mobile devices have built-in GPS software that is automatically enabled, hacked devices can be used to track emergency responders in the line of duty and put lives at risk.

These devices leave the public-safety professionals who use them — and their departments — exposed, often without their knowledge.

The good news is that departments can solve many of these problems and decrease security risks, all while improving efficiencies, by supplying staff with centrally controlled and configured secure mobile devices. Departments can upgrade to digital devices that offer the same anywhere-anytime accessibility as personal mobile devices, without the accompanying risks.

In fact, department-supplied smartphones and tablets are already transforming work for emergency responders around the country. With features including water and dust resistance, biometric security and multilens cameras, these devices provide a more efficient and secure way for first responders to do their jobs. They are optimized for extra flexibility and allow public-safety personnel to intervene in any situation, without requiring extra equipment. Some departments are even customizing the devices to address communications issues that personal devices could never solve, such as dedicated, embedded push-to-talk (PTT) apps that ensure all staff can stay in close communications with the command center and each other during incidents.

All the preloaded apps on Samsung devices are verified secure and don’t access device data without the user’s explicit permission. Samsung mobile devices are also enforced with Samsung Knox, a defense-grade security platform that protects against malware and hackers built in at the chip level. In addition, DeX lets officers power in-vehicle computing without a bulky laptop.

Officers can also benefit from wearables such as smartwatches. With Long Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity, these devices enable instant peer-to-peer communications. The wearables can monitor the physical condition of the wearer in real time by sending information about heart rate changes to command and sport a built-in SOS button for officers to call for help.

These upgrades may sound like an unnecessary investment for public-safety departments already struggling with under recruitment and slashed budgets. However, investments in mobile technology will pay dividends, not just in terms of efficiencies increased and data breaches avoided, but in hiring as well. A 2016 study commissioned by Dell and Intel found that 82 percent of respondents under the age of 35 would consider workplace technology as part of their employment decision, and 42 percent said that lack of technology would cause them to leave, which means that smart mobile devices are critical to departments as they pivot their recruitment strategies to younger digital natives.

The task before us is to get ahead of the curve and meet this new generation where they are in ways that maximize benefit and minimize risk. The first step is for public-safety departments to provide their employees with broadband devices, rather than having them use personal ones. Doing so will allow these departments to be strongest in security, productivity and recruitment and allow personnel to keep pace with a world in which threats are constantly evolving.

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Reg Jones is the head of public sector sales and solutions at Samsung Electronics America. He is responsible for public-safety, state and local markets and leads the U.S. strategy supporting first responders across the end-to-end Samsung portfolio and emerging public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Jones was previously the sales director leading the development and implementation of sales solutions and strategies across public-safety, federal government and financial services verticals.

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